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Elka refuses to let Gimpel into their bed after the wedding, and four months later she gives birth to a boy.Everyone knows that Gimpel is not the father; “the whole House of Prayer rang with laughter.” When he confronts Elka about this, she insists that the child is premature and is Gimpel’s.
In his Nobel lecture, Singer argued that storytellers might have the best chance of anyone to "rescue civilization." Writing fiction might not seem like the most direct way to improve the human condition, but Singer suggested that in a world where politics often failed, or worse, succeeded disastrously, intelligent, logical interactions with the world -- the kind Gimpel spent a lifetime avoiding -- may well be overrated.
Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story “Gimpel the Fool,” opens with Gimpel, the narrator, announcing that he is called a fool but does not think of himself as one.
Others see him as a fool, he says, because he is “easy to take in.” He is not a fighter, he reasons, so he tries to ignore them.
Even so, he admits that “they take advantage of me,” thus demonstrating he understands how others see him and is not as foolish as he seems.
But Singer, perhaps because he was so attuned to man's imperfections, was skeptical of their wild dreams.
The story ends with Gimpel waiting hopefully for the next world, where things will be simpler and purer and where "God be praised even Gimpel cannot be deceived."Singer often said that he and Gimpel were one and the same, which some critics considered laughable coming from the wily and sagacious Singer.He works as a baker in an Eastern European shtetl, where life hews closely to tradition.The townspeople, having come to appreciate Gimpel's credulity, mislead him in increasingly significant ways.Singer's writings often dwell on the darkness of the human heart: the critic Stanley Edgar Hyman called him the "Yiddish Hawthorne." Many of his works, including two that were made into movies, "Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy" and "Enemies, a Love Story," have psychically wounded protagonists.Yentl is a rabbi's daughter with "the soul of a man and the body of a woman," who must live as a man to study Torah.After she dies, the Spirit of Evil visits Gimpel in a dream, and tells him to get his revenge on the town by urinating in the dough before he bakes it, so the townspeople can "eat filth." Gimpel decides not to.Instead, he leaves Frampol and becomes a wandering storyteller who spins "yarns -- improbable things that could never have happened -- about devils, magicians, windmills and the like" -- much like Singer himself.He is foolish only in his relations with other people and, more specifically, his willingness to have faith in them when there is no good reason to.Unlike most fools, Gimpel is aware of his foolishness: he knows that much of what he is being told is highly improbable, but he makes a conscious -- even a moral -- decision to believe."The last one stuck."Gimpel is the narrator and quasi hero of "Gimpel the Fool," Isaac Bashevis Singer's best-known and most widely anthologized short story, and one of the most perplexing characters in modern literature.Because this year has been the centenary of Singer, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, Gimpel has been the subject of an unusual amount of discussion, including a panel this month at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan that posed the question, "Was Gimpel a Fool?