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Gehenna

Walter Kendrick

2 August 1984
The Brothers Singer 
by Clive Sinclair.
Allison and Busby, 176 pp., £8.95, April 1983, 0 85031 275 2
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The Penitent 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Joseph Singer.
Cape, 170 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 224 02192 3
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... When IsaacBashevisSinger won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, not everyone was gratified. Clive Sinclair begins The Brothers Singer with a quotation from a BBC radio interview broadcast minutes after the award had been announced: the ‘astounded’ interviewer suspected that ‘some kind of American Mafia’ was at work in the ...
1 April 1982
... Thank God, none of my fears and premonitions came true. I wasn’t detained on Ellis Island. The Immigration officers didn’t make any trouble for me. My brother Joshua and a fellow writer of his, Zygmunt Salkin, a member of the Anglo-Jewish press in America, came to meet me at the ship. After a few formalities I was seated in Salkin’s car. I wanted to carry my valises but Zygmunt Salkin snatched ...
17 September 1998
Shadows on the Hudson 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Joseph Sherman.
Hamish Hamilton, 560 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 0 241 13940 6
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Isaac Bashevis SingerA Life 
by Janice Hadda.
Oxford, 254 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 19 508420 9
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... The posthumous English publication of IsaacBashevisSinger’s mammoth novel Shadows on the Hudson has created such a tumel. Critics have been arguing about the quality of the novel, originally serialised in 1957-58 in the New York Yiddish newspaper the ...

Two Poems

Alan Ross

23 February 1995
... An atmosphere of grunt and mud, A liquid greenness. Mist rises; even now it’s not fanciful To imagine it, laced with cyanide, Leaking from Oswiecim. Bypassing Lublin The name printed on a sign: IsaacBashevisSinger country. Beards Fashioned out of smoke, cloaks bellying over boots. The streets reek prayer, persecution. In Plac Litweski they play chess Under ignored monuments: Unknown Soldier ...
18 March 1982
... At the onset of the 1930s, my disillusionment with myself reached a stage in which I had lost all hope. If truth be told, I had had little of it to lose. Hitler was on the verge of assuming power in Germany. The Polish fascists proclaimed that as far as the Jews were concerned they had the same plans for them as did the Nazis. It was summer and the heat engulfed Warsaw. I had two residences – one ...

The Slap

Michael Wilding

17 April 1986
The Image, and Other Stories 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Cape, 310 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 224 02357 8
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... There is no doubt about the achievement of IsaacBashevisSinger. He is one of the foremost storytellers of our time. His output has been prolific and now, in his 82nd year, comes a collection of a further 22 stories. Gathered from twenty years of magazine ...
24 October 1991
Scum 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Rosaline Dukalsky Schwartz.
Cape, 224 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 0 224 03200 3
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... other countries have their own characteristics they have what really matters – themselves. And for a people to write about itself can be both inspiration and good business. It certainly was for IsaacBashevisSinger. His incomparable sense of Polish Jewry, the Yiddishness in which he was brought up, renders itself to the reader as if in the palpable form of experience: the words seem to sit us ...

Beltz’s Beaux

D.A.N. Jones

3 March 1983
Marienbad 
by Sholom Aleichem, translated by Aliza Shevrin.
Weidenfeld, 222 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 297 78200 2
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A Coin in Nine Hands 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Dori Katz.
Aidan Ellis, 192 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 0 85628 123 9
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Entry into Jerusalem 
by Stanley Middleton.
Hutchinson, 172 pp., £7.50, January 1983, 0 09 150950 5
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People Who Knock on the Door 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 306 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 0 434 33521 5
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A Visit from the Footbinder 
by Emily Prager.
Chatto, 174 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 7011 2675 2
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Dusklands 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 125 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 9780436102967
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... Aliza Shevrin has served her apprenticeship as one of the dutiful translators of IsaacBashevisSinger, along with Ruth Schachner Finkel, Rosanna Gerber, Dorothea Straus et al. She seems no less expert with the Yiddish of an older master, Sholom Aleichem, best-known to English readers as the ...

