SINGER, ISAAC BASHEVIS (1904–1991), Yiddish novelist, critic, and journalist. The younger brother of the novelists Ester Kraytman and I.J. Singer , Isaac was born into a rabbinical family in Leoncin, Poland. He grew up in Warsaw, where he made his career until his emigration to America in 1935, though in 1917 he left the city with his mother and younger brother and lived for a few years in his mother's hometown of Bilgoraj, where his grandfather was rabbi. His education was traditional. He taught himself German and Polish. In Warsaw his home was on the poor and teeming Krochmalna Street, where his father held a bet din. The old-world tradition and way of life and his father's rich library inspired in him an interest in philosophy in general and in the Kabbalah in particular. His brother's example as a secular Yiddish writer was also of the greatest importance to Singer's artistic and moral development. -Singer's Pseudonyms Prolific and versatile, Singer's multiple talents group themselves behind his various pseudonyms. He made his debut in the literary world with "Oyf der Elter" (in Literarishe Bleter, no. 60, 1925) which he signed "Tse" (צע). In the same journal that year (no. 80), his story "Vayber" was published under the pseudonym "Isaac Bashevis" (a derivative of his mother's first   name, Bas-Sheva (Yid. for Bath-Sheba), which he used only for his serious literary creations. Its adoption was prompted by the desire to avoid confusion with his famous brother, Israel Joshua Singer. For his more or less serious journalism Bashevis adopted the name Y. Varshavski, and for his feuilletons and lighter pieces, that of D. Segal. However, his pseudonyms are not inflexible: with shaping and reordering, Varshavski's memoirs became Singer's Mayn Tatn's Beys-Din Shtub. -Imagistic Portrayals of Inner Forces Singer was recognized early in his literary career. His first major fictional work, Sotn in Goray (1935; Satan in Goray, 1955), had been preceded by short stories in such respected journals as Varshever Shriftn (1926–27) and the Warsaw Globus (1932–34), where Sotn in Goray and its antecedent "Der Yid fun Bovl" first appeared. The kabbalist protagonist of the latter, after life-long traffic with the occult, is finally claimed by the satanic host, despite his conscious will to resist. Here we see the implacable workings of dark inner forces which Singer projects in images derived from folklore. The typical Singer hero is virtually helpless before his passion: he is "possessed." The town of Goray in Sotn in Goray is "possessed" by the false messianism which in 17th-century Poland wrought havoc on Jewish life. "Let none attempt to force the Lord" is the moral of this parable for all times. This "anti-Prometheanism" (a term used by shlomo bickel in his criticism on Bashevis) is a dominant note in Singer's work. -U.S. Publications in English Translation In the United States, Singer's stories and serialized novels became a regular feature of the New York Yiddish daily Forward, and in the 1950s his stories began to appear in translation in serious magazines. His first Forward serial, Di Familye Mushkat (1950; The Family Moskat, 1950), is a realistic epical novel of pre-World War II Warsaw. Satan in Goray initiated the U.S. acclaim of Singer as the artist of the grotesque and demoniac who generated more interest than the realistic chronicler of the more recent Polish Jewish past. Of the volumes that Bashevis published in English from 1955, only three appeared in book form in Yiddish; two of these, five to six years after their English translation. Singer was thus in the curious position of writing for two very distinct audiences: the sophisticated public that read him in translation in Commentary and in the New Yorker, and the Jewish Daily Forward Yiddish readership, less sophisticated, but with wider Jewish knowledge. Singer declared that "nothing can spoil a writer more than writing for the translator" (Commentary, vol. 36, no. 5, 1963); yet the suspicion that he himself did persists. -Motifs and Styles of His Works Singer was above all a marvelous and interesting storyteller, no matter where he might be leading his expectant, and often puzzled, reader. If his demons, imps, and spirits are regarded as a shorthand ("a kind of spiritual stenography" Singer called it) for complex human behavior, then one need not be distressed by the author's professed belief in their substantive reality. Singer's fictional writings include a variety of narrators and protagonists living on the margins of Jewish society, such as the mentally disturbed, criminals, prostitutes, and various other extraordinary individuals (e.g., the Magican of Lublin, 1960). Many of his fictional writings tend to center around the sexual and the sacred, especially their interrelationship: "In my stories it is just one step from the study house to sexuality and back again. Both phases of human existence have continued to interest me" (In My Father's Court, p. 175). Though eroticism has been present in Yiddish literature for over half a century, many Yiddish readers, preferring a "balanced view" of Jewish life and of man in general, find the sexual motif in Singer overworked and exaggerated. Singer's serious fiction falls into three groups: his realistic novels, his short romances or novellas, and his short stories. To these may be added his memoirs (like Mayn Tatn's Beys-Din Shtub, 1950; In My Father's Court, 1966, a work which is both art and documentary; Gloybn un Tsveyfl, 1974, 1976, 1978; A Little Boy in