Isaac B. Singer: A Life

Flo­rence Noiville; Cather­ine Temer­son, trans.
  • Review
By – November 7, 2011

This acces­si­ble biog­ra­phy of the Yid­dish writer Isaac Bashe­vis Singer ben­e­fits great­ly from Flo­rence Noiville’s inter­views with Singer’s fam­i­ly, par­tic­u­lar­ly his son, and his friends, includ­ing his per­son­al assis­tant and edi­tors. Noiville gra­cious­ly incor­po­rates their rec­ol­lec­tions into a fine account of Singer’s writ­ing process. The details she pro­vides illu­mi­nate the many con­tra­dic­tions in the author’s per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al life. 

Noiville also recon­structs the events of Singer’s child­hood in Poland. Using excerpts from Singer’s writ­ing to sup­ple­ment her research, she traces the devel­op­ment of his writ­ing career from War­saw to New York City. Noiville deft­ly explores the young Singer’s moti­va­tions and inse­cu­ri­ties, above all his feel­ings of infe­ri­or­i­ty next to his broth­er Israel Joshua, a famous author in his own right. 

The trans­la­tion is grace­ful and clear, obvi­ous­ly reflect­ing excel­lent writ­ing in the orig­i­nal. Cer­tain­ly a good resource for aca­d­e­m­ic research, the book is well suit­ed for the more casu­al read­er as well. Index, notes, photography.

Rachel Sara Rosen­thal is an envi­ron­men­tal attor­ney in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Orig­i­nal­ly from Greens­boro, North Car­oli­na, she grad­u­at­ed from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty in 2003 and Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law in 2006.

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