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Isaac Bashevis Singer

Born: Radzymin, Poland

The most widely known and possibly the last of the great Yiddish-language novelists and short-story writers, Isaac Bashevis Singer, b. Radzymin, Poland, July 14, 1904, d. July 24, 1991, emigrated to the United States in 1935 and in 1978 won the Nobel Prize for literature. He began his New York career as a journalist for the Jewish Daily Forward, where much of his fiction was originally published. Singer himself supervised the translation of his works from Yiddish into English.

Singer's famous trilogy, The Family Moskat (1950), The Manor (1967), and The Estate (1970), is a family epic that traces the history of the Jews in Poland from the antitsarist uprisings of 1863 to World War II. (Singer's older brother and mentor, writer Israel Joshua Singer, 1893–1944, produced an equally famous family epic, The Brothers Ashkenazi, in 1936.) Much of the power of Singer's work lay in his ability to re-create the seemingly timeless world of Eastern European Jewry — a charmed world that remains alive for many readers only through his works. A born storyteller, he was usually at his best in such short stories as "Gimpel the Fool" (1957) and "The Spinoza of Market Street" (1961). Many of his stories have been republished in his Collected Short Stories (1982). His autobiographical works have been published under the title Love and Exile (1984). His novel Enemies: A Love Story (1987) appeared as a film in 1989. Four of Singer's books have been published posthumously: Scum (1991), The Certificate (1992), Meshugah (1994), and the dark and complex Shadows on the Hudson (1997), which is considered to be a major work. More Stories from My Father's Court (2000), tales described as "autobiographical in spirit," were first published in Yiddish in the 1950s.

On the occasion of the centennial (2004) of Singer's birth, three volumes, containing nearly 200 of his short stories, were published by the Library of America, along with a companion volume comprising photographs, discussion, and biography, Isaac Bashevis Singer: An Album.

Biography written by: Jerome Klinkowitz

Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Grolier Online