Isaac Bashevis Singer: A long, long way

Shalom Auslander, Evelyn T Beck, David Stromberg

07/12/2021 7:00 pm
On zoom, virtual event

Featuring access to the Arena film Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs Pupko’s Beard

Part of Arena at Jewish Book Week 

“I wouldn’t say that Yiddish is dead, neither would I say that Yiddish is blooming. I would say that Yiddish is sick. But in our history, between being sick and dying is a long, long way…” Isaac Bashevis Singer, Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs Pupko’s Beard

As the centenary of the birth of one of the most respected Jewish writers of all time approaches, we celebrate the life and work of Isaac Bashevis Singer with an online discussion featuring colleagues and admirers, as well as a rare chance to watch a 1980 BBC Arena film of which he is both subject and author.

Rebecca Abrams, author of The Jewish Journey and literary critic for the Financial Times, is joined by David Stromberg, editor of the Isaac Bashevis Singer Literary Trust and translator of his essays, the award-winning writer Shalom Auslander, who refers to Singer as “a darker, funnier Chagall” and Evelyn T. Beck, who worked with Singer as one of his Yiddish translators of his short stories and is Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland USA.

They will discuss the enduring relevance of the man who emigrated from Poland in the 1930s and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, as well as the surreal gem of a film, available for ticket holders to watch for seven days, made by Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson. They met in the elevator of the apartment building they both lived in, which became a central location, along with the Garden Cafeteria, a haven for survivors on the Lower East Side.

Davidson recalls: “The film shows Isaac as a writer and Isaac as an actor…he was both. It’s a surreal film, it blurred a lot of boundaries. He was tuned into the fact that he was making something that was going to be seen. This is a portrait of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s life not found in a bookstore.”

Shalom Auslander

Shalom Auslander is the internationally-acclaimed novelist and memoirist of such books as Foreskin's Lament, Mother For Dinner and Hope: A Tragedy, which critics on both sides of the Atlantic have named the funniest book of the decade. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire and many others. He lives, sadly, in Los Angeles.

Evelyn T Beck

Evelyn Torton Beck, Ph.D. is Professor Emerita of Women's Studies at the University of Maryland, USA. She holds doctorates in Comparative Literature, Clinical Psychology and an honorary doctorate from the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna. She is the author of Kafka and the Yiddish Theater: Its Impact on his Work and the translator of several stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, with whom she was personally acquainted. She is interviewed in the film, The Muses of I. B. Singer, which features Singer's many translators, almost all of whom were women.

David Stromberg

David Stromberg is a writer, translator, and literary scholar. His fiction has appeared in The Woven Tale Press, The Account, and Call me Brackets, and his nonfiction in The American Scholar, Entropy, and Literary Matters. He is editor to the Isaac Bashevis Singer Literary Trust and his translations of Singer's work have appeared in The New Yorker, Conjunctions, and The Jewish Chronicle. His most recent book is A Short Inquiry into the End of the World.

Rebecca Abrams

Rebecca Abrams is an author, journalist and literary critic for the Financial Times.  She teaches creative writing at the University of Oxford and was writer-in-residence at Brasenose College, Oxford from 2017-20.  Her recent publications include The Jewish Journey: 4000 years in 22 objects (Ashmolean Museum).