SHAYE SHPIGL (ISAIAH SPIEGEL) (January 14, 1906-July 14, 1990)
He was the author of stories, poetry, and essays, born in Lodz. His parents were poor artisans. He attended religious elementary school, Talmud Torah, and later public school, middle school, and pedagogical courses. Until the middle of 1939, He worked as a teacher of Yiddish and Yiddish literature in schools run by Tsisho (Jewish School Organization) in Poland. He survived the Lodz ghetto and later Auschwitz and other concentration camps. His parents and his entire family were killed. Over the years 1945-1948, he was a teacher in Lodz, and he lived in Warsaw 1948-1950. In 1951 he settled in Israel. Until 1964 he was an employee in the Finance Ministry. He lived in Givatayim.
He wrote stories, novels, poetry, and literary essays. He debuted in print in 1922 with a poem in Lodzer folksblat (Lodz people’s newspaper). He went on to contribute to: Lodzer tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper), Fraytog (Friday), Nayer folksblat (New people’s newspaper), S’feld (The field), Shveln (Thresholds), Literarishe vokhnshrift (Weekly literary writing), Dos naye lebn (The new life), Arbeter-tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), and Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings)—all in Lodz; Tsukunft (Future) in New York; Naye prese (New press) in Paris; and Di goldene keyt (The golden chain), Nayvelt (New world), Letste nayes (Latest news), Yisroel-shtime (Voice of Israel), and Fray yisroel (Free Israel)—all in Israel; among others. He also wrote for the Hebrew-language press. His work appeared in anthologies in various languages: Arye Shamri, ed., Vortslen, antologye fun yidish-shafn in yisroel, poezye un proze (Roots, anthology of Yiddish creative writing in Israel, poetry and prose) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1966); Shimshon Meltser, ed., Al naharot, tisha maḥazore shira misifrut yidish (By the rivers, nine cycles of poetry from Yiddish literature) (Jerusalem, 1956); Mordekhai Ḥalamish, ed., Mikan umikarov, antologya shel sipure yidish beerets yisrael (From near and from far away, anthology of stories in Yiddish in Israel) (Merḥavya, 1966); Shmuel Rozhanski, ed., Khurbn (Destruction) (Buenos Aires, 1974); Irving Howe and Eliezer Greenberg, eds., A Treasury of Yiddish Poetry (New York, 1969); Charles Dobzynski, ed., Anthologie de la poésie Yiddish, le miroir d’un people (Anthology of Yiddish poetry, the mirror of a people) (Paris: Gallimard, 1971); Hermann Hakel, ed., Jiddische Geschichten aus aller Welt (Tübingen-Basel, 1967).
His works include: Mitn ponem tsu der zun, lider (Facing the sun, poetry) (Lodz: Alfa, 1930), 62 pp.; Malkhes geto, noveln (Kingdom of the ghetto, stories) (Lodz: Dos naye lebn, 1947), 96 pp.; Shtern ibern geto, noveln (Stars over the ghetto, stories) (Paris: Yidishe folks-biblyotek, 1948), 63 pp.; Mentshn in thom, geto-noveln (Men in the abyss, ghetto stories) (Buenos Aires: IKUF, 1949), 102 pp.; Un gevorn iz likht, lider (And it was light, poetry) (Warsaw-Lodz: Yidish-bukh, 1949), 171 pp.; Likht funem opgrunt, geto-noveln (Light from the abyss, ghetto stories) (New York: Tsiko, 1952), 320 pp.; Vint un vortslen, noveln (Wind and roots, stories) (New York: World Jewish Culture Congress, 1955), 281 pp.; Di brik, noveln (The bridge, stories) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1963), 346 pp.; Flamen fun der erd, roman (Flames from the soil, a novel) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1966), 208 pp.; Shtign tsum himl (Ladder to the heavens) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1966), 329 pp.; Geshtaltn un profiln, literarishe eseyen (Figures and profiles, literary essays), 2 vols. (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah and Yisroel-bukh, 1971, 1980). 260 pp., 150 pp.; Di kroyn, dertseylungen (The crown, stories) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1973), 148 pp.; Shtern laykhtn in thom, gezamlte dertseylungen, 1940-1944 (The star light up in the abyss, collected stories, 1940-1944), 2 vols. (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1976); Tsvishn tof un alef, gezamlte lider (Between Z and A, collected poems) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1978), 343 pp.; Avrom sutskevers lider fun togbukh, esey (Avrom Sutzkever’s poetry from his diary, an essay) (Tel Aviv: Biblos, 1979), 31 pp.; Himlen nokhn shturem, noveln, eseyen, lider (Heavens after the storm, stories, essays, poems) (Tel Aviv: World Council for Yiddish, 1984), 345 pp. In Hebrew: Malkhut geto, sipurim (Kingdom of the ghetto, stories), trans. A. D. Shafir (Tel Aviv: Hakibuts hameuḥad, 1952), 198 pp.; Eromim beterem shaḥar, roman (Naked before dawn, a novel [original: Flamen fun der erd, roman]), trans. A. D. Shafir (Merḥavya: Sifriyat poalim, 1968), 164 pp.; Madregot al hashamayim, roman (Stairway to heaven, a novel), trans. A. D. Shafir (Tel Aviv, 1970), 226 pp.; Hagesher, sipurim (The bridge, stories), trans. Naftali Ginton (Tel Aviv: Sifriyat poalim, 1974), 230 pp.; Haashmoret hashelishit, sipurim (Third watch, stories), trans. Mordekhai Amitai, Naftali Ginton, and Binyamin Ṭene (Tel Aviv: Hakibuts hameuḥad, 1975/1976), 187 pp.; Tsvey dertseylunbgen, Shene sipurim (Two stories), trans. Mordekhai Amitai (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1978), 142 pp. In French: Les flames de la terre, trans. Rachel Ertel (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), 202 pp. He also published a textbook (with Shloyme Lastik), Mayn leyenbukh far fertn klas (My textbook for the fourth class) (Warsaw, 1948), 238 pp. Shpigl received literary prizes named for Itsik Manger, Yankev Fikhman, Yankev Glatshteyn, and others. He wrote a great deal in the Lodz ghetto and his concealed his writings. His first published books after the Holocaust were the unearthed manuscripts from the ghetto. He died in Givatayim, Israel.
