Isaac B. Singer: A Life

Farrar, Straus and Giroux  2006


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.

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