Singer, Isaac Bashevis (1904-1991), Polish-born American writer in the Yiddish language, whose work features passion for life and despair at the passing of tradition. He drew heavily on his Polish background and on the stories of Jewish and medieval European folklore. Singer translated many of his works into English himself. In 1978 he won the Nobel Prize in literature for an “impassioned narrative art” that is rooted in Polish-Jewish culture.
Singer was born in Radzymin, Poland, and immigrated to the United States in 1935. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1943. He was educated at the Warsaw Rabbinical Seminary. Shortly after his arrival in the United States, he became associated with the Jewish Daily Forward, a Yiddish-language newspaper in New York City.
Singer’s first published novel, Der Sotn in Gorey (1935; Satan in Goray, 1955), deals with religious hysteria and the 17th-century pogroms, raids in which Jews in Poland were brutally massacred by Cossacks, a people of southern Russia. His other well-known novels include The Family Moskat (1950; translated 1965), the only one of his fictional works with no element of fantasy; The Manor (1967); and The Estate (1969). Singer also wrote many imaginative short stories, including those published in Gimpl tam un andere dertseylungen (Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories, 1957). He won National Book Awards for the children’s book A Day of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw (1969) and for A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories (1973).
In 1983 Singer’s short story Yentl the Yeshiva Boy (1962) was made into a popular motion picture produced by and starring Barbara Streisand. His Collected Stories was published in 1982, and Stories for Children was published in 1984. Meshuge (Meshugah, 1994) and Shotns baym Hodson (Shadows on the Hudson, 1998), which was originally serialized in the Jewish Daily Forward in 1957, deal with Jewish Holocaust survivors living in New York City. Both were published posthumously. Singer’s autobiographical works include In My Father’s Court (1966), A Little Boy in Search of God (1976), A Young Man in Search of Love (1978), Lost in America (1981), and Love and Exile: A Memoir (1984).