cover image Writings on Yiddish and Yiddishkayt, the War Years, 1939-1945

Writings on Yiddish and Yiddishkayt, the War Years, 1939-1945

Isaac Bashevis Singer, edited and trans. from the Yiddish by David Stromberg. White Goat, $24.95 (206p) ISBN 979-8-9886773-0-7

“There has always been a gap between English-language author Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Yiddish writer,” notes Stromberg (editor of New Truths and Old Clichés) in this revealing selection of Singer’s newly-translated articles published in the Yiddish newspaper Forverts from 1939 to 1945. Written in a period of unspeakable turmoil for the world’s Jews, these pieces—each accompanied by a brief and useful introduction from Stromberg—reveal a raw anxiety less frequently seen in Singer’s other works. In one article, Singer warns of the decline of the Yiddish language amid the rise of Hebrew, American cultural assimilation, and the destruction of Europe’s Jewish population by the Nazis. Elsewhere, he records the Old World traditions of Elul, a Jewish month of repentance before the high holidays; the “folk drama,” during which “penitents would beat their breasts with their fists” and “tear their lapels,” takes on an ominous resonance set against “one of the worst dramas in Jewish history,” Stromberg notes. 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. (Nov.)