Search of God, 1976; A Young Man in Search of Love, 1978; Lost in America, 1981; and others which only appeared in the Forverts), and also his autobiographical novels (like Der Sertificat, 1967; The Certificate, 1992; Neshome Ekspeditsyes, 1974; Shosha, 1978: and others). Singer is at home in a variety of styles, modes, and subjects; he moves freely from the medieval to the contemporary, from the naturalistic to the fantastic, from psychological illumination to parapsychological mystification. His typical pose is one of ironic detachment. -Realistic Novels The Manor (1967; written in 1953–55), first serialized in the Forward under the title Der Hoyf of which it constitutes part 1, is a realistic family chronicle of late 19th-century Polish Jewish life. Similar in style to The Family Moskat, it suffers from the same loose structure but is largely redeemed by the same vividness. A continuation was called The Estate (1970). Set in 19th-century Poland, The Magician of Lublin (1960) has for its protagonist a Jewish magician-acrobat Don Juan whose Faustian striving eventually leads to penitential self-incarceration. The Slave (1962; Yid., Der Knekht, 1967), a universalistic parable set in 17th-century Poland after the chmielnicki massacres, portrays an enslaved Jew who falls in love with the daughter of his peasant master; the gulf between them is bridged by the unifying and transcendent power of love. The miracle at the end of The Slave disturbs readers who look amiss at interference, whether authorial or supernatural. Shadows on the Hudson (1998) is another realistic novel which introduces a large variety of New York Jews from different backgrounds and describes the complex interactions between them. -Shorter Fictional Works It is in the shorter forms of fiction that Singer excels, and some of his stories (e.g., "Gimpel the Fool") are among the finest in any language. Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories (1957; Yid., Gimpl Tam un Andere Dertseylungen, 1963), The Spinoza of   Market Street (1961), and Short Friday (1964) are quite varied collections of short stories written over a period of many years. Their typical setting is the shtetl, often visited by Satan's emissaries. The demoniac tales, rich in grotesquerie and often narrated by devils and imps, range from studies in pathology to parables of the arbitrariness of the evil in life. Typically, it is through the weakness of the flesh that Satan conquers. Free of demons and asserting the freedom to behave irrationally, The Spinoza of Market Street concerns an ineffectual philosopher who achieves salvation through the flesh. The irrational expresses itself in a context of "normalcy," where soup and sympathy come to acquire magical properties. "Gimpel the Fool" is in the great divine-fool tradition and recalls peretz 's "Bontshe Shvayg." Its theme is the ambiguous nature of sublunary truth and reality: "No doubt," says Gimpel, "the world is entirely an imaginary world, but it is only once removed from the true world…. Whatever may be there, it will be real, without complication, without ridicule, without deception. God be praised: there even Gimpel cannot be deceived." -Singer's Place in Yiddish and World Literature The leading exponent of Yiddish imaginative prose, Singer is also an important figure in contemporary world literature. Enjoying a somewhat ambiguous place among Yiddish writers, he is nonetheless firmly rooted in Jewish tradition. Like Yiddish literature itself, Singer's art is a unique amalgam of the indigenous and the naturalized, of specifically Jewish and general world culture. In recognition of his literary work he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1978, the first awarded for Yiddish literature. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: I.H. Buchen, I.B. Singer and the Eternal Past (1968); M. Allentuck (ed.), The Achievements of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1969); Fixler, in: Kenyon Review (Spring 1964), 371–86; I. Howe, in: Commentary, 30 (1960), 350–3; 36 (1963), 364–72; Dan Jacobson, ibid., 39 (1966), 48–52; I.B. Singer, Selected Stories (1966), v–xxiv; S.E. Hyman, in: The New Leader (July 28, 1962); Eisenberg, in: Judaism, 11 (1962), 345–56; S. Bickel, Shrayber fun Mayn Dor, 1 (1958), 358–65; Gross-Zimmermann, in: Goldene Keyt, 60 (1967), 190–4; Y.Y. Trunk, Di Yidishe Proze in Poyln (1949), 136–49. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D.N. Miller, Bibliography of Isaac Bashevis Singer 19241949 (1983); C. Shmeruk, "Polish-Jewish Relations in the Historical Fiction of Isaac Bashevis Singer," in: The Polish Review, 32 (1978), 401–13; idem, "The Perils of Translation: Isaac Bashevis Singer in English and Hebrew," in: E. Mendelsohn (ed.), Literary StrategiesJewish Texts and Contexts (1996), 228–33; idem, "Between Autobiography and Fiction," Introduction to Isaac Bashevis Singer, My Father's Court (1996), V–XVII; J. Hadda, Isaac Bashevis SingerA Life (1997); S.L. Wolitz (ed.), The Hidden Isaac Bashevis Singer (2001); H. Denman (ed.), Isaac Bashevis Singer: His Work and His World (2002). (Leonard Prager / Nathan Cohen (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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  • Singer, Isaac Bashevis — Yiddish Yitskhok Bashevis Zinger born July 14?, 1904, Radzymin, Pol., Russian Empire died July 24, 1991, Surfside, Fla., U.S. Polish born U.S. writer of novels, short stories, and essays. He received a traditional Jewish education at the Warsaw… …   Universalium

