LILI BERGER (December 30, 1916-November 27, 1996)
She was born in Malkin, Bialystok district. She was a novelist and literary critic. She received an intensely religious education. She studied for three years in a Hebrew school, and in 1933 she graduated from a Polish Jewish high school in Warsaw. She studied pedagogy in Brussels, and at the end of 1936 settled in Paris, where she was a teacher in Jewish supplementary school. During the Nazi occupation, she was active in the resistance movement. From late 1949 until 1968, she lived in Warsaw and thereafter once again in Paris. She wrote in various magazine: journalism, essays, literary criticism, novellas, novels, and translations. With her arrival in Paris, she began writing for Naye prese (New press), later for the monthly Oyfsnay (Afresh) and the weekly Di vokh (The week). More recently, she wrote for Unzer vort (Our word) in Paris, Yisroel-shtime (Voice of Israel) in Tel Aviv, Tsukunft (Future) in New York, Dorem-afrike (South Africa) in Johannesburg, Der veg (The way) in Mexico City, and Kheshbn (Accounting) in Los Angeles. Among her books: Eseyen un skitsn (Essays and sketches) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1965), 297 pp.; Fun haynt un nekhtn (Of today and yesterday) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1965), 299 pp.; Nokhn mabl (After the flood) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1967), 267 pp.; Opgerisene tsvaygn, noveln un dertseylungen (Broken branches, short stories) (Paris, 1970), 229 pp.; Tsvishn shturems, roman (Between storms, a novel) (Buenos Aires: Frayndshaft, 1974), 398 pp.; In gang fun tsayt, eseyen (In the course of time, essays) (Paris, 1976), 339 pp.; Fun vayt un fun noent, noveln un dramaturgishe skitse vegn yanush kortshak (From near and far, short stories and a dramatic sketch concerning Janusz Korczak) (Paris, 1978), 247 pp.; Nisht-farendikte bletlekh, roman (Incomplete pages, a novel), concerning the life of Esther Frumkin (Tel Aviv: Yisroel bukh, 1982), 276 pp. Her translations include: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Briv fun toytn-hoyz (Death House Letters) (Warsaw, 1953); Adolf Rudnicki, Der veg tsum himl (Ascent to heaven) (Warsaw, 1962). She also published two books in Polish. “Lili Berger is the antipode of a ‘tragic enthusiast,’ wrote A. Roytman, “who arises from momentum. She is the enthusiast of wisdom, prudence, and clarity of expression…. Simplicity is her stock in trade but never vulgarity or narrow provinciality.” As for her book Tsvishn shturems, Avrom Shulman wrote that it “is not a story of outward blizzards, but material for the study of man, of the human spirit…. This book by Lili Berger belongs to the same category of work as Kafka’s The Trial and as Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. The difference, though, is that Lili Berger does not make use of the fantasies of the writer from Prague, not does she use Koestler’s intellectual syllogisms, but with living, though unbelievable, events.” “The social and humane functions of art,” wrote L. Podryatshik, “her societal and humanistic tendencies—this is the most fundamental thing that Lili Berger emphasizes in her essays on her work on classic and contemporary European literature…. Many new and original formulations concerning Sholem-Aleichem’s children’s stories…. She always finds something new and makes innovative inferences, unexpected analogies.”
Sources: L. Podryatshik, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) (May 1963); B. Grin, in Morgn frayhayt (New York) (July 16, 1967); L. Domankevitsh, in Tsukunft (New York) (May-June 1971); Avrom Shulman, in Tsukunft (November 1974); Y. Emyot, in Forverts (New York) (February 9, 1975); A. Roytman, in Yisroel shtime (Tel Aviv) (November 1976); Y. Glants, in Undzer veg (Mexico City) (October 1978).
Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 104-6.