The Certificate

The Certificate

by Isaac Bashevis Singer
     
 

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It's 1922 and David Bendiger, an aspiring eighteen-and-a-half-year-old writer, arrives in Warsaw, penniless and homeless. His only contacts are Sonya, a young woman with whom he has had amorous dealings in the village they have left, and a Zionist functionary who informs him he has qualified for a certificate permitting him to emigrate to Palestine. But in order to…  See more details below

Overview

It's 1922 and David Bendiger, an aspiring eighteen-and-a-half-year-old writer, arrives in Warsaw, penniless and homeless. His only contacts are Sonya, a young woman with whom he has had amorous dealings in the village they have left, and a Zionist functionary who informs him he has qualified for a certificate permitting him to emigrate to Palestine. But in order to make the journey David must enter into a fictitious marriage with a woman so eager to get to Palestine that she will pay all the expenses. While David waits for his certificate, he becomes involved not only with Sonya but with Edusha, the sexually avant-garde Communist Party member in whose apartment he finds a temporary haven; and with Minna, the well-to-do young woman who wants to join her fiance in Palestine and agrees to "marry" David. Grappling with romantic, political, and youthful turmoil, David also confronts his literary future and religious past when his older brother - a writer disillusioned by a recent sojourn in Russia - and his father, an Orthodox rabbi, both turn up in Warsaw. The Certificate was serialized in Yiddish in 1967, but may have been written much earlier. The translator, Leonard Wolf, in a postscript calls it "a very young man's book" and "certainly the most playful of Singer's long fictions," with its alternately comic and poignant shifts in plot. Young David's passions for women, philosophizing, Jewish religious speculation, and Walter Mitty-like fantasies make The Certificate a captivating novel in the great tradition of a master storyteller.

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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

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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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