Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Yiddish writer who transcended his ethnic category, skillfully employs modernist fictional techniques to pose questions about human beings, God, and existence. In his writing Singer reveals the conflicting elements of his upbringing. His father, Pinchas Mendel Singer, was a Hasidic rabbi who told his son stories of demons and spirits. His mother, Bathsheba Zylberman Singer, whose first name he eventually adopted in its Yiddish form, was on the contrary a rationalist who talked of their Bigoraj relatives. This difference in temperament between his parents is evident in “Why the Geese Shrieked,” one of the tales in A Day of Pleasure. When a woman brings two dead geese to Rabbi Singer because they have continued to make strange noises, he seeks a supernatural explanation; his wife remarks that the sound is merely air passing through the severed windpipe and that if the woman removes the windpipe, the shrieking will cease, as indeed it does.
Singer’s two older siblings also influenced him. His sister Hende Esther, thirteen years his senior, enjoyed telling him love stories. Most important to his literary growth was his brother, Israel Joshua Singer, who also became an important author; for many years Singer was better known as Israel’s brother than as a writer himself. When Singer was four, the family moved...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in Leoncin, Poland, on either July 14 or November 21, 1904. His grandfathers had been rabbis, and his father was a Hasidic scholar, whom Singer’s mother chose over other suitors for his scholarly excellence. The Singers moved to Warsaw in 1908, and the young Bashevis (a name adapted from his mother’s name Bathsheba) grew up with his sister and two brothers in a ghetto tenement at 10 Krochmalna Street, which was his father’s rabbinical court.
Rabbi Pinchos-Mendel Singer was a warm, mystical, and deeply spiritual man who was loved and revered by the entire community. Bathsheba Singer was a cool, sharp, practical, and rational woman who in many ways held the family together. The young Singer grew up among parental balances and contrasts that inform much of his writing. Singer read widely, including Fyodor Dostoevski’s Prestupleniye i nakazaniye (1866; Crime and Punishment, 1886) in Yiddish at age nine, and studied languages. In addition, his older brother Israel Joshua, eleven years his senior, was an intelligent and rebellious spirit who very early began to influence Singer’s intellectual development.
In 1917, Singer accompanied his mother to her native Bilgoray, where they lived for four years. There, he taught Hebrew—considered an affront to tradition, as the language of the Scriptures was not to be used for mundane purposes. In 1921, Singer’s father took a rabbinical post in a...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in Leoncin, Poland. There has long been some uncertainty as to the date of his birth; in Isaac Bashevis Singer: The Magician of West Eighty-sixth Street (1979), biographer Paul Kresh quotes Singer as stating that November 21 was, as far as he knew, “more or less” the actual date of his birth. For many years, however, he had celebrated July 14 because his parents had told him that was his birthday to cheer him up after they moved.
He was the third child in a family of four siblings, who included an older sister, Hinde Esther, an older brother, Israel Joshua, and a younger brother, Moishe. His parents were Pinchas Mendel Singer, a Hasidic rabbi from Tomoszov, and Bathsheba Zylberman, the daughter of the Mitnagid—the opposing sect—rabbi of Bilgoray. The couple seemed to be mismatched. Pinchas Mendel, a gentle, pious, spiritual man, was an ardent follower of Hasidism. Bathsheba, a learned, strong-minded woman, was a rationalist and a pragmatist. Israel Joshua, eleven years Singer’s senior, inherited his mother’s rationalism; Moishe, two years Singer’s junior, inherited his father’s piety. The confluence of parental legacies—the mysticism of Singer’s father and the rationalism of his mother—was Singer’s inheritance, reflected in the tensions of his fictive characters: conflicts between the heart and the head, the sacred and the profane, the spiritual and the secular.
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The son and grandson of rabbis, Isaac Bashevis Singer was born into a pious Hasidic household in Poland, which he would imaginatively portray in his memoir In My Father’s Court. He began his literary career writing for a Hebrew newspaper and proofreading for a journal that his brother, novelist Israel Joshua Singer, coedited. In 1925, Singer made his fiction debut with a prize-winning short story, “In Old Age.” In 1932, he began co-editing Globus, which serialized Satan in Goray, his novel of messianic heresy.
