Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Visit to Texas, and His Afterlife in Austin

July 26 2021

While the majority of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories and novels take place in Warsaw, Manhattan, or the various shtetls surrounding Lublin, his personal archive has been preserved for posterity in Austin at the University of Texas. Robert King—Mississippi-born Gentile, linguistics professor, Yiddish expert, and sometime Mosaic contributor—tells the story of how he befriended the writer, and, after his death, raised the funds for the University of Texas to acquire the collection:

The [university’s] College of Liberal Arts was swimming in money back in 1979, and for several years after that. Edwin Gale and his wife, Becky, of Beaumont, Texas, created the amply endowed Gale Chair of Jewish Studies, and under its aegis, together with the chairholder Seth Wolitz, I indulged my caprices by inviting to campus people whose work I had admired, most of them Jewish: Raul Hilberg, Howard Sachar, Lucy Dawidowicz, Irving Howe, and Norman Podhoretz, among others.

When word came around that Isaac Bashevis Singer might be available for a lecture, we began negotiations with his assistant, then Dvorah Menashe, now Dvorah Telushkin. . . . Finally, all was worked out. I didn’t usually drive out to the airport to greet our lecture guests, but I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to meet one of my heroes on arrival. He was lively, inquisitive, energized by the unfamiliar light of an Austin spring.

Later, the two shared a cup of tea despite Dvorah’s remonstrances:

He told me of the woman with whom he had had a son. She had saved herself from the Holocaust by finding refuge in the Soviet Union. Singer told me, as if he were describing a person with two heads, “She was a real Communist.” And on it went. Sensing a political affinity, he told me, looking over his shoulder though no one was eavesdropping, that he liked Reagan, as I did—though I hadn’t told him so.

And he told me about his discomfort with literary critics, especially, he said, the Yiddish ones. “All they ever say to me is ‘ober ikh hub tsi akh a taan.’” (“But I have an objection.”) . . . What impressed him most about me, I think, was that I had served in the military: “So you can shoot a gun?” he asked admiringly. I finally got him to go back to his room, fearing admonition from Dvorah if I was caught “bothering” him.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish literature, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Texas, Yiddish literature

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy