Friday, May 14, 2010

“Why I Write for Children” by Isaac Bashevis Singer

There are five hundred reasons why I began to write for children, but to save time I will mention only ten of them.
Number 1. Children read books, not reviews. They don’t give a hoot about the critics.
Number 2. Children’ don’t read to find their identity.
Number 3. They don’t read to free themselves of guilt, to quench their thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation.
Number 4. They have no use for psychology.
Number 5. They detest sociology.
Number 6. They don’t try to understand Kafka or Finnegan’s Wake.
Number 7. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff.
Number 8. They love interesting stories, not commentaries, guides, or footnotes.
Number 9. When a book is boring, they yawn openly, without any shame or fear of authority.
Number 10. They don’t expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity. Young as they are, they know that is not in his power. Only the adults have such childish illusions.


Extracts from his Nobel lecture:-

The storyteller and poet of our time, as in any other time, must be an entertainer of the spirit in the full sense of the word, not just a preacher of social or political ideals. There is no paradise for bored readers and no excuse for tedious literature that does not intrigue the reader, uplift him, give him the joy and the escape that true art always grants. Nevertheless, it is also true that the serious writer of our time must be deeply concerned about the problems of his generation. He cannot but see that the power of religion, especially belief in revelation, is weaker today than it was in any other epoch in human history. More and more children grow up without faith in God, without belief in reward and punishment, in the immortality of the soul and even in the validity of ethics. The genuine writer cannot ignore the fact that the family is losing its spiritual foundation. All the dismal prophecies of Oswald Spengler have become realities since the Second World War. No technological achievements can mitigate the disappointment of modern man, his loneliness, his feeling of inferiority, and his fear of war, revolution and terror. Not only has our generation lost faith in Providence but also in man himself, in his institutions and often in those who are nearest to him.

I am not ashamed to admit that I belong to those who fantasize that literature is capable of bringing new horizons and new perspectives - philosophical, religious, aesthetical and even social. In the history of old Jewish literature there was never any basic difference between the poet and the prophet. Our ancient poetry often became law and a way of life.

-- Isaac Bashevis Singer


If you begin (as you must) with God as the creator, then it stands to reason that all poets and the gift of poetry were also gifts from him - part of the common grace extended to fallen humanity.

But I'm even more sure of it when I read some of the more beautiful passages of the bible. The bible, as noted by one commentator, is a revelation of the divine mind and a revelation of the character and acts of God but the fact that this revelation has been couched in such beautiful language and imagery cannot be something of penumbral significance.

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