The Certificate

The Certificate

by Isaac Bashevis Singer
     
 

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Penniless and homeless, David Benediner, a young writer, arrives in Warsaw with two contacts: a young woman and a Zionist functionary who informs him that he has qualified for a certificate to emigrate to Palestine. With no money to make the journey he must enter into a fictitious marriage with one of the many prosperous women eager to board passage to the holy land.

Overview

Penniless and homeless, David Benediner, a young writer, arrives in Warsaw with two contacts: a young woman and a Zionist functionary who informs him that he has qualified for a certificate to emigrate to Palestine. With no money to make the journey he must enter into a fictitious marriage with one of the many prosperous women eager to board passage to the holy land. Grappling with romantic, political, and philosophical turmoil, David must also confront his faith when his father, an Orthodox rabbi, arrives unexpectedly in Warsaw.

With characteristic wit and candor, The Certificate examines the lives of Polish Jews in the context of events sweeping Europe in the 1920s, and reinforces Singer's reputation one of our century's greatest storytellers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A bittersweet posthumous finale to a distinguished career, this novel by the 1976 Nobel laureate returns one last time to the now-vanished universe of Polish Jewry between the world wars. Its narrator, David Bendiger, is a would-be writer, ``at eighteen and a half . . . no longer a day student'' but still a dreamer, ``digging away at eternal questions'' and trying to survive on his own in 1920s Warsaw. Offered the opportunity of a certificate that will permit him to emigrate to Palestine, he vacillates among three women--Sonya, a simple working girl; Edusha, a sexually active young Communist; and Minna, a daughter of the once-rich bourgeoisie--unable to decide whom he should choose. At the same time, he is pummeled by the movements that have shaped Jewish life in this century--communism, Zionism and the Jewish Enlightenment--while he tries to reconcile himself to the distance he has come from his Orthodox upbringing. Singer tells David's story with cool detachment, allowing the young man's mix of self-importance and self-doubt to give his narration a fine, ironic edge. As events swirl around David, plunging him into a whirlpool of lost loves and family tensions, he grows before our eyes, maturing into a wounded but wise adult, one who comes to realize the futility of his struggles. Although written early in the author's career, this novel languished untranslated until now. It proves to be vintage Singer, a welcome addition to his oeuvre. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

“Singer is the most magical of writers, transforming reality into art with seemingly effortless sleight of hand. His deceptively spare prose has a pristine clarity that is stunning in its impact.” —The New York Times

“[Singer's] triumph here is much like Dostoyevsky's in his later years when he wrote A Raw Youth and tapped the mad feel of his teens.... Done with gusto and panache.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Vintage Singer, a welcome addition to his oeuvre.” —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140187854
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/02/1999
Series:
Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Series
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 7.26(h) x 0.55(d)
Lexile:
690L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904–91) was the author of many novels, stories, and children's books. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
July 14, 1904
Date of Death:
July 24, 1991
Place of Birth:
Radzymin, Poland
Place of Death:
Surfside, Florida
Education:
Attended Tachkemoni Rabbinical Seminary in Warsaw, Poland, 1920-27

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