Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in Leoncin, Poland, on July 14, 1904. He was the third of four children, three of whom became writers. Hinde Esther, the oldest, is least known. Israel Joshua, Isaac’s older brother, wrote The Brothers Askenazi and other novels after immigrating to the United States in 1933, where Isaac followed him two years later. Isaac had been writing essays and stories for Yiddish newspapers in Poland, but for several years after his arrival in New York, he wrote only some reviews for the Yiddish-language newspaper, the Jewish Daily Forward, and other journals. Meanwhile, his first novel, Satan in Goray, had been published in Poland, although he left the country before seeing a copy.
It was not until the early 1940s that he resumed writing fiction, still in Yiddish. In 1940 he married Alma Haiman. They had no children, although Isaac had a son, Israel, by his Communist mistress, Runya, from the days they lived together in Poland. Starting with The Family Moskat (1950), which had been published serially in Yiddish in the Jewish Daily Forward, Singer’s books began appearing in English as well. In 1953 Saul Bellow translated Singer’s story “Gimpel the Fool” in the Partisan Review, introducing the writer to a wide audience, and in 1955 Satan in Goray appeared in English translation. From that time on, Singer’s work, though usually written first in Yiddish, was regularly published in English as well. In 1970 A Day of Pleasure won the National Book Award for children’s books, and in 1974 his collection of stories, A Crown of Feathers, also won a National Book Award. In 1978 he received his greatest recognition with the world’s most famous literary honor, the Nobel Prize for Literature. Singer was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.