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Isaac B. Singer: A Life


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Florence Noiville is a literary critic for Le Monde. She lives in France.Catherine Temerson is the author of several books published in France. Her translations include My Father's Rifle: A Childhood in Kurdistan by Hiner Saleem.


Adult/High School-Despite a dearth of documentation for Singer's early years, Noiville presents a concise, lyrical biography of the celebrated writer. She uses the memoirs of his siblings, interviews with people who knew him or knew the area in which he grew up, his own writings, and critical reactions to those writings to flesh out her narrative. She neither lionizes nor demonizes her subject, leaving it up to readers to decide the significance of Singer's abandonment of his young son or his assiduous pursuit of the English-language audience. Temerson's translation is fluid and ably showcases Noiville's scholarship. In all, a tiny gem of literary biography.-Susan Salpini, formerly at TASIS-The American School in England Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-91), winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature, was certainly the most famous, and probably the most popular, Yiddish writer of the 20th century. This biography by French journalist and literary critic Noiville, translated evenly and easily by Temerson, is based on extensive research, letters, and interviews with people who knew the writer. Readers will learn the details of Singer's inner conflicts (the son of a rabbi, he was sometimes criticized for having sexual and mystical elements in his work), his relationships with friends and the publishing world, and his social consciousness around Jewish issues and animal welfare but not about Singer's writing process or his work per se. With eight pages of black-and-white illustrations, this biography is recommended for academic and public libraries, particularly Jewish studies collections. Terren Ilana Wein, Univ. of Chicago Divinity Sch. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Nobel laureate I.B. Singer created a rich imaginary world during an emotionally austere childhood as the son of a rabbi absorbed in the Talmud and a cold, distant mother. His family's stint from 1908 to 1917 on Krochmalna Street in Warsaw's Jewish quarter, where his father arbitrated disputes, celebrated marriages and granted divorces, gave Isaac a front-row seat to the passionate dramas of daily life. This period was a fount of inspiration for Singer until his death in 1991. Far more complex than the media's image of the impish Jewish fabulist, Singer, as Noiville shows, was at once a calculating, charming womanizer and a depressive introvert who often alienated those closest to him, including his mentor and older brother Joshua, a bestselling novelist who invited him to America and got him his first commissions from the Jewish Daily Forward; Saul Bellow, whose brilliant translation of "Gimpel the Fool" was Singer's passport to fame; and his son, Israel Zamir, whom he abandoned in Poland at the age of five. Drawing on Singer's oeuvre as well as interviews with his son and various peers and collaborators, Le Monde literary critic Noiville paints a respectful, worthy portrait of the penniless immigrant who became a brilliant writer. Illus. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Sharp, balanced, rather nervy."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Elegantly crafted."--The Jerusalem Post
"Noiville wrestles masterfully with the myriad contradictions of Isaac Bashevis Singer's work and bizarre personal life in this interpretive biography of the beloved Nobel laureate."


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