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In a more conventional kind of story, Lise would resent her marriage to this unworldly and awkward man; here, on the contrary, she falls deeply in love with Shloimele, because she has always longed for the kind of intellectual pursuits forbidden to women.

She becomes obsessed with her new husband and falls under his spell to a degree that seems unwholesome.

The genius of the story lies in the way Shloimele and Lise unsettle us, not by their violation of Jewish custom, but by their excessively passionate fulfillment of it.

Just as Lise honors the Torah, but more than a woman should, so she loves and submits to her husband much too much: They were always whispering together, telling each other secrets, consulting books together, and calling each other odd nicknames.

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Why persuade to evil someone who is already convinced? He himself has no one left to prey on, and no source of sustenance except an old Yiddish storybook left behind in an abandoned house: “But nevertheless the letters are Jewish. For Singer, this was a particularly ironic fate, because the whole energy of his fiction is negative—mocking, disputatious, despairing, perverse.Rather, Singer grants the existence of possession but allows us to understand it as a species of obsession; he paints ancient mysticism in the lurid colors of modern psychology.Above all, like Freud, Singer focuses on the destructive energies of sexuality, which he sees pulsing just below the surface of a traditionally puritanical Jewish culture.It was another stroke of luck that allowed Israel Joshua to bring Isaac to America in 1935, in time to avoid the Nazi Holocaust that would annihilate the majority of his readership.Most remarkable of all, however, was Singer’s ability to go on to producing fiction in a language of ghosts—stories dealing with a dead or dying world that were nonetheless living works of art.

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