Page 16 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
enough more Yiddish than English, who — th ro u g h the years —
have den ig ra ted his work.
For the most part, I p re fe r to express my own apprecia tion o f
Singer’s writing and to po in t ou t — no t in self-congratulation bu t
to indicate a long-standing adm iration fo r his work — tha t I have
long called fo r this kind o f recognition fo r Singer.
A lfred Kazin, in a lecture a t the Baltimore Hebrew College,7
called Singer’s Nobel Prize “richly deserved, the most completely
justified in the recen t history o f the literary aw ard ,” and he
recalled tha t Edm und Wilson had “ra ted S inger one o f the
greatest writers o f the m ode rn world.”
Earlier, Kazin, in an essay on Singer, wrote, “Singer became the
fictional historian o f the whole Jewish experience in Eastern
Eu rope because his ex trao rd ina ry intelligence and detached
point o f view tu rned the h ea r t o f the trad ition — acceptance o f
God’s law, God’s will, even God’s slaughter o f his own — into
story, legend, fantasy.”8
O th e r critics, with m in o r ca rp ing , have ca lled S inge r a
“genius.”9 But Yiddish critics have been almost violent in the ir
dislike o f Singer’s work, world and outlook (which is, in a sense,
ironic following Singer’s Nobel Prize lecture in which he proud ly
tells the world o f his love fo r Yiddish).
Jacob Sloan, a well-known translator from the Yiddish, deals
with this particular animosity toward Singer in an essay on “Isaac
Bashevis Singer and His Yiddish Critics.10First he quotes some o f
those critics, pointing ou t tha t Jacob Glatstein, the late Yiddish
poet, called him “a bad w riter” and tha t Chanan Ayalti, the
Yiddish novelist, sneered at Singer’s work by claiming it “derives
from second-rate Polish and French romances.”11
M.Z. F rank added (about Singer’s story “Blood”) “the events in
Singer’s ‘Blood’ are incredible, if fo r no o th e r reason, as Ayalti
7 Reprinted in the Baltimore
Jewish Times,
October 27, 1978.
8 In
Bright Book of Life,
1973.
9 Irving Howe, in the
NewRepublic,
November 13,1961, in a review o f
TheSpinoza
of Market Street,
stated that “Within his narrow limits, Singer is a genius.”
10
Congress Bi-Weekly,
March 7, 1966.
11 Quoted by M.Z. Frank in his “The Demon and the Earlock,”
Conservative
Judaism,
Fall, 1965. Ayalti also attacked Singer in the
Yiddisher Kemfer,
saying
that his books are “imitations of Zola’s naturalism and Boccaccio’s erotic tales.”
Frank also culls negative comments from an article by Leib Feinberg in
Freie
ArbeiterStimme
,June 1,1965. Feinberg writes, with hysteria, “The more we read
Bashevis’works, the more distinctly there emerges the image o f aJewish writer
who writes not as a Jew, but as a heathen.”