Monday 15 June 2015


AVROM GONTAR (March 20, 1908-May 1981)

            He was poet and prose author, born in Berdichev, Ukraine.  His father was a mason, and after graduating from the local secondary school, Avrom also began working in this trade. He published his first poem at age seventeen in the Berdichev newspaper Di vokh (The week). He graduated from the Jewish department of the Pedagogical Institute in Odessa and went on to be a researcher the Institute of Jewish Culture in the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. In 1933 his first poetry collection appeared in Kharkov, and he became a member of the editorial collective and secretary of the journal of literature and art, Farmest (Competition). He later worked as well for the monthly journal Sovetishe literatur (Soviet literature), and his editorial work occupied a large part of his creative life until his death. Between the two world wars, he participated in carrying out various Party missions for the Communist authorities and received rewards for doing so. Until WWII he published several volumes of poetry and prose. He published poems, dramatic fragments, and stories in: Sovetishe literatur (February, September, October 1938; January, May 1939); in the anthology Heymland (Homeland) (Moscow, 1943); in an almanac with the same title (Moscow, 1948); and in the anthology Tsum zig (Toward victory) (Moscow, 1944). Beginning in 1943, he was one of the editors among the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, and when in 1948 that Committee was shut down, he was arrested. He returned to Moscow after being rehabilitated in 1956. The final twenty years of his life, he managed the prose department of the Moscow journal Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) and edited Yiddish books for the publisher “Sovetski pisatel.” His books not only appeared in Yiddish, but also in Russian and Ukrainian translations. He himself translated Russian works of Russian writers, among them Anatoly Rybakov’s novel Shverer zamd (Heavy sand [original, Tiazhelyi pesok]). In his lyrical poetry, a folk style took center stage, emotionally saturated; love lyrics and landscape images form the foundational motifs of his work. He died in Moscow.

            Among his books: Af rishtovanyes (On the scaffolding) (Kharkov, 1933), 129 pp.; In a farvorfn vinkl (In a misplaced corner), a novel (Kiev, 1936); Tsum letstn mol dermont (Mentioned for the last time), poems (Kharkov-Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1936), 110 pp.; Di parashutistke (The woman parachutist), a poem (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1937), 24 pp.; Di fisher fun malage (The fisherman from Malaga), a poem (Kharkov-Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1937), 158 pp.; Heler tog (Fair days) (Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1938), 159 pp.; In di berg fun osetye (In the mountains of Ossetia), a play in three acts (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1939), 18 pp.; Af zunike vegn (On a sunny street) (Kharkov-Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1939), 28 pp.; Rakhves (Spaciousness), poetry (Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1940), 96 pp.; Af hoykhn barg (On a high shore), poems (Moscow: Emes, 1947), 128 pp.; Di groyse mishpokhe (The big family), novel (Moscow: Emes, 1948), 190 pp.; Toybn oyfn dakh (Pigeons on the roof), poetry (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1969), 282 pp.; Negine (Music), poetry (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1977), 238 pp.; Der morgenshtern (The morning star), poetry (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1980), 207 pp.  He translated from Russian into Yiddish the first poems of Dovid Edelshtat for Kalman Marmor’s volume on Edelshtat.  His work was also included in: Lider vegn stalinen (Poems about Stalin) (Kiev: State Publishers, 1937); Tsum zig (Toward victory) (Moscow: Emes, 1944); and Komsomolye (Communist Youth) (Kiev, 1938). He edited together with Abraham Kahan: Onheyb, almanakh fun shrayber onfanger (Beginning, handbook for beginning writers) (Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1938),.  Also, a number of his poems were translated into Ukrainian and published in the Ukrainian journal Vitchyzna (Fatherland) 2.

Sources: P. Hirshbeyn, in Tog (New York) (September 19, 1932); Y. Serebryani, in Shtern (Minsk) (January 1934); Sh. Hirsh, in Sovetishe literatur (September 1938); Y. Dobrushin, in Sovetishe literatur (October 1939); Y. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1945); N. Y. Gotlib, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1951); Gotlib, in Sovetishe shrayber (Soviet writers) (Montreal, 1945); G. Kenig, in Morgn-frayhayt (October 21, 1956; May 29, 1957).

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 143; 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), pp. 71-72.]

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