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Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories

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4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  1,329 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Isaac Bashevis Singer’s first collection of stories, Gimpel the Fool, is a landmark work that has attracted international acclaim since it was first published in 1957. In Saul Bellow’s masterly translation, the title story follows the exploits of Gimpel, an ingenuous baker who is universally deceived but who declines to retaliate against his tormentors. Gimpel and the prot
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Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 10th 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1957)
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The Chosen by Chaim PotokThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael ChabonMy Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim PotokSophie's Choice by William Styron
Jews in Literature
26th out of 452 books — 242 voters
Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories by Sholem AleichemThe Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael ChabonThe Slave by Isaac Bashevis SingerShosha by Isaac Bashevis SingerGimpel the Fool and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Yiddish Literature
5th out of 47 books — 29 voters


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Community Reviews

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Jenna
I adored Gimpel and found that he was no fool, but rather admirable in his ability to care for those around him, even children that weren't his own. I found his qualities to be endearing and the only fools were the ones who chose to treat him bad.
gretl glick
i liked it so much i named my dog after the author.
John David
“Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories” was originally published in 1953, and contains ten short stories rife with Singer’s unique fictional voice – full of meditations on mortality, good, and evil, Jewish mythology, and an ability to communicate truths in the folksy, simple yet extraordinarily sophisticated way that characterizes these parabolic stories. Singer’s protagonists live in the Old World in every sense - a world inhabited with dybbuks, qlippoth, and golem who are every bit as real as anyo ...more
Vera
Beautifully told short stories, many of which fairytale-like and partly based on the Jewish mythology. My favorite one is Yentl, the inspiration of which is said to be Isaac Singer's elder sister. The young girl Yentl has little patience with the usual conversations of the housewives in her home town and not the slightest inclination to spend all her life doing housework like most of the women of her generation. Her only joy is reading and studying the holy books, so she decides to dress herself ...more
Espresso
This story is labeled as a parable, though I am not certain it fits that genre, I think perhaps it would be better as a fairy tale, as it requires a greater level of willingness to suspend disbelief. I liked the writing and the layout of the story was good, but I did not like the protagonist.

It may be stated that Gimpel is an example of the dangers of taking all that is told to you as true, and applying unquestioning faith to fallible people as well as to religion, but I feel that there is more
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Anne Eggebroten
The story "Joy" in this book is unforgettable, rich with spiritual meaning, about a rabbi whose children die, who lives in despair without faith for many years. I read it many years ago, decided to use the book this semester in teaching RS 310 Religion & Literature at California State University, Northridge.

All the stories are fascinating puzzles, pieces of the human condition to ponder over and reflect upon. Set in a small town in Poland... before and after the Holocaust. The question asked
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Zöe Yu
Gimpel the Fool made the reputation of Isaac Singer, however, it is a regular story about village fool. I didn't read it very carefully. But The Cafeteria is the best short story I've read so far. It has all the elements I've considered valuable for modernists' literature.

Few people can read it in Yiddish, but the translation is one of the best! Well, in this sense, Yiddish Literature needs a reviving! For sure. If I would call it the essence of Jewish Lit in stead of the state of Israel. But p
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Eva Leger
Nov 11, 2009 Eva Leger rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Singer fans
Recommended to Eva by: myself - read Enemies and loved it
Absolutely adored this! I adore Singer's writing! There was one story that I wasn't overly fond of but every single other one was fantastic. Talent just flows from each of the books I've read by Singer so far. I can't wait to read more!
Amy
Singer is just a great storyteller...these stories haven't aged much because they take place in some unknown time full of she-demons and dybbuks, where Satan is always trying to get you.
Abraham
I was able to read only the first two stories of this collection before I lost my copy. But a few months past and I found another, cheaper and in better condition. Naturally, I took it for a sign -- how could I not?

In the world of this book everything is a sign, and things still have magic to them. It's a beautiful simple world, Eastern Europe like most of us have never seen -- a lost world, a farming world, and, what's more, a Jewish world. This book, it speaks of a time when Yiddish thrived a
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Charles
"Gimpel the Fool," Isaac Singer's first book of stories, is superb and sublime (as expected from the author). Having read many of his works before, its interesting to see how Singer revisits themes, tropes, settings, character-types, etc. in his later stories and novels (for example, "A Gentleman from Crakow" immediately reminded me of "Satan in Goray"). While many of the stories in "Gimpel..." resonate with me, the obvious standout is the title story. For good reason, it is this story that esta ...more
Benjamin
The audiobook version I checked out of the Chicago Public Library (woot!) has only four stories, read by Theodore Bikel (who has performed Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof the most times of any performer), so you know the readings are appropriately Old-Worldy.

The four stories are
1) "Gimpel the Fool"--about a baker who believes everything everyone says; until he can't take it anymore, and decides to take revenge by urinating in the bread; until he relents and goes back to his credulous ways. Funny n
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Megan Pokorny
I did not actually read this exact book. I listened to another collection of "Gimpel the Fool and other stories" via Audible. This collection was narrated by Theodore Bikel and included three other stories: Esther Kreindel the Second, The Spinoza of Market Street, and the Black Wedding. As far as the narration, Theodore Bikel was just perfect for reading Gimpel the Fool, but it worked less well for the other stories. The Spinoza of Market Street was my favorite story and The Black Wedding, my le ...more
Tyler
One night, when the period of mourning was done, as I lay dreaming on the flour sacks, there came the Spirit of Evil himself and said to me, "Gimpel, why do you sleep?"

