I. B. Singer and the Tragicomedy of the Jewish Spinozist
This chapter analyzes the Spinoza image in the work of Yiddish writer and Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904–1991) in three stages. First, relying primarily on Singer's autobiographical writings, this chapter charts Singer's path from worship to wariness of Spinoza in Warsaw between the wars, the very period that witnessed a broad and ecumenical revival of the Amsterdam philosopher and a veritable explosion of his popularity within Yiddish literature. It then turns to an analysis of the two works in Singer's canon most pivotal to his use of Spinoza, “Der Shpinozist” (“The Spinoza of Market Street”) and Di familye mushkat (The Family Moskat). These two works reflect the range of the Spinoza theme in Singer, from the miniature scale of the short story to the multigenerational novel, and from gentle comedy to harsh post-Holocaust tragedy.
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