Pretty Things

Peter Campbell

21 February 1980
Masquerade 
by Kit Williams.
Cape, 32 pp., £3.50, September 1980, 0 224 01617 2
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Beauty and the Beast 
by Rosemary Harris and Errol Le Cain.
Faber, 32 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 571 11374 5
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Mazel and Shlimazel 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Margot Zemach.
Cape, 42 pp., £3.95, November 1980, 0 224 01758 6
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La Corona 
by Russell Hoban and Nicola Bayley.
Cape, 32 pp., £3.50, September 1980, 0 224 01397 1
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Cats’Eyes 
by Anthony Taber.
Gollancz, 80 pp., £4.50, September 1980, 0 575 02664 2
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Comic and Curious Cats 
by Angela Carter and Martin Leman.
Gollancz, 32 pp., £3.50, April 1980, 0 575 02592 1
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The Wild Washerwomen 
by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake.
Hamish Hamilton, 32 pp., £3.75, October 1980, 0 241 89928 1
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... at fault. Some words should be allowed to speak for themselves, and Rosemary Harris’s are very good indeed. One wants a collection of tales from her, not a single story that has been overdressed. IsaacBashevisSinger’s Mazel and Schli-mazel also lives well by words alone. There is no feeling that Singer was constrained by his memory of the version of the story he was told by his mother as a ...

Uncle Zindel

Gabriele Annan

2 September 1982
The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis​ Singer 
Cape, 610 pp., £10.50, July 1982, 0 224 02024 2Show More
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... IsaacSinger is a man of far away and long ago. He was born in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1904. His father was a Hassidic rabbi from a Jewish shtetl in Galicia, a place almost untouched by the Industrial Revolution and ...

Paley’s People

Angela Carter

17 April 1980
The Little Disturbances of Man 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 192 pp., £2.50, March 1980, 0 86068 127 0
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Enormous Changes at the Last Minute 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 208 pp., £1.95, May 1979, 0 86068 108 4
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... more stationary in the flesh.’ This is ‘Goodbye and Good Luck’, in The Little Disturbances of Man, the only one of all these stories that has a strong flavour of another writer. In this case, IsaacBashevisSinger, with whom Paley shares a tradition and an idiom. All the same, all the narrative roles Paley undertakes are those of the same kind of marginal people, with essentially the same ...

Spivsville

Jonathan Bate

27 July 1989
Train, Train 
by Graham Coster.
Bloomsbury, 225 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780747503941
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The Philosophers 
by Alex Comfort.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780715625118
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The King of the Fields 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Cape, 256 pp., £10.95, July 1989, 0 224 02663 1
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Sister Hollywood 
by C.K. Stead.
Collins, 224 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 00 223479 3
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Penelope’s Hat 
by Ronald Frame.
Hodder, 440 pp., £12.95, July 1989, 0 340 49397 6
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... the narrator. Comfort deploys the first person to Coster’s style indirect libre, but in each case the reader is left in no doubt that politically, sexually and tonally the narrator is the author. IsaacBashevisSinger’s new novel goes to the opposite extreme and, once the first four words are out of the way (The story begins – when?’), effaces the narrator altogether. The King of the Fields ...

Mid-Century Male

Christopher Glazek: Edmund White

19 July 2012
Jack Holmes and His Friend 
by Edmund White.
Bloomsbury, 390 pp., £18.99, January 2012, 978 1 4088 0579 4
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... Virginia Woolf but without the ‘affected prose style’, and that the selling of high art is ‘just one more form of commercialism’. The break came when he was assigned to review a collection by IsaacBashevisSinger. The gripping narratives, ‘telling details’ and ‘humanity’ made him yearn for a time before the ‘classy jugglers’ of modernism vandalised the ‘tradition of Tolstoy and ...

Comedowns

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

12 July 1990
Shadows round the Moon 
by Roy Heath.
Collins, 254 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 00 215584 2
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... of someone who is given too much too soon is more comfortable to contemplate than the destiny of the man who is given too little too late. I remember a graduation ceremony when I was put in charge of IsaacBashevisSinger, who was to receive an honorary degree. It was raining and my sole responsibility was to keep the almost-octogenerian Nobel Prize-winner dry. But Singer took it into his head to take ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges

6 January 2011
Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... quite fogged over with Bellow’s notion that replying to letters was nothing if not a complete and utter waste of time. To Ralph Ellison: ‘I’ve never enjoyed writing letters. Vasiliki says that Isaac, whose journals she took after his death, had some uncomplimentary things to say about the way I answered letters. I deserve them. There is some wickedness hidden here and I ought to root it up, even ...

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