Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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RIBALOW / DEVILS, JEWS AND I. B. SINGER
7
where a shochet killed a rabbi? Believe it o r not, it happened in
Poland .”
I asked, “T h e ritualistic way, the way a shochet kills a chicken?”
Singer answers, “Yes, people are so sure th a t it never h ap ­
pened . How do they know tha t it never happened?
There isn’t a
thing yet which hasn't happened
.” (My italics.)
Isaac Bashevis Singer, who is convinced tha t everything and
any th ing is possible, is him self living p roo f o f this belief, for at the
age o f 74, he was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize fo r L iterature.
For almost twenty-five years now, Singer has been a presence in
the world o f English letters, although he has been writing since
the 1930s. One m ight suggest the re is now a Singer “industry” in
the academic world. Already the re are a hand fu l o f critical studies
devoted to his novels and sho rt stories.5
Singer has never been re luc tan t to welcome interviewers to his
home and as a consequence th e re are many extremely illuminat­
ing and useful interviews which have been frequently and widely
published .6
HIS CRITICS
Singer is a controversial writer and the Nobel Prize evoked both
praise and criticism. T h e re has been a “h ard core” o f critics, oddly
5 Two collections o f essays about various aspects o f Singer’s work have been
published:
Critical Views of Isaac Bashevis Singer,
edited by Irving Malin in 1969,
and
The Achievement ofIsaacBashevis Singer,
edited by Marcia Allentuck in 1970.
This latter volume includes only studies written specially for this collection.
Irving Buchen published
Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Eternal Past
in 1968; Ben
Siegel published a 1969 monograph titled
Isaac Bashevis Singer,
and in 1972
Malin published his own individual study,
Isaac Bashevis Singer.
8 Some o f the interviews worth reading are those with Cyrena N. Pondron in
The
Contemporary Writer,
University o f Wisconsin Press; with Joel Blocker and
Richard Elman in
Commentary,
November, 1963; with Reena Sara Ribalow
mThe
Reconstructionist,
May 29, 1964; with Harold Flender in
Paris Review,
Fall, 1968;
and a cluster o f interviews published after Singer won the Nobel Prize. Some are
the following: with Elenore Lester in the
Soho Weekly News,
October 12, 1978;
with Charles Fenyvesi, in the
New Republic,
October 21, 1978; with Richard
Burgin in the
New York Times Magazine,
November 26 and December 3, 1978;
with William Berkowitz in the
fewish Week,
December 28, 1978; with Clive
Sinclair in
Encounter,
February, 1979. Other interviews were also published,
including my own in
Midstream,
conducted before and published after Singer
won the Prize.