Because it was made into a 1989 film starring Anjelica Houston, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Enemies, A Love Story may be his best-known novel. Like most of his books, it was originally serialized in Yiddish before being published in English. Singer carefully supervised translations of his work, often altering the English versions significantly—and the 1972 edition of Enemies is no exception. In this case, the author removed an entire character, a young woman named Nancy Isabelle. Rachel Mines has translated the chapter introducing Nancy Isabelle, who wanders into the bookstore run by the protagonist, Herman—a talmudic scholar tortured by surviving the Holocaust, his religious struggles, and his complex romantic entanglements:
There had been a time when the life stories Herman heard in America amazed him, even bewildered him. But gradually he’d adapted to American ways. America was not a melting pot, but a laboratory of innumerable new combinations. History moved easily here. People in the Old World got what they wanted through wars and revolutions. Here they succeeded through business, love affairs, marriage, divorce, university, jobs, travel. In the Old World there were mass migrations, victories on the battlefield, oppression, and persecution. But here in America, nothing would happen if Nancy Isabelle took up the Kabbalah.
Herman ate his dairy soup while he talked. Ḥasidism was a continuation of the Kabbalah of the Holy Ari—Rabbi Isaac Luria—although it was also a popularization of it, adapted to the conditions of Polish Jewry. Nancy had heard of the Ḥasidim who’d settled in Williamsburg. She wanted to visit them, to speak with their rabbis. But would they let a woman inside? Would they understand English? Did Herman know where to find them? Herman replied, “Why do you need so much Judaism? You saw what happened to the Jews in Europe.” . . .
Nancy got behind the wheel and lit a cigarette. Herman sat next to her. She announced, “We’ll drive to Williamsburg—it’s right over the bridge. Maybe we’ll find something there.”
She drove quickly, easily and, it seemed, without any fear or sense of responsibility for the machine, which was capable of running over people and murdering its passengers. She whizzed past other cars, smoking and talking the whole time. “What does it mean to believe? I can’t comprehend it. How can people believe in something without a trace of evidence that it even exists? And how can they give up their lives for that kind of faith?”