Tuesday 9 December 2014


YOYSEF BURG (May 30, 1912-August 10, 2009)

            He was a prose author, born in the town of Vizshnits (Vyzhnytsya), Bukovina, Ukraine.  He studied in a public elementary school.  Over the years 1935-1938, he pursued Germanic studies at the University of Vienna.  He debuted in literature in 1934 with a novella entitled “Afn splav” (On the train of wood), in which he described Jewish foresters on the banks of the Czeremosz River. He worked as a teacher in Czernowitz and wrote stories in which he sang of the Carpathian Mountains, their heroic and mighty people, and the magnificent nature there. His lyrical prose was imbued with the romantic, original in language and style, and giving expression to images to be remembered. During WWII, he evacuated deep into Russia, in the Ural Mountains from 1941 to 1958.  Later, he returned to Czernowitz and resumed teaching and publishing stories and essays in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) in Moscow, Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan star), and in foreign newspapers and journals.  In addition, he wrote stories, novellas, and sketches for Tshernovitser bleter (Czernowitz pages), Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw, Shoybn (Glass panes) in Bucharest, Di vokh (The week), Folks-shtime (Voice of the people) in Warsaw, and Naye prese (New press) in Paris. His writings have been translated into Russian, German, Ukrainian, English, Hungarian, Italian, and Hebrew. He acquired the title of a cultural leader in Ukraine and was awarded the Segal Prize (Israel, 1992) and the Shnaydman Prize (Sweden, 1997). There is a street named for him in the city of his birth, Vyzhnytsya. “Yoysef Burg is a wonderful describer,” wrote Lili Berger.  “His prose occupies high artistic heights.  At times it is poetry in prose form.”

Among his writings: Afn tsheremosh (On the Czeremosz [River]) (Bucharest, 1939), 67 pp.; Sam (Poison) (Czernowitz, 1940), 64 pp.; Dos lebn geyt vayter, dertseylungen, noveln, skitsn (Life goes on further: stories, novellas, sketches) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1980), 289 pp.; Der iberuf fun tsaytn (The roll-call of the times) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1983), 64 pp.; A farshpetikter ekho (A late echo), stories (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1990), 347 pp.; Tsvey veltn (Two worlds) (Tsvey veltn –Odessa: Mame-loshn, 1997), 140 pp. Also: Unter eyn dakh, yoysef burg yoyvl-bukh (Under one roof, Yoysef Burg jubilee volume), ed. Leponid Finkel’ (Czernowitz, 1992), 173 pp.

Sources: Foroys (Warsaw) (May 26, 1939); Der shpigl (Buenos Aires) (June 29, 1939); Shloyme Bikl, in Romenye (Romania) (Buenos Aires, 1961); A. Roytman, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) 10 (1964); Yulyan Shvarts, in Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (August 1, 1977); H. Remenik, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 3 (1978); M. Belenki, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (March 7, 1981); Y. Kara, in Naye prese (Paris) (April 25, 1981); Kh. Zeltser, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (July 1981); Elye Shulman, in Forverts (New York) (July 26, 1981); M. Margolin, in Sovetish heymland 11 (1981); Lili Berger, in Unzer vort (Paris) (December 12, 1981); Y. Urman, in Letste nayes (June 25, 1982); A. Kvaterko, in Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (August 28, 1982); Y. Rabin, in Folks-shtime (February 19, 1983); Sh. Shtern, in Morgn-frayhayt (January 15, 1984); B. Miler, Birebidzhaner shtern (March 17, 1985); Berger, in Kheshbn (Los Angeles) 99.

Most drawn from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 73-74; and Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), p. 42.

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