I said, "What should I be doing? Eating kreplach?"
Chana
I think Gimpel the Fool was the first Singer story I read, and it totally shocked me by becoming popular among my students. This is the story of a guy in an Eastern European shtetl who is infinitely, almost painfully, gullible. He spends the entire story getting tricked into things, including taking responsibility for children who aren't his (although his wife insists that they are). I think my students like it because Gimpel is so over the top and easy to make fun of, which I like too, but ther ...more
Janelle
I can't get over this book.
There's so much in it you have to dwell about it for months.
Jgknobler
Singer writes in various stories about the concept of a town or a family being taken over by the devil, by evil. Indeed one of these stories, "The Gentleman from Cracow," seems virtually identical to "Satan in Goray," which I read a few years back. Somehow this externalization of evil feels wrong to me, or at least unhelpful. No one is really responsible for anything: the devil made me do it. Writing just a few years after the war and the holocaust, could Singer really see things in these terms? ...more
Bill Householder
Re-read 10/13-11/19 1987
Richard Epstein
You don't have to be Jewish to love Singer's. (But it couldn't hurt.)

Steven
These tales are wonderful, just plain and simple. I love folklore from around the world and the folklore style these stories are told in gives the air that these short narratives have been passed down for generations while really only being written a few decades back. No wonder Singer won a noble prize for his work. A easy read, I recommend this book to anyone who like myths, legends, short stories and folklore.
Nick
I didn't feel so extraordinary about this writer .... in particular, I saw nothing spectacular (i.e. different) when I compared with Golem (and other Jewish stories) from Prague, for instance. I feel that the writer is overprized for his mere ability to re-tell similar stories (true histories or imaginary tales) taken from the old Jewish folklore.

Read only if you have time.
Gijs Grob
Sprookjesachtige korte verhalen met een sterke Joods-religieuze inslag. Alle verhalen spelen in Polen, en de meeste in het dorpje Frampol, en in velen zijn duivels en demonen actief aanwezig, in sommige zijn ze zelfs de actieve verteller. De verhalen staan nog zeer dicht bij de orale verteltraditie en weten een rijke, volkse en feeërieke wereld op te roepen.
Rebecca
Listened to audio version read by Theodore Bikel - good reader. The audio has just 4 stories: Gimpel the Fool, Esther Kreindel the Second, The Spinoza of Market Street (my favorite), and The Black Wedding. Esther Kreindel and Black Wedding make me think of The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht - kind of old world/Eastern Europe magical realism.
Mia
Wonderful as a set of tales of Yiddish Poland; problematic in the frequent themes of the stupidity and duplicity of women and how easily men are led astray. It seems honorable men out-number similar women. The last couple of stories are particularly good, and the last one speicifically is poignant and lovely.
Myles
(4.6/5.0) These are wonderful stories– the kind I imagine my ancestors sharing over soup in some Russian hovel. Not unlike the paintings of Marc Chagall, Singer's stories fuse folklore and reality, creating lush alternative spaces and beautifully rumpled characters.
Jennifer
I read all the "Chelm" stories as a child, and found them absolutely delightful. The stories of the not-too-bright but well-meaning residents of the town of Chelm give a wonderful insight into Jewish life in small towns before the War. Highly recommended.
Riley
I really like Isaac Singer, but these short stories largely missed for me. I think they were a little too mystical. The two I enjoyed the most were, "By the Light of Memorial Candles," and "The Old Man," both of which were very good.
Matthew Berkshire
Enjoyable read. Singer is a great story teller, but he lacks the artistry of his translator. His shorts are good, and in some ways they remind me of Babel, though the author is not as efficient with his words.
Karin
I've never read anything by Isaac Singer that I did not like. His writings take us to another world, another time, another culture and makes it come to life. I am always glad to have spent that time with him there.
Patty Davis
I read this many years ago while living on a kibbutz in Israel. He is a great story teller and I learned a lot about Jewish folklore, the Kabul, and eastern Europe during that time period.It's a quick read.
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Isaac Bashevis Singer was a Polish American author of Jewish descent, noted for his short stories. He was one of the leading figures in the Yiddish literary movement, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978.
His memoir, "A Day Of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw", won the U.S. National Book Award in Children's Literature in 1970, while his collection "A Crown of Feathers
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“Shoulders are from God, and burdens too.” 4 likes
“No doubt the world is entirely an imaginary world,
but it is only once removed from the true world. At the
door of the hovel where I lie, there stands the plank on
which the dead are taken away. The gravedigger Jew
has his spade ready. The grave waits and the worms are
hungry; the shrouds are prepared-! carry them in my
beggar's sack. Another shnorrer is waiting to inherit my
bed of straw. When the time comes I will go joyfully.
Whatever may be there, it will be real, without complication,
without ridicule, without deception. God be
praised: there even Gimpel cannot be deceived.”
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