A recent podcast from the New Yorker Fiction section was entertaining me on my way to work this morning. Nathan Englander read Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Disguised” and discussed it with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman.
Here is how the story begins: two young Jews marry. She is only 17, and he is still so young he doesn’t yet have any whiskers. A few months later, the young man leaves his bride behind without a word. Under Jewish law, the wife cannot remarry without a death certificate or divorce papers, so this is a life sentence of loneliness for our heroine, Temeril. Months later, after no word about her husband, the young girl sets out to track him down. It turns into an odyssey as years pass and the young girl turns into a young woman. In a foreign land, she recognizes a face in a street. A woman, with fuzz on her cheeks, who looks familiar... the stranger is so startled at seeing Temeril she drops the eggs in her arms and runs in the opposite direction. Could it be her husband after all these years?
That’s when my iPod conked out, so I had to wait for the conclusion.
Divorce. Gay marriage. Transvestitism. Not topics you would expect from Singer, although sex is a frequent theme. And cross-dressing was something he talked about in Yentle.
Wow. What a story! If you want to know how it ends, go visit http://www.newyorker.com/fiction.
I can tell you it is well worth the trip!