  • Singer,Isaac Bashevis — Sing·er (sĭngʹər), Isaac Bashevis. 1904 1991. Polish born American Yiddish writer who has published such collections as Gimpel the Fool (1957) and Passions (1975). He won the 1978 Nobel Prize for literature. * * * …   Universalium

  • Singer, Isaac Bashevis — (1908–91)    Yiddish writer. The brother of Israel Joshua SINGER and Esther KREITMAN, Singer was born in Bilgoray, Poland into a Hasidic family. He moved to Warsaw in 1923 and settled in New York in 1935. He was immensely prolific and wrote under …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Singer, Isaac Bashevis — ► (1904 91) Escritor polaco en lengua yiddish. Se dedicó al periodismo y a la literatura. Fue premio Nobel de Literatura en 1978. Autor de Narraciones completas (1982). * * * yiddish Yitskhok Bashevis Zinger (¿14? jul. 1904, Radzymin, Polonia,… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Singer, Isaac Bashevis — (1904 91)    American author, brother of Israel Johua Singer and Esther Kreitman. He was born in Leoncin, Poland, and moved to Warsaw in 1923. In 1935 he settled in New York, where he worked for the Yiddish daily newspaper Forverts. In 1978 he… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Singer, Isaac Bashevis —    см. Зингер, Исаак Башевис …   Писатели США. Краткие творческие биографии

  • Isaac Bashevis Singer — (auch: Isaak Baschewis Singer; jiddisch ‎יצחק באַשעוויס זינגער; Pseudonyme, die er – neben Bashevis – zeitweilig verwendete, waren Varshavsky oder D. Segal; * 21. November 1902 in Leoncin, heute im Powiat Nowodworski (Masowien), Polen; † 24. Juli …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Isaac Bashevis Singer — Infobox Writer name = Isaac Bashevis Singer awards = awd|Nobel Prize in Literature|1978 birthdate = Birth date|1902|11|21|mf=y birthplace = Leoncin, Congress Poland deathdate = Death date and age|1991|7|24|1902|11|21|mf=y deathplace = Surfside,… …   Wikipedia

  • Isaac Bashevis Singer — Para otros usos de este término, véase Singer. Isaac Bashevis Singer Isaac Bashevis Singer en …   Wikipedia Español

  • Isaac Bashevis Singer — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Singer. Isaac Bashevis Singer, Miami Book Fair International, 1988 Isaac Bashevis Singer (né Yitskhok Hersh Zynger, en yiddish : יצחק באַש …   Wikipédia en Français

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