In 1935, Singer emigrated to New York, where he wrote for the Jewish Daily Forward. Several years went by before Singer found the full strength of his writer’s voice. He believed that an author needed roots, but he had lost his. Never easily placed within any tradition, Singer wrote first in Yiddish and then translated his work into English. His decision to write in Yiddish, which he knew was a dying language, was linked to his identification with a world that was destroyed by the Nazis.
Singer’s work not only recalls that lost world, but his questions about the meaning of life reflect modern existential concerns. In Enemies: A Love Story, Herman Broder protests against suffering and the anguish of abandonment. Harry Bendiner of the story “Old Love” dreams of meditating...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Isaac Bashevis Singer was born on either July 14 or November 21, 1904. Although his birth was recorded in nearby Radzymin, his actual birthplace was Leoncin, Poland, a village near Warsaw. Isaac’s mother was Bathsheba Zylberman Singer, the daughter of the Orthodox rabbi of Bilgoray. His father, Pinchas Mendel Singer, was the Hasidic rabbi of Leoncin. Isaac had an older sister, Hinde Esther Singer, and an older brother, Israel Joshua Singer. Two years after Isaac’s birth, Bathsheba had another boy, Moishe. After Pinchas Mendel Singer had lived in Leoncin for ten years, he and his family moved to Radzymin, where the rabbi was supposed to direct a yeshiva, or talmudic college. There seemed to be no provision for a salary, however, and financially desperate, in 1908 the family moved to Krochmalna Street in Warsaw, where Pinchas Mendel made a meager living from fees earned as judge of an ecclesiastical court.
Even as a young child, Singer was already asking questions about the meaning of life and joining in the family discussions about theology, morality, and politics. In his home, Singer encountered very different viewpoints. His father was scholarly and mystical; his mother, practical and rational. His brother Israel Joshua was a rationalist and, eventually, a socialist and a Zionist, who at twenty-one left home to live a bohemian lifestyle and...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The fiction of Isaac Bashevis Singer is of great historical importance because it preserves ways of thinking and acting that have almost vanished. In the communities that he describes, religion is the central reality, and behavior is decided on the basis of faith. Although there can certainly be cruelty and deceit within the shtetl—or outside it, as in modern Warsaw, New York, or Miami Beach—when Singer’s characters move away from that faith and that sense of community, they feel a sense of alienation and futility.
Singer’s works are most valuable not as works in a particular tradition, however, but as universal accounts of human frailty, suffering, and, sometimes, of human goodness. Like Shosha, Singer’s fiction usually ends not with answers but with questions. It is this kind of intellectual honesty, this insistence on coming to an understanding with his God about the purpose of life in this world, that is Singer’s most impressive achievement.
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Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in Leoncin, Poland, on July 14, 1904. He was the third of four children, three of whom became writers. Hinde Esther, the oldest, is least known. Israel Joshua, Isaac's older brother, wrote The Brothers Askenazi and other novels after immigrating to the United States in 1933, where Isaac followed him two years later. Isaac had been writing essays and stories for Yiddish newspapers in Poland, but for several years after his arrival in New York, he wrote only some reviews for the Yiddish-language newspaper, the Jewish Daily Forward, and other journals. Meanwhile, his first novel, Satan in Goray, had been published in Poland, although he left the country before seeing a copy.
It was not until the early 1940s that he resumed writing fiction, still in Yiddish. In 1940 he married Alma Haiman. They have no children, although Isaac has a son, Israel, by his Communist mistress, Runya, from the days they lived together in Poland. Starting with The Family Moskat (1950), which had been published serially in Yiddish in the Jewish Daily Forward, Singer's books began appearing in English as well. In 1953 Saul Bellow translated Singer's story "Gimpel the Fool" in the Partisan Review, introducing the writer to a wide audience, and in 1955 Satan in Goray appeared in English translation. From that time on, Singer's work, though usually written first in Yiddish, has regularly been published in...
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Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in Radzymin, Poland, July 14, 1904. His father was a fervently religious rabbi, a member of a Hasidic sect, and his mother was the daughter of a rabbi. Isaac was the third of four children, all but the youngest of whom became writers. The works of Hinde Esther, the oldest, are scarcely known in this country. Israel Joshua, the oldest son, wrote The Brothers Askenazi and other novels after immigrating to the United States in 1933, where Isaac followed him two years later.
