Thursday, 6 August 2015


ARON GURSHTEYN (November 1895-1941)
            He was born in Krolevets, Chernigov (Chernihiv) region, Ukraine.  His father was an employee in a transport company.  He studied in religious primary school and in private secular schools.  In 1913 he graduated from Kagan’s Jewish high school in Vilna.  In 1916 he studied Hebrew literature in the Department of Oriental Languages of St. Petersburg University, and he also attended special Jewish courses.  After the October upheaval, he began contributing to the Soviet press.  In May 1920 he joined the Red Army as a volunteer.  Following demobilization, he worked in the People’s Commissariat for Jewish Affairs.  In March 1923 he published in Emes (Truth) his first article of literary criticism.  In 1925 he published his first literary historical efforts concerning Y. Y. Linetski and Y. L. Peretz, while later in Tsaytshrift (Periodical) in Minsk he wrote up Peretz’s bibliography and looked at problems in Yiddish literature of the nineteenth century.  In 1926 he was chairman of the Commission for Marxist Methodology in literary scholarship at the Kiev Jewish People’s Institute.  Subsequently, he was a docent at the Second Moscow University, and from 1931 he became professor of literary history and theory in the pedagogical institutes of Kiev and Odessa.  He was the editor of the edition of Mendele’s works brought out by Emes Publishers and of a series of scholarly anthologies from the Yiddish divisions of the academies in Kiev and Minsk.  At the same time, he was also a literary contributor to Pravda (Truth), gave lectures at the Gorky Institute, and edited academic and popular works.  He wrote much about the Soviet Yiddish writers (Bergelson, Der Nister, Halkin, Fininberg, Kvitko, and others) not only in Yiddish but also in Russian newspapers and magazines.  Following the Nazi invasion of Russia, he volunteered to fight on the front, and he was killed on the field of battle in late 1941.
            Gurshteyn was a central figure in Yiddish literary scholarship in Soviet Russia.  The most important of his best 150 bibliographic, historical, and methodological works would include: “Der istiker tsushtand fun peretses byografye” (The present state of Peretz’s biography), Tsaytshrift 1 (Minsk, 1926), pp. 87-104; “Sakhaklen fun der mendele-forshung” (A summing up of Mendele research), Tsaytshrift 2-3 (1928), pp. 485-524; “Der yunger mendele in kontekst fun di 60er yor” (The young Mendeke in the context of the 1860s), Shriftn (Writings) 1 (Kiev, 1928), pp. 180-98; “A naye vendung in der mendele forshung” (A new turn in Mendele research), Visnshaftlekhe yorbikher (Scholarship yearbooks) 1 (Moscow, 1929), pp. 214-26; “Plekhanovs onshoyungen vegn literatur” (Plekhanov’s conceptions of literature), Visnshaft un revolutsye (Science and revolution) 3-4 (Kiev, 1935), pp. 9-46; “Mendeles briv” (Mendele’s letters), in the anthology Mendele un zayn tsayt (Mendele and his times) (Moscow, 1940); “Der yidisher teater in di 60-er yorn funem XIX yorhundert” (The Yiddish theater in the 1860s), in the same anthology.  Among his books: Fragn fun marksistisher literatur-kentenish (Issues in Marxist literary knowledge) (Moscow, 1931), 85 pp.; Problemes fun kritik (Problems of criticism), with M. Viner (Moscow, 1933), 269 pp.; Sholem-aleykhm, zayn lebn un shafn (Sholem-Aleykhem, his life and work) (Moscow, 1946), 64 pp.; Kritish-biblyografishe fartsaykhenungen vegn sholem-aleykhem (Critical bibliographical notes concerning Sholem-Aleykhem) (Moscow, 1937), published 20,000 copies.

Sources: Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (November 1934); Y. Nusinov, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (August 5, 1942); Dr. Y. Shatski, in Yivo-bleter 23 (1944), pp. 125-39; Shatski, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (August 1946); M. Notovitsh, in Eynikeyt (February 24, 1945); Y. Dobrushin, in Eynikeyt (March 17, 1945); Rivke Rubin, in Eynikeyt (November 17, 1945); Rubin, in Yidishe kultur (August 1946); Kh. Nadel, in Eynikeyt (July 5, 1947); Y. Serebryani, in Yidishe kultur (September 1949); Al. Pomerants, in Edelshtat-gedankbukh (Remembrance volume for [Dovid] Edelshtat) (New York, 1953).

Aleksander Pomerants

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