Major milestone for readers and scholars alike
The Yiddish Book Center has announced that they have made Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Yiddish works freely available online through the Yiddish Book Center’s Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library. This is a major milestone for readers and scholars alike as the Yiddish originals were never widely distributed and often differ significantly from their more familiar English versions, which Singer reworked for an American audience. The availability of these works was made possible by permission of the Singer Estate.
Commenting on the announcement, Aaron Lanksy, founder and president of the Yiddish Book Center, noted, “We were thrilled when Singer’s Estate gave us the go-ahead to do this. We’ve long hoped to be able to include the majority of Singer’s work in Yiddish as part of the Center’s Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library.” Lansky went on to note that occasioned by this news, a just-released special edition of Pakn Treger, the Center’s English-language magazine, is dedicated to Singer. “The release of these Yiddish originals presents a perfect opportunity for a reassessment of Singer and his work.”
The special issue of Pakn Treger—“Isaac Bashevis Singer: Relaunching Our Greatest Storyteller”—includes a range of features, including the discovery in Poland of printing plates that are the only remaining artifact of Singer’s earliest known work; a piece about Singer’s childhood obsession with a series of Yiddish detective novels; an interview with renowned photographer Bruce Davidson, who directed Singer in a little-known art film, Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko’s Beard, based on a short story by the writer, who also stars in the film; as well as a compendium in which contemporary writers write about their favorite Singer story.
“Singer’s wonderful novels and stories have long been available to readers all over the world in translation. But his richly idiomatic Yiddish reveals the full measure of his genius. So it’s exciting that these Yiddish originals are now more accessible than ever to new readers and scholars,” says David Mazower, the Center’s bibliographer and editorial director. Mazower, who as co-editor of Pakn Treger was instrumental in shaping the issue, also worked with the Singer Estate to bring the works online. He added: “This issue reflects the deep appreciation which so many of today’s writers have for Singer and his craft. It also reveals the personal and playful side of this most sophisticated of writers. But above all, we hope it leads new readers to discover this classic American writer for themselves.”
For the Singer Estate, the decision to grant permission to the Yiddish Book Center to post all of Singer’s published Yiddish novels and stories is the realization of their commitment to broaden readership and encourage translation, scholarship, and understanding of the work of the Nobel Award-winning Yiddish writer.
According to Meirav Hen, the author’s granddaughter: “My grandfather always said: ‘As long as there are people with the power to tell a story, there will always be readers….’ So the family is very happy that my grandfather’s stories will now be available to new readers all over the world in digital form.”
The works are freely available to read online or download for free on the Yiddish Book Center’s website. Readers can browse or search the Yiddish Book Center’s Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library to find the full listing of Singer’s Yiddish work in the collection; a broader search on the website will provide related articles, archival recording, oral histories with Singer’s son and descendants, and more.
Pakn Treger, a print-publication, is available by subscription to Yiddish Book Center members, and can be found online.
Press: For more information or to arrange for interviews contact Lisa Newman, director of communications, at [email protected] or 413-256-4900 x 114.