In My Father’s Court

January 21, 2007 § Leave a comment

Isaac Bashevis Singer, In My Father’s Court, 1966
Singer in autobiographical bits from his (mostly) Warsaw childhood. Through the cases heard in his father’s room (unofficial rabbi) it’s a picture of Jewish life in Poland in the early 20th century that emerges.
There’s a review from the NYT here.
The cases themselves are all precise anecdotes that are worth reading in themselves, but what impressed me most was…

…the ease with which different levels of rationality are mixed in everyday life. The metaphysical, the social, the medical, the scientific, the moral, the political are all intertwined in a very fertile intellectual continuum. To me that’s a good image of human thought and creativity. Take for instance the subplot around Singer’s eldest brother: his scientific and atheistic ideas are attacked by his mother’s historical/mythical rejoinders, his Zionistic impulses come to clash with his father’s metaphysics (answering settlement in Israel with arguments about the life of the soul), and his politics (socialist leaning) come to clash with his military engagement in WW1. And to the young Singer, it’s all one, life, so many different angles to understand life — and though they contradict each other they do not exclude one another.

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