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Read The Collected Stories Of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1983)

The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1983)

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0374517886 (ISBN13: 9780374517885)
farrar, straus and giroux

The Collected Stories Of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1983) - Plot & Excerpts

‘If you believe in God, then He exists.’This sentiment best surmises the questions and crises of faith presented in the Nobel winning body of work from Isaac Bashevis Singer. The Polish born author came to the United States on the brink of WWII and left an honorable mark on Jewish literature, winning two National Book Awards, one for his memoirs and one for A Crown of Feathers (which he shared with Thomas Pynchon for Gravity's Rainbow), as well as the Nobel in 1978. While having written With a wide variety of stories, funny, sad, and occasionally outright depressing, Singer explores the strength of faith when faced with adversity, be it folktale demons or holocaust horrors, and illustrates the challenge of believing in a God who is ‘eternally silent’.Singer personally selected the 47 stories presented in this collection, selected from a deep pool of seven story collections. He says this was difficult since he felt ‘like some Oriental father with a harem full of women and children, I cherish them all’. However, this offers a good overview of his work since it contains the pieces he feels best represents himself. The stories range in form and content, yet the message of faith resonates through all of them in various forms. The earlier stories read like folktales that reminded me very much of the Ukrainian Tales of Nikolai Gogol, presenting small Jewish villages in the backcountry of Poland assailed by demons and black magic (the satanic orgy in The Gentleman from Cracow is unforgettable). While it is frightening to see evil beings stalk the earth with ragged claws and hoofs, trying to seduce Rabbi’s from their studies and women from the virginity, the truly chilling creatures are those in human flesh of his later stories. Singer shows that man can be the epitome of evil, even through simple, seemingly harmless ways, not just the big obvious ones like the holocaust stories. Through each tale, we watch evil descend upon the poor Jewish souls, and even when they take all, they cannot take their faith. Faith is often shaken, ridiculed and lost, but the Void these characters face when they are stripped of their faith is far more frightening than the evils that beleaguer them. He presents any which way one could feel lost in the world and question the existence of a God, a being who is always silent and remains on the sidelines, despite any pleading. While the opinions of a deity morph through the timeline of his writing, he never denounces his God. Singer sparked plenty of controversy within both literary and religious circles with stories that embrace homosexuality and transgender characters. However, he broaches the topics with tact and respect, and such a broad love and open mind is what led him to be a recipient of such high honors. Singer writes what he believes, never panders, and makes no excuses. In his ‘Author’s Note’ to this collection, he writes how he has recognized and avoided the dangers of writing fiction:’1. The idea that the writer must be a sociologist and a politician, adjusting himself to what are called social dialectics.2.Greed for money and quick recognition.3. Forced originality – namely, the illusion that pretentious rhetoric, precious innovations in style, and playing with artificial symbols can express the basic and ever-changing nature of human relations, or reflect the combinations and complications of heredity and environment…’He enters into a longer discussion on the pitfalls of what he considers ‘experimental’ literature, arguing that ‘literature can very well describe the absurd, but it should never become absurd itself’. This makes one wonder what Singer would think of the recent trend of books that, as many (myself included) have dubbed ‘weirdness for the sake of weirdness’. Regardless of ones opinion on experimental books, I’ll keep silent here and simply present the authors opinion as I don’t wish to spark an argument with this as I am in no way qualified to present an opinion, I do enjoy the general idea of writing for your beliefs and not for others.Literature lost a valuable moral compass when Singer passed on July 24th, 1991. His method of writing flows in a manner that makes one feel they are on his knee hearing a life lesson story. Let us all sit back and listen.4/5As a disclaimer of sorts, when it comes to books such as this, I try to remain detached from the author’s opinions as these are often touchy subjects. I hope I respectfully presented this information, and I do very much wish not to offend anyone. I have no qualms with discussing these ideas with an open mind with a willing interlocutor, but I wish to refrain from stiff-arming any ideology in a review. I hope I have at least succeeded in that. Thank you for reading, and best wishes!

I have read 7 stories from this collection as of now . Its just a fascinating world that Singer paints . Singer world view is predominantly set in small Jewish village in Polland called Frampool or Kreshev . Singer brilliantly explores the question of faith of the significance of religious belief as part of human existence . Faith is the core point of interest in all of these stories . These are feudal villages which are confined to itself . People live by their faith, and how they are forced upon to streamline their existence based upon faith . Gimpel the Fool , is the first story in the collection . The story is about Gimpel who gets fooled by everyone , he is constantly deceived all through his life by his friends , wife and all of them . He is used to believing people , he just cannot question them even though he know people are lying to him . As he himself says "But Iam the type that bears it and says nothing , Shoulders are from God, and burdens too.” Faith is the river that flows through these people whom we Singers world . They are led to their destinations by channeling through it .

What do You think about The Collected Stories Of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1983)?

A fascinating insight into Yiddish customs, legends, and culture. I especially love the stories that explore the nature of God, the existence of God, the origin of the universe, the meaning of life, etc. My favourite story is "The Slaughterer", since I myself am preoccupied by the issues Yoineh Meir raises in this story. Singer had a very keen understanding of human nature, and he presents his characters realistically, warts and all. I love his cynicism and pessimism, interspersed with the occasional comforting conjecture that there might be some meaning and purpose to life after all.

Singer is a very different writer from I. L. Peretz whose writing is like Scripture and "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and training in righteousness". No, Singer's stories are entertaining above all else and his characters are a fallen lot (and quite happy in their depravity, for the most part). The supernatural runs rampant with dybbuks and "elflocks" galore. My gripes? The physical descriptions of characters grate on the nerves for sheer repetitiveness, as does Singer's tendency to list the languages each character speaks. I guess maybe the latter was a marker of pedigree for the time, although the significance was mostly lost on me. I also found the endings weak more often than not. Still, these don't detract from the fact that this is an enjoyable read. "The Bus" is my favourite of the collection. It showcases Singer at the height of his humour.
—Corinne Wasilewski

These are the equivalent of Grimm's fairy tales...for adults.Rich, ruthless, colourful and magical...human and humorous.(Kylie, did you read the volume I bought for you in Paris??)"The Seance and Other Stories" was a parting gift, a volume I left languishing on the shelf for a few years and which I read more out of guilt,that is, until I got into the very first story. After that an obsession. Now - all read...EVERY volume!!No Holocaust tales here...Singer tells the most magical, bizarre, intriguing stories of Jewish village and town life set in Poland, stories set in another time and space, until a detail makes you realise that this is 20th Century pre-Holocaust. Did such lives really exist then?? What characters! What tales! What plots! What a culture! What magic! You are inside the heads of people who believe in all sorts of ghosts and spooks. They are real and active.This is culture shock of the most absorbing kind. All types,every variety of situation, every demon,tragedy and comedy.Wondrous.Then there are the post-Holocaust stories set in New York mainly. A totally different tone. The rich external culture of Poland has vanished. These are rawer, more modern and familiar, but still totally engrossing.The same Jews in similar complex situations.I can't wait to read them ALL again.And then there's the novels!!!!!

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