The Nobel laureate sat propped on his bed eating red raspberry yogurt and honey cake, accepting congratulations from world capitals and small Florida towns.

"Yes, this is Isaac Singer. You've got the big shot on the phone now," he would answer winking his pale blue eyes at reporters who closed in to snatch what crumbs of quotes fell between the ceaseless phone calls.

Suddenly the world had pounced on a small red-freckled man with a fringe of white hair who spins a fantasy world in a spidery Yiddish letters in a tiny pocket notebook.

For a moment he was surprised, "but a human being can never be surprised for more than three or four seconds." Singer said early yesterday afternoon. "So I am no longer surprised, just pleased. This is a great day - not the greatest day because there are many great days in a man's life."

He wasn't groomed for greatness Thursday morning. In fact, he hadn't even shaved.

Singer said he was expecting a typical quiet day at his Surfside condominium where he spends his winter months. As usual he went downstairs to the nearby drugstore coffee shop for breakfast. His wife, Alma, was going to join him, but she didn't come for 10 minutes. She was busy answering serious phone calls.

"The first call came at 8:30 from a lady in New York saying congratulations'" Mrs Singer said. "Then we had another call from a friend in Miami. Then another call. It was crazy. I went downstairs and I said, 'our friends are calling and they say you won the Nobel Prize.'"

"He didn't believe me. He said, "No it's just the nomination." Then he came upstairs and he had another call. He told them it must be a prank," she said laughing.

Within an hour, reporters filling his sunny ocean-view yellow and white living room had convinced him it was true and he was explaining his philosophy with ringing interruptions.

"I am both a mystic and a realist. I am whatever the critics and readers see," he said to one caller.

"December 10th I am invited to Stockholm to receive the prize. I hope to God I'll be there," he said to a worried caller from the University of Miami who wanted to be sure that Singer would still teach a creative writing seminar scheduled for winter semester.

"The Chanuka story is ready," he assured his publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which called with congratulations. The finished copy of the manuscript, which he had been editing, sat on his dresser between popular paperbacks and a library copy of Lilliam Hellman's book "Pentimento."

"I write in Yiddish because I was brought up in Yiddish. I am loyal or faithful to my roots. It doesn't matter if only 3 million or only half a million speak a language. How many speak Finnish or Norwegian? A true writer does not forget his people or his language. If he does, it does damage to his work," Singer said.

"This honor is a victory and a recognition for the Yiddishists. I share it with all the Yiddish-seaking world and all my readers in English as well," he told one caller.

In the Jewish Daily forward singer is writing a spiritual autobiography in installments. It is an experient "because," he says, "there is no such thing as a completely true autobiography. A person doesn't remember everything.Only God or an angel or a person who has spoken into a tape recorder - and then an editor would spoil it anyway."

"Life is so boring and so repetitious that you cannot really write about it," he added, because he is of all things not an optimist. "Even the $165,000 prize will not make me an optimist. It will not cure human misery or human tragedy."

But Singer is optimistic about the United States. "If I wouldn't have come here, I would have been ashes and dust a long time ago," he said, harkening back to the Holocaust that permanently changed Jewish life and thought. "If a country could get the Nobel prize, Uncle Sam should."

Then his wife took the phone off the hook and came to sit beside him, nibble at the honey cake and recall the days of their courtship in 1937 when he told his dream of being a reknowned writer.

"I never said those things," Singer grumped, hiding behind the first edition of the afternoon paper with headlines announcing his prize and thereby spoiling this section of film for the omnipresent television cameras.

"Yes, you did. You said it when we would go walking along Central Park West near 84th Street," she said with a wistful smile.

"Don't believe anything I might have said on Central Park West. I have already forgotten. You must have dreamt those things," said Singer, a man well-acquainted with dreams.