SHMUEL-NISN (SAMUEL NISSAN) GODINER (1893-1942)
He was born in Telekhan (Telekhany), Minsk region (later Polesia). His father, Yisroel-Dovid, was religious man, engaged in scholarship, and for a time a tenant innkeeper in the village of Vyade. Godiner received a traditional education, studying Jewish subjects with his father, later under the influence of illegal socialist literature, he was captivated by the revolutionary movement and was one of the founders of the [youth movement dubbed the] Kleyner Bund (Little Bund). At age fifteen, he and his parents moved to Warsaw, where he became an apprentice in a locksmith’s workshop. At age seventeen he began to work in a metal factory. At the same time, he devoted himself to acquiring an education on his own. He read great quantities of the Russian, Polish, and German classics. In Warsaw he also began to write poetry and stories. He showed his writings to Peretz, and Peretz encouraged him to write more. At the end of 1912, he was sent as a recruit in the Tsarist army to the Caucasus, and in 1914 while traversing the Carpathian Mountains on the battle front, he was wounded. In early 1918 he was captured by the Austrians, but he was soon successful in escaping from their camp to Warsaw, and from there he returned to Russia. He remained for a short time in the army, and he later joined the Communist Party. In 1921 he entered the Briusov Institute for Literature in Moscow and studied there for two years. He initially wrote poetry (never published), but from 1921 he wrote only prose. At first, he wrote mainly about the war and Russian civil war, and in a distinctive symbolist style. His first story, entitled “Reges” (Moments), was published in Emes (Truth) in Moscow in 1921, and later published as well in Shtern (Star) in Minsk, Der shtrom (The stream), and other magazines and newspapers. He became one of the groundwork-layers of Soviet Yiddish prose. He also wrote dramatic works, translated many books from Russian, and compiled a literary anthology. Gordiner went to Birobidzhan on two occasions, and there he helped found Yiddish schools and libraries, and to strengthen cultural work. Soon after the Nazi invasion of Soviet Russia in the autumn of 1941, he left with the partisans to fight. He returned to Moscow in the summer of 1942 for a brief furlough. He returned to the back lines of the front, and there he was killed. Among his books are the following: Tog antkegn (Toward the day) (Moscow, 1924), 127 pp.; Der mentsh mit der biks (The man with the rifle), a novel in two volumes (Moscow, 1928-1933), several reprint editions; Figurn afn rand (Figures on the edge), stories (Kiev, 1929), 251 pp.; Oys religyeI zamlung fun literatur (Out with religion! Literature collection) (Moscow: Bezbozhnik, 1929), 56 pp., with A. Vevyorke; Dzhim kuperkop (Jim Kuperkop), a dramatic pamphlet (Moscow, 1930), 151 pp. (staged by Artef [Communist-inspired Yiddish theater] in New York); Kavkas hersh (Hersh of the Caucasus) (Kharkov, 1933), 15 pp.; Verk, ershter band, dertseylungen (Works, vol. 1: stories) (Moscow: Emes, 1933), 378 pp.; Muterland, roman (Motherland, a novel) (Moscow: Emes, 1935), 480 pp.; Di akore fun rohatshev (The fortress of Rogachov), a story (Moscow: Emes, 1936), 16 pp.; Di gliklekhe muter elke (Elke, the happy mother), a story (Moscow: Emes, 1936), 48 pp.; Yudke komunareytshikl (Yudke, the little communard), a story (Moscow: Emes, 1936), 48 pp.; Di heylike shklover levone (The heavenly Shklov [Szkłów, Škłoŭ] moon) (1936); Der ershter (The first) (Moscow, 1938), 12 pp.; A nakht bam tseyln (A night counting), a story (Moscow: Emes, 1938), 11 pp.; Linishtsher yatn (Linishtsh guys), a story (Moscow: Emes, 1939), 17 pp.; Der yontef fun frayndshaft (The festival of friendship) (Moscow, 1939), 46 pp.; Andere mentshn (Other people), stories (Moscow, 1940), 288 pp. His work was included in: Deklamater fun der sovetisher yidisher literatur (Reciter of Soviet Yiddish literature) (Moscow, 1934); Der arbeter in der yidisher literatur, fargesene lider (The worker in Yiddish literature, forgotten poems) (Moscow, 1939); the anthology Birebidzhan (Birobidzhan) (Moscow, 1936); Far der bine: dertseylungen, pyeses, lider (For the stage: stories, plays, poems), with musical notation (together with Y. Dobrushin and E. Gordon) (Moscow, 1929); Bafrayte brider, literarishe zamlung (Liberated brethren, literary anthology) (Minsk, 1939); Farn heymland in shlakht! (For the homeland in battle!) (Moscow, 1941); Komyug, literarish-kinstlerisher zamlbukh ([Jewish] Communist Youth, literary-artistic anthology) (Moscow, 1938); and Osher shvartsman, zamlung gevidmet dem tsvantsik yortog fun zayn heldishn toyt (Osher Shvartsman, collection dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of his heroic death) (Moscow: Emes, 1940). His translations include: Lidiya Seifullina’s Erd-zaft (Juice of the earth) (Moscow, 1924), 158 pp., and her Virinyeya (original: Virineya) (Moscow, 1925), 146 pp.; Fedor Gladkov, Tsement (Cement [original: Zement]) (Moscow, 1927), 334 pp.; Mikhail Rozanov, Kostya ryabtsevs togbukh (Kostya Ryabtsev’s diary) (Moscow, 1928), 222 pp.; Yuri Oliosha, Kine (Envy) (Minsk, 1931), 137 pp.; Maksim Gorki’s Klim sangins lebn (The life of Klim Samgin [original: Zhizn’ Klima Samgina]) (Moscow, 1937). Godiner also compiled (together with Y. Rabinovitsh) Af barikadn, revolyutsyonere shlakhtn in der opshpiglung fun der kinstlerisher literatur (At the barricades, revolutionary battles in the lens of artistic literature) (Kharkov, 1930), 300 pp.
Sources: M. Mizheritski, in Royte velt (Kharkov) (September-October 1931); M. Kashtshevatski, in Royte velt (August 1931); Y. Bronshteyn, Atake (Attack) (Minsk, 1931), pp. 194-218; A. Vevyorke, Der stil fun der proletarisher literatur (The style of proletarian literature) (Kharkov, 1932), p. 28; D. Manyevitsh, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (May 2, 1932); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (December 16, 1934); A. Abtshuk, Etyudn un materialn tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur bavegung in FSRR (Studies and material for the history of the Yiddish literature movement in the Soviet Union) (Kharkov, 1934), pp. 27-29, 50, 51, 61; M. Natovitsh, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (February 24, 1945); N. Y. Gotlib, Sovetishe shrayber (Soviet writers) (Montreal, 1945), pp. 88, 92; Ester (Godiner) Miler, preface to Shmuel Godiner’s novel Zaveler trakt (Zavel highway) (New York, 1950), pp. 9-13; David Knaani and Arye Shamri, translators, Lo amut ki eḥye (I will not die, but live on) (Merḥavia, 1957).
Zaynvil Diamant and Aleksander Pomerants
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 123.]