October 22, 2017
Singer's Yiddish FollyOn this day in 1978 Isaac Bashevis Singer was awarded the Nobel Prize. Singer emigrated to the United States from Poland in 1935 but he continued to write mostly in Yiddish, and most of his work -- two-dozen novels (Enemies: A Love Story, Yentl), about that many collections of short stories, several books of memoirs -- is rooted in Jewish traditions and history. This prompted him to deliver the first part of his Nobel speech in Yiddish, and to not only praise his language but predict its rising from the 'dead' category:
They don't read to find their identity.
They don't read to free themselves from guilt, to quench their thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation.
They have no use for psychology.
They detest sociology.
They don't try to understand Kafka or Finnegans Wake. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff.
They love interesting stories, not commentary, guides, or footnotes.
When a book is boring, they yawn openly.
They don't expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity.
In "Gimpel the Fool," title-story to his first collection in 1957, Singer gives notice that he will tell tales and praise folly, in the ancient tradition:
(translated by Saul Bellow)
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