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Singer, Isaac Bashevis

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (Sc-Tr)

(Polish/US, 1904–91)

Educated at a rabbinical seminary in Warsaw, Singer emigrated to the United States in 1935 and joined the staff of New York's Jewish Daily Forward, which published his fiction in its original Yiddish. In 1978 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Begin with some of the short stories, often considered to be his finest work. These entertaining tales of the vanished Jewish ghettos of Poland colourfully combine historical fact, Yiddish folklore, and the supernatural. Collections include Gimpel the Fool (1957) and The Death of Methuselah (1988). Set in seventeenth-century Poland, Satan in Goray (1955), his first novel, deals with the rise of the false messiah Sabbatai Levi. Amid violence and religious hysteria, Rabbi Benish struggles to restore order. The novel concludes with his dramatic exorcism of the epileptic prophetess Rechele. Enemies (1972) is the story of a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust. He remakes his life in New York, where destiny and irresponsibility result in his being married simultaneously to three women. His attempts to sustain a situation in which he loves all three while each loves him prove unendurable. Singer's numerous other novels include Scum (1991), which tells of Max Barabander's return to his native Warsaw from Buenos Aires. Formerly an impoverished petty criminal, he has prospered in South America, but becomes very lonely following his homecoming. He reacts by desperately reaching out for sexual contact which ultimately results in violence.

Primo Levi, Isaac Babel, Leon Uris  DH

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