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How Paul McCartney Turned Isaac Bashevis Singer Into A Polish Hero

This article originally appeared in the Yiddish Forverts.

116 years after his birth, Isaac Bashevis Singer has found a new champion: Paul McCartney.

Yes, really. When the Polish Parliament passed a resolution honoring the Nobel Prize-winning author on November 21, the anniversary of his birth, it was thanks to the efforts of the former Beatle.

While rehearsing for a recent concert in Krakow, someone pointed out to McCartney that, like him, Singer had been an outspoken vegetarian. McCartney then wrote to Polish MP Paweł Kukiz, himself a rock singer, to ask him to commemorate Singer by establishing November 21 as Isaac Bashevis Singer Day in Poland, where Singer was born in 1902.

In his letter to Kukiz, McCartney wrote that “Singer, like me, used his artistic platform to support animal rights.” (Bashevis once said “I did not become a vegetarian for the sake of my health but for the sake of chickens.”) He also congratulated Poland on the centenary of gaining its independence.

Kukiz, the founder of Kukiz’15 — an anti-establishment right-wing political movement popular among young people — is an animal lover who frequently stresses the power of art to create a more enlightened society. McCartney’s plea was clearly moving; when Kukiz introduced a bill to pass a resolution honoring Singer on his birthday, he noted that 2018 is also the 40th anniversary of the great Yiddish writer’s winning the Nobel Prize for literature.

The resolution emphasizes that Singer’s writings are a key component of Poland’s national heritage, citing the Swedish Academy’s 1978 jury statement praising Singer for “his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life.”

In other words: Maybe they’re amazed.

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