I. B. Singer
Writings on Yiddish and Yiddishkayt: The War Years, 1939-1945, edited and translated by David Stromberg (White Goat Press, 2023)
Writings on Yiddish and Yiddishkayt is the first in a three-volume series and features twenty-five essays that Singer, then relatively unknown, published under pseudonyms in the Forverts, the world’s largest Yiddish newspaper. The essays are arranged chronologically, offering readers the unique opportunity to bear witness to the shifts in Singer’s perspective as history unfolded—a rarity for English audiences, considering that much of Singer’s work was written well before it was eventually translated. Short introductory paragraphs also accompany each piece, offering exact publication dates and remarks about the larger historical and cultural context of Singer’s writing. Stromberg's careful curation, contextual explanations, and excellent translations give the readers a unique lens onto the past. While Singer's foresight, expressions of hope, and scathing critique of demagogues and fascism are products of their time, they are just as essential—and as chillingly relevant—in 2023.
What the Critics Say
"This collection reaches beyond Singer's later-in-life persona as an avuncular Yiddish man of letters to reveal a complicated writer who was unafraid to display unsanitized emotion and be as provocative in his nonfiction as he was in his fiction. It's a boon for Singer's admirers and newcomers alike." —Publishers Weekly
"Sheds light on the early, developmental years of the young, passionate writer." —Kirkus Reviews
"A solid collection of Yiddish thought from an esteemed writer, at a pivotal time in Jewish history." —Library Journal
"This spellbinding collection of essays, written with raw urgency in the Shoah's shadow, offers a new view not just of Bashevis Singer's worldly and other‐worldly tilts but of a Yiddishkeit pumping with great vitality through literary conduits." —Benjamin Balint, author of Bruno Schulz: An Artist, a Murder, and the Hijacking of History
About the Author
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1903–1991) was a Polish-born Jewish-American author of novels, short stories, memoirs, essays, and stories for children. His career spanned nearly seven decades of literary production, much of it spent translating his own work from Yiddish into English, which he undertook with various collaborators and editors. Singer published widely during his lifetime, with nearly sixty stories appearing in The New Yorker, and received numerous awards and prizes, including two Newbery Honor Book Awards (1968 and 1969), two National Book Awards (1970 and 1974), and the Nobel Prize for Literature (1978). Known for fiction that portrayed 19th-century Polish Jewry as well as supernatural tales that combined Jewish mysticism with demonology, Singer was a master storyteller whose sights were set squarely on the tension between human nature and the human spirit.
About the Editor/Translator
David Stromberg is a writer, translator, and literary scholar. His work has appeared in The American Scholar, Woven Tale Press, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. In his role as editor of the Isaac Bashevis Singer Literary Trust he has published Old Truths and New Clichés (Princeton University Press), a collection of Singer’s essays, and a new translation of the canonical story Simple Gimpl: The Definitive Bilingual Edition (Restless Books). Among Stromberg’s recent writing is a series of speculative essays, including “A Short Inquiry into the End of the World” (The Massachusetts Review), “The Eternal Hope of the Wandering Jew” (The Hedgehog Review), and “To Kill an Intellectual” (The Fortnightly Review). He is based in Jerusalem.