Isaac Bashevis Singer arrived in New York on May 1, 1935, on a tourist visa—and spent the next two years finalizing his immigrant status while trying to advance the career he had begun to establish in Warsaw. Scholarly inquiries into Singer’s life, especially during this period, have historically based their claims on his autobiographical writing in Yiddish and English, as well as fictionalized versions that appeared in his books—all of which blur the boundaries of fiction and non-fiction, and generate misconceptions about the circumstances of these events. Using archival sources, this consideration of Singer’s life and work revisits some of these details as presented in his work—which may have seemed irrelevant or inconvenient for his own account—to paint a more intricate portrait of his path as a young Yiddish writer in America. From this perspective, I reconsider Singer’s life and work, and finally suggest that his shift in 1937 from writing fiction to a weekly column, translating articles from popular American magazines into Yiddish, represented a temporary but necessary suspension of literary production during which he absorbed the language and culture of the country in which he was doing everything in his power to stay.


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pp. 109-139
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