“Your Papers for a Tourist Visa”: A Literary-Biographical Consideration of Isaac Bashevis Singer in Warsaw, 1923–1935

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies
David Stromberg Shalem College Jerusalem Israel

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This article focuses on two aspects of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s life and work from 1923 to 1935. First, it outlines his early career in Warsaw, focusing on his essays and tracing his efforts to establish a literary career independent from that of his older brother, Israel Joshua. Second, it considers Singer’s emigration from Warsaw, with a focus on his brother’s efforts to get him out, as found in personal correspondence. Along the way, I expose gaps between Singer’s memoirs and details found in letters, especially relating to historical circumstances leading him to obtain a tourist visa to the United States in 1935. The article delineates a tension between Singer’s establishment of a position within Yiddish literature in Warsaw distinct from his brother’s, and the need to leave the city in order to survive, adding Israel Joshua’s own voice to the testimony from this period.

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