Questions tagged [isaac-bashevis-singer]

Questions about the Polish-born Jewish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902 – 1991) and his works. He wrote novels such as 'The Magician of Lublin' (English translation, 1960), short stories and a number of autobiographical works. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978. Use this tag with the [yiddish-literature] tag.

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What does the culture of Europe have to do with Yasha needing to acquire a large sum of money?

When Yasha is sitting in the restaurant and thinking before attempting his theft, we have this paragraph: "Why would all France glorify a tart?" Yasha wondered. Was this France? Was this ...
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Lack of closure as a theme in the works of Isaac Bashevis Singer

While reading the works of Isaac Bashevis Singer over the past couple months, I've gotten the impression that Singer will often - especially in short stories - leave you with a sense that not ...
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How can we approach analyzing Singer's treatment of race in his works?

While reading A Friend of Kafka (1970), a book of short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, a few passages struck me as odd, especially concering race (and the use of the word "Negro" in ...
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Why does Krol Rudy care about spilling the blood of animals so much?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's The King of the Fields, Krol Rudy mentions that he doesn't want the blood of animals to be spilled: An odd thought began to take shape in his mind; when he died, he would ...
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What's the point of having both Cybula and Krol Rudy assault Yagoda in the beginning of "The King of the Fields"?

In the beginning of Isaac Bashevis Singer's The King of the Fields, both Krol Rudy, the leader of the "farmers", and Cybula, the leader of the hunters, sexually assault Yagoda, who is ...
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Why would the young scholar who was obsessed with Maimonides become an unbeliever in Singer's "The Primper"?

At the end of Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "The Primper", there's a small anecdote about a young man who studied the Rambam / Maimonides until he became an unbeliever: In Rovna there ...
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Why does Sylvia's kiss cause swelling in Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Schloimele"?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Schloimele", the narrator receives a kiss from Sylvia and the complains that it's sore: 'But the evening's only just begun!' Sylvia protested as her crimson ...
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Is Schloimele gay-coded in Singer's "Schloimele"?

Schloimele, in Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story of the same name, is described as having feminine qualities when he's first introduced: The door opened and a pink-cheeked young man with cherry-...
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What's the significance of Schloimele looking unrecognizable at the end of Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Schloimele"?

At the end of "Schloimele" by Isaac Bashevis Singer, the titular character is described as being almost unrecognizable at the end of the story: He wore a straw hat, a pink shirt, and a bow ...
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What does the name "Hodel" mean?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "The Primper", Adele's real name is "Hodel": Her two sisters and three brothers married in due time, but she, Adele - her real name was ...
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What does Oyzer-Dovidl's dream about Nechele mean in Singer's "The Riddle"?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "The Riddle", Oyzer-Dovidl remembers a dream where his wife, Nechele, acted like a young boy: He was constantly remembering adventures from stories ...
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Why does "Satan in Goray" mention that Levi supports Sabbatai Zevi so many times?

The first time that Satan in Goray tells us that Levi, Reb Benish's son, is a supporter of Sabbatai Zevi is in part 1, chapter 9: Levi, the rabbi's son, invited him for supper, for in his controversy ...
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What does "head cut off with no knife" mean in "Satan in Goray"?

When discussing Rechele and Itche Mates's failure to consummate their marriage, the ladies of the town use this phrase: When the seventh day of the Seven Days of the Marriage Feast was passed, ...
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Why is Levi pale with the "fear of punishment" that he and not Ozer is acting as Rabbi in "Satan in Goray"?

During Reb Itche Mates and Rechele's wedding in Satan in Goray, Levi, Reb Benish's son, acts as "master of the sacrament": Levi, Reb Benish's younger son, he that belonged to the Sabbatai ...
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Why does the fool recite this depressing verse at the wedding in "Satan in Goray"?

In the beginning of the second half of Satan in Goray, at the wedding of Reb Itche Mates and Rechele, the following scene appears: Before covering the bride's head he recited an interminable prayer. ...
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Is there any significance to the dances that the girls perform in "Satan in Goray"?

Before Reb Itche Mates and Rechele's wedding, we have this scene, after the description of the "jester" for the wedding: The girls nudged one another and giggled. They performed first the ...
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Why does the band follow Rechele to the bathhouse before her wedding?

In the beginning of the second part of Satan in Goray, Rechele is followed to the mikveh (bathhouse) by a band when she visits for the first time before her wedding: Chinkele the Pious daily for ...
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What's the importance of "cemetery grass" hair in Singer's "The Primper"?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "The Primper", black-and-gray hair is apparently referred to as "cemetery grass": In her youth Adele was far from ugly, though she was ...
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Why does Singer refer to the name of God in "Satan in Goray"?

Towards the end of Part One of Satan of Goray, there's this scene with Reb Itche Mates: Meanwhile Reb Itche Mates waited in the dark room in Reb Godel Chasid's home. All day long he sat swaying over ...
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2 votes
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What's happening at the end of "Pigeons" by Isaac Bashevis Singer?

The final paragraph of Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "Pigeons" goes like this: The following morning broke autumn-like and drab. The skies hung low and rusty. The smoke of the ...
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How closely do the events in "Satan in Goray" mirror the actual Shabbtai Tzvi events?

In Satan in Goray, Isaac Bashevis Singer mentions several ways in which it's "proven" that Shabbtai Tzvi is the Messiah: During the time Rabbi Benish still dwelt in Lublin he had heard ...
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Why are the peasants referred to as the "children of Ham" in "Satan in Goray"?

