Most modern writers emphasize motivation and theme rather than suspense and consequently lose the reader's interest, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nobel Laureate in literature, told a crowd of 1100 yesterday in Sanders Theater.
The 75-year-old novelist read from his unpublished memoirs about the Yiddish Writing Club in Poland and from his short story, "The Enemy."
"I consider myself a contemporary of the 19th century novelists rather than modern writers," Singer said during a question-and-answer period following his readings.
Born in Poland, Singer emigrated to the United States in 1935 and now lives in Florida. The 1978 Nobel Laureate has written more than a dozen books in his native Yiddish and subsequently translated them into English.
Modern novelists are preoccupied with conveying messages rather than telling stories, Singer said.
"I call such writers psychologizers and sociologizers," he said. "Nineteenth-century writers were more modest--they didn't think their works would redeem humanity," he added.
Singer said explaining motivations in fiction is often unnecessary. "If you tell a story well, the facts will speak for themselves and readers will know the motivation," he said.
Too Many Casks of Amontillado
Singer cited Tolstoy, Maupassant, Dostoyevsky, and especially Poe among his favorite and most influential writers. "Poe is the great master, and we are all his disciples," he said.
Much of Singer's fiction deals with demons and other elements of Jewish folklore, which he said he read and loved passionately as a child.
Although he said he is pessimistic about the future of Yiddish, Singer added that "for Jews, miracles are a law of nature."