1. Short story, first line in Yiddish (1945) with English translation by Saul Bellow (1953), Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Gimpel the Fool."
The story begins with the titular character introducing himself. In Yiddish he admits that he is תם (tam, which comes from Hebrew, and can be translated as “simple”), but says he is not a נאַר (nar, a German-derived word that means “fool”). The English translation uses “fool” twice.
Suggested activity: Have students read the first line in English and discuss it: what’s strange about the way the word “fool” appears twice? Have students look at and listen to the first line in Yiddish, and see if they can identify what is different from the English translation. Ask them if any know what “tam” means, and where it appears in Jewish liturgy. Discuss: what’s the difference being simple and being foolish?
Sources: Yiddish original: Yitskhok Bashevis, Gimpl tam un andere dertseylungen (New York: CYCO, 1963), 5-17.
English translation: Isaac Bashevis Singer, trans. Saul Bellow, Collected Stories, Vol. 1: Gimpel the Fool to The Letter Writer (New York: Library of America, 2004).
Audio: Aba Igelfeld reading the work of Isaac Bashevis, Gimpl tam un andere dertseylungen, Yiddish Book Center’s Sami Rohr Library of Recorded Yiddish Books (<https://archive.org/details/IsaacBashevisSinger-GimplTamUnAndereDertseylungen>, accessed March 1, 2016).