Singer had been writing essays and stories for Yiddish newspapers in Poland, but for several years after his arrival in New York he could write nothing except reviews for the Yiddishlanguage newspaper Jewish Daily Forward and other journals. Meanwhile, his first novel, Satan in Goray, was published in Poland, but he left before ever seeing a copy.
Not until the early 1940s did Singer resume writing Yiddish fiction. In 1940 he married Alma Haiman. They have no children, although Singer has a son, Israel, by a former companion, Runya.
In 1953 Saul Bellow translated Singer's story "Gimpel the Fool" in the Partisan Review, introducing the writer to non-Jewish audiences, and in 1955 Satan in Goray appeared in English translation. From that time on, his work, though usually written first in Yiddish, has regularly been published in English as well. In 1970 A Day of Pleasure won the National Book...
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Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1978 Nobel Prize laureate, is internationally acclaimed for his short stories and novels, written in Yiddish, but known to readers mostly in translation. He is also a prolific essayist, children’s book writer, playwright, journalist, editor, translator and memoirist. Singer was born July 14, 1904, into a Chassidic Jewish family, in Radzymin (or Leoncin), Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. The exact date of his birth is not clear, and has been listed as either July 14, October 26, or November 21. Singer’s father and both of his grandfathers were Hassidic rabbis.
In 1908, when Singer was four, the family moved to nearby Warsaw, where he spent most of his childhood. In 1914, Singer read his first nonreligious text, Crime and Punishment, by the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevski. From 1917 to 1921, he and his mother lived with relatives in the rural shtetl of Bilgory, before returning to Warsaw.
He was enrolled in the Warsaw Rabbinical Seminary in 1921, according to the wishes of his parents, but eventually left to pursue a career in writing. From 1923 to 1933, Singer worked as a proofreader and translator for a journal where his elder brother Israel Joshua worked, and as an associate editor of a different journal from 1933–1935. His first short story was published in 1927. In Warsaw, Singer lived with a woman named Runya (or Runia), by whom he had an illegitimate son, Israel Zamir, in 1929.
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Isaac Bashevis Singer was born Icek-Hersz Zynger in Radzymin, Poland, on July 14, 1904. He was the son of a rabbi, and the grandson of two rabbis. Singer spent his youth studying sacred Jewish texts, such as the Torah, the Cabala, and the Talmud, in preparation for a life as a rabbi.
Singer spent his childhood years in Warsaw and in the shtetl—the term used to describe the exclusively Jewish villages throughout Eastern Europe that were wiped out during Adolph Hitler’s campaign against the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s— of Radzymin, Poland. While these locales had a major influence in the settings and references in his stories, Singer’s single greatest influence was his older brother, Israel Joshua Singer, a secular Yiddish writer.
Singer forsook his intended career as a rabbi and followed his brother’s path, first heading to a writer’s club in Warsaw. He took his mother’s Hebrew name, Bathsheba, and made it his pen name in Yiddish, Bashevis. In 1935, Singer fled Europe to escape Hitler’s regime and landed in America, penniless and knowing only one English phrase. Despondent after his brother’s sudden death in America and the devastation of his people in the Holocaust in Europe, he wrote nothing for seven years. Eventually, however, Singer began to write again, publishing prolifically until the time of his death.
Singer’s writings, including plays, short stories, novels, autobiographies, and children’s...
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Isaac Bashevis Singer was born on July 14,1904, in the Polish shtetl, or village, of Leoncin, near Warsaw. His parents were devout Jews who wanted their son to become a religious scholar. Singer's interests, however, drew him toward literature, and early in his life he began reading secular, or non-religious, books. His strict religious training often conflicted with his secular interests, and this conflict is explored in his fiction through characters who grapple with faith and skepticism. In 1908 Singer and his family moved to Warsaw, where he spent most of his youth. In 1921, his father made him enroll in the city's rabbinical seminary. Singer remained only one year, and in 1923 he began proofreading for Literarishe Bletter, a Yiddish literary magazine. Later he worked as a translator, writing Yiddish versions of popular novels, including Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front.
In 1927 Singer published his first piece of short fiction in Literarishe Bletter, and seven years later his first novel, Satan in Goray, appeared in serial form in the Yiddish periodical Globus. That same year Singer emigrated from Poland to the United States, leaving behind his wife and son. He followed his older brother Israel Joshua, who later achieved prominence as a Yiddish novelist. Singer settled in New York City and began writing reviews and essays for the Jewish Daily Forward. In 1940 Singer married his...
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