While describing the fairs that used to take place in Goray, Satan in Goray uses the term "children of Ham" to mean the peasants (i.e. non-Jews): In those days the grain merchants' bins ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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What does "pilpul" refer to in "Satan in Goray"?

In Satan in Goray, Rabbi Benish is frustrated that the young men are learning pilpul, and has tries to ban it. They delved too deeply into things that were meant to be hidden, they drank too little ...
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Why are these biblical scenes mentioned in italics and title case in "Satan in Goray"?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's Satan in Goray, this is mentioned in the descriptions of Levi, Rabbi Benish's son, and Nechele, Levi's wife: Nechele never ceased complaining of how she had fallen into a ...
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3 votes
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What do the "Evil Spirits" have to do with a house becoming leprous?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "Stories From Behind the Stove", one character associates the "Evil Ones" with being capable of anything, giving a leprous house as an ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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Why is Professor Eibeschutz ashamed of the "religious implications" of the phrase "Thank God"?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "Pigeons", Professor Eibeschutz says that he's ashamed of the religious implications of the phrase "Thank God": Professor Eibeschutz ...
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2 votes
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Why is Dr Beeber afraid of being forgiven in Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Dr Beeber"?

At the end of Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "Dr Beeber", the titular character says this: 'I believe in all superstitions.' 'You're right. Rationalism is the worst disease of the ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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What's the significance of saying "thou", and where does Emilia actually say it in "The Magician of Lublin"?

In The Magician of Lublin - part five, section 3 - this scene takes place between Emilia and Yasha: "What did you say, dear?" "I said that I love you and that I can't wait until you ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Is this instance of "little girl" a translation error in "The Magician of Lublin"?

There's a scene in The Magician of Lublin (part six, section 5) where Yasha is playing cards with Herman, a shady character in Warsaw. Yasha allowed him to perform several tricks: the trick with the ...
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1 vote
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How do Emilia's beliefs about dreams reflect on her in "The Magician of Lublin"?

In The Magician of Lublin, Emilia tries to contact Chrabotzky, her dead husband, through a medium. She then realized that the medium was a fraud. However, she does believe that she had dreams where ...
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2 votes
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What prompted Yasha to commit to Emilia all of a sudden?

In The Magician of Lublin, when Yasha goes to meet his sweetheart Emilia, Emilia starts talking about how Yasha's being non-commital: ["...]About us I certainly couldn't tell you a thing. All ...
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3 votes
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Why is "The Heritage of the Deer" specifically mentioned here in Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Guests on a Winter Night"?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "Guests on a Winter Night", the aunt of our main character is telling him about his great-grandparents: She said to me, "Your great-grandfather, ...
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2 votes
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Why does Yasha feel guilty here in "The Magician of Lublin"?

When Yasha is sitting on a café in The Magician of Lublin, observing the other patrons (generally well-to-do Poles) it's mentioned that he feels a certain sadness or guilt: He, Yasha, was to all ...
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What's the significance of the colors in this song in "The Magician of Lublin"?

In chapter 5 of The Magician of Lublin, when Yasha is in Piask, he overhears this song: Musicians, sawing small fiddles, chanted a long drawn-out melody. From a wagon of peasant girls jammed together ...
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4 votes
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What does "emancipated" mean in this context in Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Guests on a Winter Night"?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "Guests on a Winter Night", there's one part where he describes the folks inside a coffee shop as "emancipated": It was even more ...
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3 votes
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What do the names of Yasha's animals in "The Magician of Lublin" say about him?

In Isaac Bashevis Singer's The Magician of Lublin, our main character Yasha named his horses "Kara" and "Shiva", and refers to them as "Dust" and "Ashes: He need ...
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4 votes
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What happened at the end of "The Key" by Isaac Bashevis Singer?

At the end of "The Key", a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, the old lady who has been our main character lies down on her bed, feeling like she's under anesthesia. She then has a vision ...
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5 votes
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Why is Jacques Kohn wearing a "father-murderer" collar?

In the description of Jacques Kohn in the beginning of Isaac Bashevis Singer's "A Friend of Kafka", he's described as wearing this: Although he still dressed in the style of a dandy, his ...
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1 vote
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Is Cybula's musings about the birds a metaphor?

In The King of the Fields by Isaac Bashevis Singer, there's this scene early on in the book - the section "Cybula and Nosek" - where Cybula, who is on his way with his daughter for a peace ...
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5 votes
2 answers
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What does "haidamak" mean?

The first line of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Satan in Goray goes: In the year 1648, the wicked Ukrainian hetman, Bogdan Chmelnicki, and his followers besieged the city of Zamosć but could not take it, ...
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2 votes
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Why does "Satan in Goray" abruptly change in style at the end?

When I glanced at the Goodreads page for Satan in Goray by Isaac Bashevis Singer (translated by Jacob Sloan), part of this review caught my eye: Unfortunately the ending did fall a bit short. It ...
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10 votes
1 answer
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Did Isaac Bashevis Singer write only in Yiddish, or also in English?

While researching another question, a couple of us have found what appears to be a contradiction in the Wikipedia page for Isaac Bashevis Singer. The introductory section of the article says: He ...
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13 votes
2 answers
2k views

Why did Isaac Bashevis Singer win the Nobel Prize for Literature?

I love IBS's books and have read many of them, but I fail to understand how such niche writing garnered a Nobel Prize in Literature. The audience of his brilliant books are Jews, old Jews, ...
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