(In "Gimpel the Fool" by Isaac Bashevis Singer: 1945)
Alice R. Kaminsky
Isaac Bashevis Singer ( July 14, 1904-July 24, 1991) was born in Leoncin, Poland, the son of a rabbi, Pinchos-Mendel Singer, and a rabbi's daughter, Bathsheba Zylberman. He lived in Warsaw and was a proofreader for a Yiddish literary magazine, which helped inspire him in 1917 to write in Yiddish himself. In 1935 he moved to New York City and became a free-lance writer for the Yiddish newspaper the Jewish Daily Forward. His first wife gave him his only son, Isaac. He lived the rest of his life with his second wife Alma. In 1933 he began to write the novels and stories that earned him a Nobel Prize in literature in 1978.
"Gimpel Tam," "Gimpel the Fool," Singer's most famous and most anthologized story, was written in Yiddish in 1945 and translated into English by Saul Bellow in the Partisan Review in 1953. It belongs to the tradition of the schlemiel school of comedy of Yiddish writers, such as Sholom Aleichem's Menahem Mendl or I. L. Peretz's Bontsha. A schlemiel is a foolish and powerless but sometimes also wise and saintly individual. Ruth Wisse claims that the most important fact about "Gimpel" is its date of composition. It is "a rare example of the schlemiel figure in post-war Yiddish fiction" (60).
The story is told from Gimpel's point of view. Since we are often able to know what Gimpel really thinks, we understand at the outset that Gimpel is no