Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
and obviously telling the whole tru th , Gimpel finally believes her.
Shocked by the revelation, he leaves his home town as soon as
he becomes a widower. He wanders over the face o f the earth ,
aimlessly. He realizes, finally, tha t “T h e world is entirely an imag­
inary world, bu t it is only once removed from the true world.”
When his time to die arrives, Gimpel is quite willing to go. As
Singer phrases it in one o f his best-known passages: “When the
time comes I will go joyfully. Whatever may be the re , it will be
real, w ithout complication, without deceit, w ithout ridicule, with­
out deception. God be praised; there even Gimpel cannot be
deceived.”18
A no ther unusua l tale o f deception — b lended with deviltry,
greed, lust and sexuality — is “T he Gentleman from Cracow,”19
to my m ind one o f the best stories in all o f con temporary lit­
era ture .
It all happens in the town o f Frampol, a favorite location fo r
many Singer tales. F rampo l’s populace is poverty-stricken until a
stranger appears among them , a man with unlim ited funds, a
“gen tlem an” who seems very eager and pleased to pass ou t his
wealth among the people. Gradually, the strange r persuades the
townsfolk to reject the ir belief in God. T he people are p rep a red
to do anything for the newcomer. He asks fo r a bride and is
invited to choose among all the maidens o f Frampol. It all sounds
like a fairy tale, bu t the fu tu re looms somewhat ominously.
T he mood o f the town alters. T he poor people now cavort
wildly and happily as money is tossed about by the strange “gen t­
leman.” Slowly, the Jews shed the ir inhibitions and participate in a
frenzied orgy. Singer “specializes” in orgies, tracing back to his
first novel
Satan in Goray.
I t is only then tha t the “gen tlem an” reveals him self as the Chief
of the Devils and tha t his bride is o f his own ilk. T he devil destroys
the town with fire and Frampol must be rebuilt from the g round
up. Now the Jews m istrust money: “A gold coin became an
18 In his interview with this writer (
Midstream
), Singer was asked about the special
appeal of this story and the characters o f Gimpel. He replied, making a number
o f observations: “Many feel that since every man is a potential Gimpel, it [the
story] has touched so many.”And “ . . . every man feels in his heart, ’Is my wife
true to me?’ It touches a general feeling. But I have stories that touch not many
men, but a few men, and I like them just as much. It is not really my intention to
entertain everybody. For me it is enough if I entertain somebody.”
19 Published in
Gimpel the Fool.