“Nowadays,” wrote Shloyme Bikl, “Shaye Shpigl is without a doubt one of the very most important prose masters in Yiddish literature. His prose excels both in the way it approaches its subject matter and in and of itself…. His prose possesses a lyrical frisson which is always masterfully manipulated…. It never assumes a higher tone. His frisson is never felt, and the dramatic quality of the figures and events never sins with the least suggestion of melodrama or sentimentalism.”
“The ghetto stories of Sh. Shpigl,” noted Yitskhok Yanasovitsh, “dominate in his creative economy…. He brings to his ghetto stories the authenticity of ghetto life.… But, in painting that ghetto life with an intensified, fragile realism, he remains the artist of human nobility and quiet valor…. [He finds] in darkness so much light, in brutal reality so much kindness, and in malice so much goodness.”
“A brilliant writer of Jewish darkness,” commented Froym Oyerbakh, “…he has the talent to throw light on poverty with a bright disposition that he alone possesses.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 3 (Montreal, 1958); Khayim Krul, Arum zikh (Around itself) (Vilna, 1930); Dovid Sfard, Shrayber un bikher (Writers and books) (Lodz: Yidish bukh, 1949); Ber Mark, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) 10 (1949); Moyshe Katz, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (May 14, 1950); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (February 17, 1950); Glatshteyn, Af greyte temes (On ready themes) (New York: CYCO, 1967); Arn Leyeles, in Tog (Day) (March 17, 1951); Khayim-Shloyme Kazdan, in Unzer tsayt (New York) (May 1953); Y. Y. Sigal, in Idisher zhurnal (Toronto) (August 16, 1954); A. Mukdoni, in Tsukunft (New York) 3 (1956); Dov Sadan, Avne miftan, masot al sofre yidish (Milestones, essays on Yiddish writers), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1961, 1971); Yisrael Ḥaim Biletski, Masot bishevile sifrut yidish (Essays on Yiddish literature), vol. 2 (Tel Aviv, 1963); Moyshe Gros-Tsimerman, Intimer videranand, eseyen (Intimate contrast, essays) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1964); Avrom Sutzkever, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 55 (1966); Moyshe Yungman, in Di goldene keyt 64 (1968); Shloyme Bikl, Shrayber fun mayn dor (Writers of my generation), vol. 3 (Tel Aviv, 1970); Yoysef Okrutni, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (September 3, 1971); Shmuel Niger, Yidishe shrayber fun tsvantsikstn yorhundert (Yiddish writers from the twentieth century) (New York, 1973), pp. 314-22; Noyekh Gris, Fun finsternish tsu likht, shaye shpigl un zayn verk (From darkness to light, Yeshayahu Shpigl and his work) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel bukh, 1974); Froym Oyerbakh, Af der vogshol, esey (In the balance, essay), vol. 2 (Tel Aviv, 1975); Yankev-Tsvi Shargel, Fun onheyb on, tsvishn shrayber un verk (From the beginning, among writers and works) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1977), pp. 143-53; Yitskhok Yanasovitsh, Penemer un nemen (Faces and names) (Tel Aviv-Buenos Aires, 1977); Deyokano shel sofer, yeshayahu shpigl (Portrait of a writer, Shaye Shpigl) (Tel Aviv, 1985), 246 pp. (there are here as well a number of poems by Shpigl rendered into Hebrew by various translators and a bibliographical listing of his books in Yiddish, Hebrew, and French); In likht fun der kvaliker pen (In light of the gushing pen) and In likht fun der farloshener pen (In light of the extinguished pen)—two books of critical treatments of Shpigl (Tel Aviv, 1986), 260 pp. and 416 pp.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 533, 558.]