Page 14 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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HAROLD U. RIBALOW
Devils, Jews and I. B. Singer
Reflections on a Nobel Prize Winner
N
a f t a l i
,
o n e
o f
the more pleasant characters in an Isaac Bashevis
Singer story ,1is amazed tha t writers make up stories. He tells Reb
Zebulun, in a shocked voice, “They are liars.”
Reb Zebulun replies (and bea r in m ind tha t this passage ap ­
pears in a tale told fo r ch ild ren2) : “They are no t liars. T h e hum an
brain really can’t make up a thing. At times I read a story tha t
seems to me completely unbelievable, bu t I come to some place
and I hea r th a t such a th ing actually happened . T h e brain is
created by God, and hum an though ts and fantasies are also God’s
works. Even dreams come from God. I f a th ing doesn’t happen
today, it m ight easily happ en tomorrow. I f no t in one country,
then in ano ther . T h e re are endless worlds and what doesn’t
happen on ea r th can happen in ano ther world.”3
Singer remains consistent in his belief tha t any th ing man can
imagine may possibly happen .
In the course o f an interview with him which I conducted in
1976,4 here is an exchange which took place between us abou t a
controversial story, “Blood,” about which I po in t out, “Critics say,
‘T h e re never was a shochet who killed animals in o rd e r to obtain
satisfaction.’”
Singer replies, “How does the reade r know the re never was a
shochet like this? Do you know tha t there is a story in Jewish life
1 In
Naftali, the Storyteller and His Horse, Sus,
1976.
2 In
When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw and Other Stories,
1968, Singer writes in a
prefatory note, “In my writing there is no basic difference between tales for
adults and for young people. The same spirit, the same interest in the super­
natural is in all o f them.”
3
Naftali, the Storyteller and His Horse, Sus.
4 An abbreviated version was published in
Midstream,
January 1979. The longer
interview will appear in a book o f interviews which I conducted with nine Jewish
novelists, to be published later this year by A.S. Barnes.