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JOURNEY TO MY FATHER, ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER by Israel Zamir

JOURNEY TO MY FATHER, ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

By Israel Zamir

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-55970-309-1
Publisher: Arcade

 A revealing profile of the Nobel laureate in literature by his son and only child. While Singer was pursuing his career in the US in the 1930s, young Zamir emigrated from Poland with his mother (from whom Singer was divorced in 1940), first to the USSR, then to Palestine, where the boy grew up on a kibbutz. When the young man finally visited his father in New York in 1955, their reunion understandably was strained; Singer hadn't even had mail contact with his son since 1949 and viewed his arrival as something of a burden, a distraction from his writing. The portrait Zamir draws of his father here is in many ways an unflattering one: Singer is shown as not only emotionally absent, but frugal to the point of cheapness and often narcissistic. For example, when Zamir proudly showed his father a collection of his own stories, the world-famous writer ``glanced at it only a few seconds, then he gave it back to me with an angry expression: `Why don't you translate my books instead of writing your own.' '' Still, during Zamir's subsequent visits to New York, and Singer's occasional trips to Israel, the relationship slowly warmed up as father and son collaborated on rendering the former's work into Hebrew, honestly discussed their difficult histories and their differing political and religious ideologies, and slowly learned to appreciate each other. Ultimately, Zamir states, ``a deep friendship between us was created''; however, the passive voice and the absence of the word ``love'' seem to reveal a lingering deep ambivalence. Zamir's book sometimes suffers mildly from a vague chronology--he rarely provides dates--and from his own autobiographical reticence. But generally, his style is fluid and colorful, and his memoir filled with interesting anecdotes and quotes. Must reading for fans of the master Yiddishist. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)