Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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RIBALOW / DEVILS, JEWS AND I. B. SINGER
9
points out, tha t no Jewish community in Eastern Europe con­
sumed so much beef as to enable the shochet in the story to kill so
many oxen .”
T o which Sloan rep lied intelligently, “I subm it tha t Bashevis
has a righ t to describe fictional events tha t would never have
happened in the historic shtetl. I t simply does no t ma tter tha t no
Jewish shochet, as Ayalti ironically notes, ever had occasion to
p erfo rm the kind o f Holocaust Bashevis depicts in one o f his
more frenzied stories — no Jewish community ever ate tha t much
meat! But how many kings’ daugh ters had the ir fa th e r’s eyes
plucked out? Still, Lear’s d augh te r does, and Shakespeare seems
to have carried the scene off.”
ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
At this point it is app rop r ia te to quote from Singer’s Nobel
Prize speech, a notable, almost noble statement. H ere are some
passages, from a “hea then ”:
“In spite o f all the disenchantments and all my skepticism, I
believe tha t the nations can learn much from the Jews, the ir way
o f thinking, the ir way o f bring ing up children , the ir finding
happiness where others see no th ing bu t misery and humiliation.
To me, the Yiddish language and the conduct o f those who speak
it is identical.”
He continued: “One can find in the Yiddish tongue and in the
Yiddish spirit expressions o f pious joy, lust fo r life, longing for
the Messiah, patience and deep appreciation o f hum an individu­
ality. T h e re is a quiet hum o r in Yiddish and a g ra titude for every
day o f life, every crumb o f success, each encoun te r o f love.”
“Yiddish,” he stated, “has no t yet said its last word. It contains
treasures tha t have not been revealed to the eyes o f the world. It
was the tongue of martyrs and saints, of dream ers and cabalists —
rich in hum o r and in memories tha t mankind may never forget.
In a figurative way, Yiddish is the wise and humble language o f us
all, the idiom o f the frigh tened and hopefu l humanity .”
Some o f Singer’s novels are lengthy narra tives;12 others are
tight and spare.,13 All are worth reading.
12
The Family Moskat,
1950;
The Manor,
1967 and
The Estate,
1969, actually two
segments o f a single novel called
The Manor. Enemies, A Love Story,
1972, and
Sosha,
1978, are not sprawling narratives, but they do ramble somewhat and are
not taut and tight.
13
Satan in Goray,
1955;
TheMagician ofLublin,
1960, and
The Slave,
1962,are quite
different in structure and purpose.