Within the past decade ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER has come to be regarded not only as the foremost living Yiddish writer but also as one of the major figures in contemporary literature. The Manor, his latest novel to be translated into English, will be brought out next spring by Farrar, Straus and Company.
This interview with Mr. Singer was conducted by JOEL BLOCKER and RICHARD ELMAN.
Interviewers: Perhaps we could begin by asking you some questions about what has happened to Yiddish literature. Yiddish literature was, in its prime, a body of work which was very close to the masses by whom it was read-in language, in point of view, and in drawing from a common basis of experience. The annihilation of six million Jews during World War II changed all that drastically. The Yiddish-reading audience was decimated and continues now to dwindle from attrition. How, then, do you feel about writing in Yiddish today?
Singer: You don’t feel very happy about writing in a language when you know it dies from day to day. Although I don’t feel that Yiddish will die completely, it’s a fact that the number of readers is becoming smaller and smaller, and we-I mean Yiddish writers-are all conscious of it. The only thing is, I don’t have this feeling while I write; I don’t choose to remember it. I think that’s a lucky thing because if I did remember while I was writing that some of my readers were dying and others were not being born to replace them, it might have some influence on me. Writers, as a rule, don’t think about their readers while they write. As a matter of fact, thinking about the reader is a terrible pitfall for a writer. A writer should not think about who is going to read him because the moment he thinks about this, some other power interferes. In my case, writing Yiddish and thinking about the readers would really destroy the writer completely. But happily I never think about such things. When I sit down to write I have a feeling that I’m talking maybe to millions or maybe to nobody.
About the Author