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Singer, Isaac Bashevis

  • Children don't read to find their identity. They don't read to free themselves of guilt, to quench the thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation. They have no use for psychology. They detest sociology. They still believe in good, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation and other such obsolete stuff.

  • Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.

  • I am not ashamed to admit that I belong to those who fantasize that literature is capable of bringing new horizons and new perspectives--philosophical, religious, aesthetical and even social.

  • I have heard from my father and mother all the answers that faith in God could offer to those who doubt and search for the truth. In our home and in many other homes the eternal questions were more actual than the latest news in the Yiddish newspaper. In spite of all the disenchantments and all my skepticism I believe that the nations can learn much from those Jews, their way of thinking, their way of bringing up children, their finding happiness where others see nothing but misery and humiliation.

  • I was brought up to believe in free will. Although I came to doubt all revelation, I can never accept the idea that the Universe is a physical or chemical accident, a result of blind evolution. Even though I learned to recognize the lies, the clich├ęs and the idolatries of the human mind, I still cling to some truths which I think all of us might accept some day.

  • If you keep on saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of being a prophet.

  • In a figurative way, Yiddish is the wise and humble language of us all, the idiom of a frightened and hopeful humanity.

  • In the history of old Jewish literature there was never any basic difference between the poet and the prophet. Our ancient poetry often became law and a way of life.

  • It is a fact that the classics of Yiddish literature are also the classics of the modern Hebrew literature.

  • It seems that the analysis of character is the highest human entertainment. And literature does it, unlike gossip, without mentioning real names.

  • Life is God's novel so let him write it.

  • No technological achievements can mitigate the disappointment of modern man, his loneliness, his feeling of inferiority, and his fear of war, revolution and terror. Not only has our generation lost faith in Providence but also in man himself, in his institutions and often in those who are nearest to him.

  • One can find in the Yiddish tongue and in the Yiddish spirit expressions of pious joy, lust for life, longing for the Messiah, patience and deep appreciation of human individuality.

  • Originality is not seen in single words or even in sentences. Originality is the sum total of a man's thinking or his writing.

  • Our knowledge is a little island in a great ocean of nonknowledge.

  • Some of my cronies call me a pessimist and a decadent, but there is always a background of faith behind resignation.

  • The genuine writer cannot ignore the fact that the family is losing its spiritual foundation.

  • The ghetto was not only a place of refuge for a persecuted minority but a great experiment in peace, in self-discipline and in humanism. As such it still exists and refuses to give up in spite of all the brutality that surrounds it. I was brought up among those people.

  • The pessimism of the creative person is not decadence but a mighty passion for the redemption of man.

  • The sexual organs are the most sensitive organs of the human being. They are not diplomats. They tell the truth.

  • The storyteller and poet of our time, as in any other time, must be an entertainer of the spirit in the full sense of the word, not just a preacher of social or political ideals. There is no paradise for bored readers and no excuse for tedious literature that does not intrigue the reader, uplift him, give him the joy and the escape that true art always grants.

  • The truth is that what the great religions preached, the Yiddish-speaking people of the ghettos practiced day in and day out. They were the people of The Book in the truest sense of the word. They knew of no greater joy than the study of man and human relations, which they called Torah, Talmud, Mussar, Cabala.

  • The waste basket is the writer's best friend.

  • The Yiddish mentality is not haughty. It does not take victory for granted. It does not demand and command but it muddles through, sneaks by, smuggles itself amidst the powers of destruction, knowing somewhere that God's plan for Creation is still at the very beginning.

  • There is a quiet humor in Yiddish and a gratitude for every day of life, every crumb of success, each encounter of love.

  • There must be a way for man to attain all possible pleasures, all the powers and knowledge that nature can grant him, and still serve God--a God who speaks in deeds, not in words, and whose vocabulary is the Cosmos.

  • To me the Yiddish language and the conduct of those who spoke it are identical.

  • When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer.

  • When literature becomes overly erudite, it means that interest in the art has gone and curiosity about the artist is what's important. It becomes a kind of idolatry.

  • While the poet entertains he continues to search for eternal truths, for the essence of being. In his own fashion he tries to solve the riddle of time and change, to find an answer to suffering, to reveal love in the very abyss of cruelty and injustice. Strange as these words may sound I often play with the idea that when all the social theories collapse and wars and revolutions leave humanity in utter gloom, the poet--whom Plato banned from his Republic--may rise up to save us all.

  • Shoulders are from God, and burdens too.

  • What's the good of not believing? Today it's your wife you don't believe; tomorrow it's God Himself you won't take stock in.

  • Whatever doesn't really happen is dreamed at night. It happens to one if it doesn't happen to another, tomorrow if not today, or a century hence if not next year. What difference can it make?

  • No doubt the world is entirely an imaginary world, but it is only once removed from the true world.

  • When the time comes I will go joyfully. Whatever may be there, it will be real, without complication, without ridicule, without deception.