SHMUEL HALKIN (December 15, 1899-September 27, 1960)
He was born in Rogachov, Byelorussia. In his early youth, he wrote Hebrew poetry. In 1921 he began publishing Yiddish poetry, later appearing in Shtern (Star) in Minsk, and later still in Emes (Truth) in Moscow. Until 1930 his works, even those on Soviet themes, were full of pessimistic, deeply national motifs and biblical symbols. He later turned to more contemporary concerns, such as Jewish colonization and industrialization. In his later collection of love poems, purely intimate feelings are intertwined with social and political matters. He also wrote dramatic plays and translated many of Shakespeare’s and Pushkin’s dramatic works—the Moscow state theater staged, among others, with great success Goldfaden's Bar-kokhbe (Bar Kokhba), as well as his translation of Kenig lir (King Lear) by Shakespeare. In 1939 he was awarded by the Soviet government with an honorary medal. He was a member of the anti-fascist committee during the anti-Nazi war and wrote poetry and dramas against “Hitler’s dogs.” He was also a member of the editorial collective of Eynikeyt (Unity) in Moscow.
Among his books: Lider (Poetry) (Kiev, 1922), 30 pp.; Vey un mut (Pain and courage) (1929), 152 pp.; Yontev (Holiday), from the Russian according to O. Guryan (Central Publ., 1929), 16 pp.; Lenin iz undz tayer (Lenin is dear to us), a play (Central Publ., 1931), 38 pp.; Far dem nayem fundament (For the new foundation) (1932), 160 pp.; Der kets (The coming of the Messiah), a one-act play (1932), 13 pp.; Kontakt (Contact), poems (1936), 216 pp.; Bar-kokhbe, dramatic poem in four acts (1939), 126 pp.; Lider (Emes, 1939), 122 pp.; Dos bafrayte harts (The liberated heart), poetry (Emes, 1940), 29 pp.; David fun sasun (David of Sassoun), an Armenian epic (Emes, 1940), 24 pp., with Sh. Rosin; Shulamis (Shulamit), dramatic poem (1940), 71 pp.; Der shpil-foygl (The singing bird), a play (1944); Erdishe vegn (Worldly ways), poetry (1945), 191 pp.; Der boym fun lebn (The tree of life) (1948); Oysgeveylte verk (Selected works) (1948)—all in Moscow. Posthumously: Mayn oytser, lider un balades (My treasure, poems and ballads) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1966), 299 pp.; Fir pyesn (Four plays) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1977), 390 pp. His translations include: Y. Bivalov, Palundre, stories (1931), 196 pp.; Maxim Gorky, Mayselekh vegn italye (Tales of Italy [original: Skazki ob italii]) (1932), 19 pp.; V. Kirshon, Broyt (Bread [original Khleb]), a [play (1932), 95 pp.; Dmitri Furmanov, Zibn teg (Seven days) (1935), 175 pp.; William Shakespeare, Kenig lir (1937), 283 pp.; Aleksandr Pushkin, Der karger titer (The miserly knight [original: Skypoi rytsar’]) (1937), 82 pp.—all published in Moscow. Translations into Hebrew include: Mishirat shemuel halkin (From the poetry of Shmuel Halkin) (Tel Aviv: Eked, 1982), 127 pp. His work was also included in: Deklamater fun der sovetisher yidisher literatur (Reciter of Soviet Yiddish literature) (Moscow, 1934); Tsum zig (To victory) (Moscow, 1944); Birebidzhan (Birobidzhan) (Moscow, 1936); Ruf, lider zamlung (Call, poetry collection) (Minsk, 1935); Komyug, literarish-kinstlerisher zamlbukh ([Jewish] Communist Youth, literary-artistic anthology) (Moscow, 1938); Far der bine: dertseylungen, pyeses, lider (For the stage: stories, plays, poems), with musical notation (together with Y. Dobrushin and E. Gordon) (Moscow, 1929); Lomir zingen (Let’s sing) (Moscow, 1940); Farn heymland in shlakht! (For the homeland in battle!) (Moscow, 1941); Lenin un di kinder (Lenin and the children) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1934); and Lider vegn der royter armey (Poems about the Red Army) (Kiev, 1938).
Halkin suffered from a heart ailment. In the years of the destruction of Yiddish literature in Soviet Russia, he was arrested, spent several years in prison, spent one and one-half years in a prison hospital, and later was freed because of his illness. He was last living in Moscow before his death. In 1958 the state publishers in Moscow brought out a translation of Halkin’s poetry in Russian; this book in 542 pages includes a great number of his poems (including Bar-kokhbe), rendered into Russian by various translators.
Sources: Daniel Charney, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (January 21, 1927); M Khashtshevatski, in Sovetish literatur (Kiev) (July 1938); D. Volknshteyn, Zeks shrayber ordntreger (Six honored writers) (Kiev, 1940); A. Pomerants, Inzhenyern fun neshomes (Engineers of souls) (New York, 1943), pp. 44, 45; N. Y. Gotlib, Sovetishe shrayber (Soviet writers) (Montreal, 1945); Yankev Glatshteyn, In tokh genumen (In essence) (New York, 1947), pp. 350-58; L. Faynberg, in Zamlbikher New York) 8 (1952), pp. 233-40; Yehoshua Gilboa, Geḥalim loḥashot (Hot coals) (Tel Aviv, 1954); Y. Yonasovitsh, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (January 19, 1955); Kh. Liberman, in Forverts (New York) (November 15, 1957); N. Mayzil, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (February 1958); Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher shrayber in sovetnfarband (Jewish creation and the Yiddish writer in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; Y. Emyot, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (February 2, 1958); L. Kupershmdt, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (February 14, 1958); L. Ostrovski, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 32 (1958), pp. 190-94; Chone Shmeruk, in Molad (Tel Aviv) (1958/1959).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 207-8.]