Fear of Fiction
Narrative Strategies in the Works of Isaac Bashevis Singer
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David Neal Miller's Fear of Fiction is the first book-length study that begins with the understanding that Singer is truly a Yiddish writer in language and culture. With the exception of a handful of articles, American critical examination of Isaac Bashevis Singer's work has been devoted to Singer's work in English—to those pieces he himself has selected for translation. This American Nobel laureate is part of a long tradition of Yiddish literature, and he still writes in that language.
Working exclusively with Singer's Yiddish texts—many of the pieces discussed here are not available in English—Miller examines Singer's narrative strategies, his blurring of the distinctions between fiction and reportage. Fear of Fiction captures an intriguing paradox of Singer's writing: Singer fictionalizes the factual and historicizes the imaginative. Miller demonstrates that Singer is no "inspired innocent," but that this blending of genres is the work of a craftsman who uses genre to mediate between the world and the imagination. The book is enriched by Miller's careful and sensitive translations of many illustrative Yiddish passages.
Fear of Fiction is both erudite and entertaining. Miller not only examines Singer's skillful undermining of our expectations of different genres, but also draws the reader into Singer's work as a whole. This book will fascinate both the scholar and the sophisticated reader of Singer.
David Neal Miller is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Yiddish Studies at the Ohio State University.