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"The deader the language, the more alive is the ghost."

Isaac Bashevis Singer, on writing in Yiddish:
"People ask me often: Why do you write in a dying language? And I want to explain it in a few words. Firstly, I like to write ghost stories, and nothing fits a ghost story better than a dying language. The deader the language, the more alive is the ghost. Ghosts love Yiddish, and, as far as I know, they all speak it.

Secondly, I not only believe in ghosts but also in resurrection. I am sure that millions of Yiddish-speaking corpses will rise from their graves one day, and their first question will be: Is there any new book in Yiddish to read? For them Yiddish will not be dead."
Right now I'm reading Singer's 1963 story collection The Spinoza of Market Street, and really enjoying it. His portrayals of the long-vanished Jewish communities of eastern Europe are simply lovely - richly drawn, compassionate and witty.

September 30, 2015 in Books | Permalink


I haven't read Singer in a long time, but there was a period when I couldn't get enuf of his writing.

Posted by: Paul at Sep 30, 2015 3:09:59 PM

Great writing. You should revisit it (and I rarely insist that someone *should* read some specific book or writer). This is the second Singer book I've read - Gimpel the Fool was great too.

Posted by: Pete at Sep 30, 2015 5:30:20 PM

Every so often, I dip into a Singer collection I have sitting around here. His writing is bracing and generous, but there's something extra there that simply demands attention; it's like getting tapped between the eyes by an old man's finger.

Posted by: Jeff at Oct 6, 2015 1:04:36 AM

Lovely analogy, Jeff. I have this mental image of Singer reaching out to the reader through his words, from the beyond.

Posted by: Pete at Oct 8, 2015 11:39:52 AM