Isaac Bashevis Singer

Nobel Prize-winning novelist and short story master Isaac Bashevis Singer -- a native of Poland who immigrated to the United States in 1935 -- was the son of the prominent head of a rabbinical court in Warsaw. Writing in Yiddish (the amalgam of German and Hebrew that was the common language of European Jewry over the past several centuries) all his life, he dealt in mythic and realistic terms with two specific groups of Jews -- the denizens of the Old World shtetls (small villages) and the ocean- tossed 20th-century emigrés of the pre-World War II and postwar eras.

Singer's writings served as bookends for the Holocaust -- the destruction of much of European Jewry at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. On the one hand, he described -- in novels such as The Manor (1967) and The Estate (1969), set in 19th-century Russia, and The Family Moskat (1950), focused on a Polish-Jewish family between the world wars -- the world of European Jewry that no longer exists. Complementing that were his writings set after the war, such as Enemies, A Love Story (1972), whose protagonists were survivors of the Holocaust seeking to create new lives for themselves.