Isaac Bashevis Singer

Isaac Bashevis Singer

Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902–1991) was a Polish-born Jewish writer in Yiddish, awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978. The Polish form of his birth name was Icek Hersz Zynger. He used his mother's first name in an initial literary pseudonym, Izaak Baszewis, which he later expanded. He was a leading figure in the Yiddish literary movement, writing and publishing only in Yiddish. He was also awarded two U.S. National Book Awards, one in Children's Literature for his memoir A Day Of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw (1970) and one in Fiction for his collection A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories (1974).

Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in 1902 in Leoncin village near Warsaw, Poland, under military partitions by the Russian Empire. A few years later, the family moved to a nearby Polish town of Radzymin. The exact date of his birth is uncertain, but most probably it was November 21, 1902, a date that Singer gave both to his official biographer Paul Kresh, and his secretary Dvorah Telushkin. It is also consistent with the historical events he and his brother refer to in their childhood memoirs. The often-quoted birth date, July 14, 1904 was made up by the author in his youth, most probably to make himself younger to avoid the draft.

His father was a Hasidic rabbi and his mother, Bathsheba, was the daughter of the rabbi of Biłgoraj. Singer later used her name in his pen name "Bashevis" (Bathsheba's). Both his older siblings, sister Esther Kreitman (1891–1954) and brother Israel Joshua Singer (1893–1944), became writers as well. Esther was the first of the family to write stories.

The family moved to the court of the Rabbi of Radzymin in 1907, where his father became head of the Yeshiva. After the Yeshiva building burned down in 1908, the family moved to a flat at ul. Krochmalna 10. In the spring of 1914, the Singers moved to No. 12.

The street where Singer grew up was located in the impoverished, Yiddish-speaking Jewish quarter of Warsaw. There his father served as a rabbi, and was called on to be a judge, arbitrator, religious authority and spiritual leader in the Jewish community. The unique atmosphere of pre-war Krochmalna Street can be found both in the collection of Varshavsky-stories, which tell stories from Singer's childhood, as well as in those novels and stories which take place in pre-war Warsaw.


Love and Exile

Love and Exile

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