Isaac Bashevis Singer Short Fiction Analysis
Isaac Bashevis Singer relished the short story; he believed that it offered, much more than the novel, the possibility of perfection. His stories, however, seldom reveal signs of a painstaking artisan conscious of form; rather, they flow naturally, even mindlessly, without any sense of manipulation. Indeed, Singer’s art grows out of a thriving tradition of oral storytelling that had been fermenting through Eastern Europe for centuries.
Like many authors, Singer writes about the places and lives he knows. He sets most of his stories in pre-World War II Poland, in the small villages (Shtetlach) or the urban ghettoes of his childhood and youth. In his stories, these places are the Polish cities of Warsaw and Kraków, or semifictional towns such as Goray and Frampol; they appear over and over again with recurring motifs and character types, until most of Singer’s tales seem to happen in the same prototypical settings.
Given the specificity of Singer’s cultural milieu, the individual’s relationship to his or her community becomes important, whether that relationship focuses on the collective attitude toward unusual characters and behavior or the individual’s dislocation from family, community, and nation. Singer spent most of his life with such dislocation; it is not surprising that many of his characters are in some sort of exile. That exile can involve a new country, a new language, a new culture, or a new identity. Later in his career,...
(The entire section is 3147 words.)
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