Isaac Bashevis Singer said that he preferred to write in Yiddish because it was a language that contained more vitamins. Reading his great saga of early 20th Century Polish Jewish life, The Family Moskat (1950) whose translation by A.H.Gross he personally supervised, I can't judge the quality of the Yiddish but it is certainly a powerful and absorbing read and, unlike some family historical sagas, you never get confused about who is who, thanks to Singer's gift for rapid thumbnail sketches of people and scenes. I hauled this substantial book around with me on a recent trip to the USA and it made me realise that the realistic novel, sometimes thought to have been usurped by modernist experiment and innovation, still has a lot of life left in it. Singer builds up a vividly felt picture of a world that was doomed as much by the forces of modernity unleashed within it as the external threat without. It runs from the start of the 20th century to the rise of Hitler and is saved from any kind of romantic nostalgia for a lost culture by the fierceness and candour of its realism but nonetheless I still find it profoundly moving to reflect that this Jewish world of pre-war Warsaw no longer exists.