“Sometimes love is stronger than a man’s convictions”
Isaac Bashevis Singer was born on this day in Radzymin, Poland in 1904. He would have been 98 years old today.
He came from a religious family. His father was a rabbi and his mother had several rabbis in her family. He grew up surrounded in a world steeped in Hasidic traditions and even attended Rabbinical School. According to Singer’s Nobel Prize biography, it was a world:
which the reader encounters in Singer’s stories, … a very Jewish but also a very human world. It appears to include everything – pleasure and suffering, coarseness and subtlety…
But Singer wanted a more secular life. The World was changing fast around him and he wanted to be a part of it. The conflict of old verses new (both on a personal level and a global level as Eastern Europe churned through WWI and the build up and horrors of WWII ) were fodder for Singer’s budding journalism and short story writing. Singer gave voice to those conflicts, mixing the tragic with the comic; breaking our hearts but warming them too, all on the same page.
He emigrated to the United States in 1935 and began to work for Yiddish Newspapers. Because of the Holocaust the Yiddish language was nearly wiped out in Europe, but Singer reveled in the power of his native tongue and knew there was still an audience for it. His work often recalled a Poland before the War, but without the sugar coating of nostalgia.
He published memoirs, essays, novels, children’s books and short stories. Singer won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978.