Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*New York City

*New York City. Largest city in the United States and the first destination for most of its European immigrants during the early twentieth century. In perhaps no other city, even Israel’s Tel Aviv, could Isaac Bashevis Singer have so keenly observed post-Holocaust Jewish psychology. As his fictional Polish immigrant Herman Broder moves about New York City, making his living ghostwriting books and lectures for a rich rabbi, he mingles with Jews of several economic strata and varying political opinions and religious practices. In this microcosm of world Jewishness, the effects of the Holocaust may be observed everywhere. Some survivors keep the religious law, while others despise it. Broder’s mistress hates God because of her experiences in the German death camps. Others, like her own mother, love God all the more because of what she has suffered. Broder’s own brain is still stocked with the lore of the Jewish Diaspora and Hebraic learning, now useful to him only because of the types of books he writes.

Perhaps it is only in post-Holocaust New York that a man such as Broder could so easily fall into the predicament he soon faces. After he marries the servant who saved his life in Poland, his first wife, Tamar, whom he had believed lost in the camps, reappears. As if two wives, after the secular law, were not enough, his mistress, Masha, then tricks him into marrying her according to Jewish law.

Singer wrote his novels initially in Yiddish, the language in which he felt most artistically comfortable, though his largest...

(The entire section is 647 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although they become involved in ridiculous situations, Singer's characters are realistically and vividly portrayed in Enemies. The...

(The entire section is 49 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Like the autobiographical character in Elie Wiesel's Night, Herman is constantly haunted by his Holocaust experiences. However,...

(The entire section is 84 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Singer's enchanting short stories, reminiscent of Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and Sholem Aleichem, are imaginative folk tales, told with...

(The entire section is 486 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Enemies: A Love Story was released as a motion picture in 1989. It is directed by Paul Mazursky, who also appears in the picture, and...

(The entire section is 63 words.)


(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Alexander, Edward. Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1980. A thorough and insightful work. The chapter devoted to Enemies emphasizes the importance of the Holocaust in the novel and in Jewish intellectual history.

Denman, Hugh, ed. Isaac Bashevis Singer: His Work and His World. Boston: Brill, 2002.

Farrell, Grace, ed. Critical Essays on Isaac Bashevis Singer. New York: G. K. Hall, 1996.

Farrell, Grace, ed. Isaac Bashevis Singer: Conversations. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992. A collection of interviews in which Enemies is frequently mentioned. Singer points out that he understands Herman Broder’s lack of belief in God but does not share his attitude.

Friedman, Lawrence S. Understanding Isaac Bashevis Singer. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988. Shows how the novel reflects its post-Holocaust setting. The Jews who survived and immigrated to America had to deal with religious doubt, along with their loss of a common language and of a sense of community.

Hadda, Janet. Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Lee, Grace Farrell. From Exile to Redemption: The Fiction of Isaac Bashevis Singer. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987. Systematically traces the development of Singer’s thought, classifying the late work Enemies as a story of redemption. Although Herman exiles himself from God, Yadwiga and Tamara affirm their faith by nurturing a Jewish child.

Noiville, Florence. Isaac B. Singer: A Life. Translated by Catherine Temerson. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.

Qiao, Guo Qiang. The Jewishness of Isaac Bashevis Singer. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

Wirth-Nesher, Hana. City Codes: Reading the Modern Urban Novel. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Wolitz, Seth L., ed. The Hidden Isaac Bashevis Singer. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.