Isaac Bashevis Singer and His Women

What drove the great writer to employ a “harem” of translators? A new film tells much, but not all.

Courtesy The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Courtesy The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Ruth R. Wisse
Observation
Jan. 21 2015
About the author

Ruth R. Wisse is a research professor at Harvard and a distinguished senior fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Her most recent book is No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (2013, paperback 2015).

Writers have their way with the world until they depart from it, and then they are at the mercy of those who interpret them. This mischievous turnabout would have appealed to Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991), possibly the most prolific and certainly the most famous Yiddish writer of the 20th century, whose reputation is now in the hands of types he once turned into fiction. But if The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer, a new documentary movie by the Israeli directors Asaf Galay and Shaul Betser, is any portent, the afterlife of this particular writer may be graced by the same improbable good fortune he enjoyed on earth.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish literature