Sunday, September 24, 2017

I.B. Singer’s Yiddish Speech in Stockholm (1978)


In this 15-minute sound clip you will hear Isaac Bashevis Singer’s speech, in Yiddish, which he gave at a banquet in Stockholm the night before he was presented with the Nobel Prize in Literature (1978). This is more than a speech on literature, since there are many fine speeches delivered in Stockholm and elsewhere that perform this very feat. No, this is a speech defending Yiddish literature and a people that choose to write in this language. This makes it different from other speeches of this kind; this also makes it memorable, both then and now.

This was originally broadcast by Efrayim Shedletzky on the Israel channel “Kol Yisrael” right after Purim in the following year (1979). Here is how he begins the speech, which uses classic Yiddish humour to set the tone:
Men fregt mikh oft, far vos shraybstu Yidish? Un ikh vel pruvn gebn oyf der frage an entfer. Mayn entfer vet zayn a Yidishlekhe - dos heyst, ikh vel entfern mit a frage oyf a frage. Der entfer iz: far vos zol ikh nisht shraybn oyf Yidish?!
[Trans: People often ask me, why do you write in Yiddish? And I will try now to give an answer to that question. My answer will be a Jewish one - in other words, I will answer the question with a question. The answer is: why should I not write in Yiddish?!]
Nu, iz es an andere entfer beser vi dos? Di emes, dos iz di rikhtik entfer. For the full transcript of the speech, you should go to this site, where you will also find a translation into English. Singer has a wonderful sense of humour, which comes through loud and clear. I would happily encourage you to listen to the full speech; you will enjoy it.


  1. Singer's speech is in Central (Polish) Yiddish, not in Standard Yiddish.

    1. It's a Yiddish that I can understand, since it is the same as my father spoke. But then again my Yiddish understanding is very rudimentary.


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