Singer Turns 100
In recognition of the centenary of Yiddish author Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Harry Ransom Center has partnered with the Library of America to present the Isaac Bashevis Singer Centennial celebration.
Through January 2005, the centennial will feature public readings, panels, exhibitions, and workshops exploring Singer and the immigrant literary experience, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and produced with cultural institutions nationwide.
Singer was born in Leoncin, Poland in 1904. The son and grandson of rabbis, Singer later moved with his family to Warsaw where he was educated at a rabbinical seminary to follow in his father's vocation. While in his twenties, Singer decided instead to become a secular writer, electing, however, to write exclusively in Yiddish, which he felt was "the wise and humble language of us all, the idiom of frightened and hopeful humanity."
In 1932 he became the editor of the Yiddish literary journal Globus where his first novel, Satan in Goray (1935), was published in serial. In 1935, the threat of expanding Nazism convinced Singer to follow his older brother to the United States, where he settled in New York. Singer wrote for the Yiddish newspaper the Jewish Daily Forward, which originally published most of his short stories and all of his novels, and to which he contributed for the remainder of his life. The extensive Singer archive at the Ransom Center contains correspondence, personal effects, and manuscripts, including Enemies: A Love Story (1966), Elijah the Slave (1970), and Shosa (1978).
As its part in the celebration, the Ransom Center has contributed Becoming an American Writer: The Life and Work of Isaac Bashevis Singer, an NEH-funded traveling exhibition featuring rarely seen documents, photographs, and memorabilia drawn from the Singer archive at the Ransom Center. The exhibition traces the author's life from Poland to America and includes Singer's famous Yiddish typewriter, handwritten notes and letters, manuscripts, 1978 Nobel Prize certificate, and much more. The exhibition will be hosted by the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts; Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton; and Yeshiva University Museum in New York City.