Page 9 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JACOB KABAKOFF
Introduction
I
n
h i s
N
o b e l
P
r iz e
le c tu re d e l iv e re d b e fo re th e Swed ish
Academy, Isaac Bashevis Singer undersco red the fact tha t the
hono r bestowed upon him was also a “recognition o f the Yiddish
language — a language o f exile, without a land, without fron tiers,
not suppo rted by any government . . . ”
On two previous occasions the
Jewish Book Annual
took p r ide in
the awarding o f the Nobel Prize for litera tu re to Jewish au thors. It
gree ted enthusiastically the well deserved hono r which came to
Shmuel Yosef Agnon in 1966 fo r his contributions to Hebrew
letters. T h e re was no question bu t th a t Agnon had ea rned this
tribute fo r his masterfu l depiction o f Jewish life both in Galicia
and the Land o f Israel and his unique b lending o f trad ition and
modernism.
When Saul Bellow received the Nobel Prize fo r lite ra tu re a
decade later, in 1976, the
Annual
justifiably viewed the hono r
which came to him as an appreciation o f an au tho r who had made
the Jewish experience a central theme o f his work. For despite his
disclaimers, Bellow epitomizes the contribution o f the American
Jewish writer to American letters. As has often been po in ted out,
his characters, even when alienated, as well as elements o f his style
bespeak an essential quality o f Jewishness.
With the awarding o f the Nobel Prize to Singer, Yiddish — the
th ird pillar o f ou r tri-lingual literature , has jo ined the languages
which have been officially hono red . In his open ing article,
Harold U. Ribalow discourses on Singer’s specific qualities as a
m a s te r s to ry - te l le r which have e a r n e d h im a w o r ldw id e
readership .
While the cause o f Yiddish has been bolstered by the p rom i­
nence which has come to Singer, the fact remains tha t Yiddishists
and indeed all champions o f Jewish cu lture are troub led over its
fu tu re . Singer, af te r all, achieved renown chiefly because o f his
works in translation, and he is more widely read even by Jews in
English than in the original Yiddish. As emphasized in a recen t
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