Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Spinoza of Market Street, title story of a short-story collection by Isaac Bashevis Singer, published in Yiddish in 1944 as “Der Spinozist.” The collection was published in English in 1961.

 "The Spinoza of Market Street" by Issac Bashevis Singer -1961 - translated from the Yiddish by Translated by Martha Glicklich and Cecil Hemley - 2006 - 17 Pages

The Spinoza of Market Street, title story of a short-story collection by Isaac Bashevis Singer, published in Yiddish in 1944 as “Der Spinozist.” The collection was published in English in 1961.

Today's Story Can be Read in the Kindle sample of the book pictured above. It is included in The Collected Stories 

Issac Singer (1902-1991-born Poland) won the Nobel Prize in 1986 for the full body of his work. He is best known to the general public as the author of Yentil, the basis for a very popular movie. Singer's, even though he left Poland in 1935 because of the rise of the Nazis, work is very rooted in the culture in which he was raised. He became an American citizen. Singer died and is buried in Florida. . He indicated his biggest influences as a short story writer were Anton Chekhov and Guy de Maupassant 

My cursory research indicates that "The Spinoza of Market Street" is considered one of his best short stories.

He published 100s of stories. Here (from Wikipedia) are his collection in English 

Short story collections

Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories (1957)—Yiddish original: גימפּל תּם
The Spinoza of Market Street (1961)
Short Friday and Other Stories (1963)
The Séance and Other Stories (1968)
A Friend of Kafka and Other Stories (1970)
The Fools of Chelm and Their History (1973)
A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories (1974)—shared the National Book Award, fiction, with Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon[15]
Passions and Other Stories (1975)
Old Love (1979)
The Collected Stories (1982)
The Image and Other Stories (1985)
The Death of Methuselah and Other Stories (1988)

There is also a three volume Library of America edition of his work.

"The story is set in Warsaw on the brink of World War I. There Dr. Nahum Fischelson lives a meagre, isolated existence alone in an attic room overlooking teeming Market Street. An intellectual supported by an annuity from the Jewish community of Berlin, he devotes his energies to explicating the philosophical works of the 17th-century Dutch Jewish philosopher Benedict de Spinoza, descending to the street only once a week to buy food. When war cuts off his funds from Germany, he descends to Market Street and discovers that he no longer knows anyone there, so preoccupied has he been with Spinoza. Black Dobbe, an unattractive and illiterate woman who lives in the attic room next to his, goes to the philosopher’s room to have him read a letter she has received. When she discovers Fischelson unconscious and ill, she nurses him back to health. To the amusement of their neighbours, Fischelson and Black Dobbe are married. Fischelson discovers that he has the ardour and vigour of a young man. As he gazes at the stars, he silently asks Spinoza to forgive him his happiness and his acceptance of the world of passion and joy." From the website of the Enclopedia Britanica 

I was initially curious about this story as very long ago I read The Ethics of Spinoza. I never returned to it but I can easily see how one might develop an obsessive interest. Similar to the older male central character in "A Friend of Kafka" and older man regains his sexual appetites after years of inactivity. To me this story marvellously portrayed pre-World War One War Warsaw and the atmosphere of the city during the war. It shows the callow behavior of the young in mocking the relationship of Dobbe and Doctor Fischelson.  

It is about or maybe better said, foreshadows a society in which loving Spinoza is just the preoccupation of irrelevant old men.

Mel Ulm

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