Isaac Bashevis Singer: His Work and His World

Isaac Bashevis Singer: His Work and His World

Isaac Bashevis Singer: His Work and His World

Isaac Bashevis Singer: His Work and His World


A quarter of a century after Isaac Bashevis Singer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature it is time to take stock of his achievement. Penetrating studies of his fictional and autobiographical works by leading scholars in the field reveal that for all the acclaim he has received on the basis of the English versions of his works, no adequate evaluation of Basheviss significance can be made without careful examination of the original Yiddish texts. Critical readings assess inter alia his themes and motifs, the impact of Kabbalah on his work, reflections of society in his original Polish homeland as well as his place within the context of contemporary Jewish American letters and the canon of modern Yiddish and Hebrew writing.


Hugh Denman

In the quarter of a century that has elapsed since the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Isaac Bashevis Singer (or Yitskhok BashevisZinger as he is more accurately known to those who have the benefit of reading him in the original Yiddish), and even more so during the decade that has passed since his death, there has been a growing recognition of the need for a more scholarly appraisal of his remarkable, though controversial contribution to both Yiddish and world literature. the present volume, which seeks to address this need, grew out of the first international conference devoted to the life and works of Bashevis. the conference was convened by the Institute of Jewish Studies at University College London in March 1993 and we are much indebted to the Institute for its generous financial backing and in particular to the Director of the Institute, Prof. Mark Geller, and to its former President, the late Dr. Manfred Altman, for their support and encouragement during the conference itself and during the gestation period of this volume. a number of technical problems delayed the appearance of this volume, but immeasurably more detrimental was the sadly premature death of Chone Shmeruk, the undisputed doyen of Yiddish letters and inspirational progenitor of the conference, who was to have been co-editor of this volume and to whose memory it is now gratefully dedicated.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to incorporate all the papers delivered at the conference. On the other hand, additional articles were specially commissioned for this collection. in principle it would, no doubt, have been desirable for this collection to have appeared at an earlier date, but in practice this consideration is much outweighed by the opportunity it has presented for all the contributions to be substantially revised in the light of the most recent scholarly work.

Among the controversies surrounding Bashevis's work perhaps the most fundamental is that concerning the status of the Yiddish and English texts. Bashevis himself was wont to speak of the English trans-

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