Thursday 29 October 2015



            This was the literary name of Mortkhe Meyerovitsh, a dramatist, born in Dvinsk (Daugavpils), Latvia, into a poor family.  He studied in religious elementary school and in a Talmud Torah, but he had to leave to go to work at a young age to support himself and then to wander across Russian.  He lived in many cities, working as a laborer, a clerk, and a teacher.  As a “bezhenets” (Russian, “refugee”), homeless because of WWI, in 1917 he turned up in the Urals, and then wandered on further through Russia and ultimately arrived in Moscow in 1921.  There he studied in the academy of education and later graduated from the literature department of the Second Moscow University [now, Moscow State Pedagogical University].  His first, long story was published in the Moscow journal Shtrom (Current) in 1924, “In a tsayt aza” (In such a time), which dealt with the “refugees” from the war years and the aid organizations for them.  The literary critics welcomed the successful debut of the young prose writer. In the newspaper Der emes (The truth), the editor-in-chief Moyshe Litvakov, who was ordinarily a severe critic, published a praiseworthy article about the story. The critic Yekhezkl Dobrushin also offered a positive response. That same year Daniel published stories in the Kharkov journal Di roye velt (The red world). In the Moscow collection Nayerd (New land), which appeared in 1925, he placed one further story, “Rakhmiel der nakht-shoymer” (Rakhmiel, the night watchman). “Danyel Meyerovitsh,” as he signed his name, was recognized by everyone as one of the most significant Yiddish authors of prose. His volume of stories, Afn shvel (At the threshold), was published in 1928; it concerned the role of the intellectual or the artist in revolution.  There were also interesting chapters in this work about the Vilna “Poplaves” (a street in Vilna).

            He enjoyed distinctive success in 1930 for his long story “Yulis Simelyevitsh,” dedicated to the six men of the Jewish workers’ council in the Vilna underground, who in January 1919 committed suicide with their leader Yulis Simelyevitsh to avoid falling into the hands of the Polish Legions, when the latter surrounded the building they were in. The story proved to be quite a sensation, and Daniel reworked it into a play that he titled Fir teg (Four days) and which was staged in every Yiddish theater in the Soviet Union and abroad. In Moscow, Mikhoels played the lead role of Yulis.

            Also featured in his work were the Civil War—In a tsayt aza, Rakhmiel der nakht-shoymer, Yulis, and Zyamke kopatsh (Zyamke Kopatsh), among others—the problems of intellectuals and their ties to the Revolution—Afn shvel—and cultural history—Derfinder un komedyant, yohan gutenberg (The inventor and the comedian, Johannes Guttenberg) and Shloyme maymen (Salomon Maimon). Characteristic of his work is a certainty and an audacity in the realm of artistic method and form, engrossed psychology, masterful and detailed painting. He died in Yalta in the Crimea.

Among his books: Rakhmiel der nakht-shoymer (Kharkov: State Publ., 1925), 62 pp.; Af der zibeter linye (On the seventh line) (Moscow: Central People’s Publishers of the USSR, 1928), 16 pp.; Afn shvel (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1928), 112 pp.; Dovidl krumfisele (Little lame David) (Moscow: Central People’s Publishers of the USSR, 1928), 32 pp.; Leybke berlintshik (Little Leybe from Berlin) (Moscow: Central Publ., 1929), 29 pp.; In a tsayt aza (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers, 1929), 183 pp.; Forshtet (Suburbs), stories (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers, 1930), 289 pp.; Yulis, gesheenish (Yulis, the event) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1930), 151 pp.; Fir teg, yulis: heroishe tragedye in dray aktn (Four days, Yulis: Heroic tragedy in three acts) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1932), 71 pp., staged as well in the United States; Tsu zavodishe toyern (To the factory gates) (Kharkov: Kinder farlag, 1932), 98 pp.; Poplaves tantst (Dancing on Poplaves St.) (Kiev-Kharkov, 1932), 15 pp.; Freydike shtet (Joyous cities) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1933), 25 pp.; Der otryad (The detachment) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932), 24 pp.; Geklibene verk (Collected works) (Kharkov: Literatur un kunst, 1933), 430 pp.; Yulis, gesheenish, for schoolroom (Moscow: Emes, 1933), 149 pp.; Shiler un broyt (Pupil and bread), a drama (Kiev, 1933); Dertseylungen un noveln (Stories and novellas), vol. 2 (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1935), 288 pp.; Zorki hot geredt (Zorki has spoken), children’s story (Kharkov: Kinder farlag, 1935), 18 pp.; Dertseylungen (Stories) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1936), 64 pp.; Gorki hot geredt (Gorky spoke), children’s stories (Odessa, 1936), 19 pp.; Der sof fun a yunger libe (The end of a young love), a story (Moscow: Emes, 1937), 31 pp.; Derfinder un komedyant, yohan gutenberg, a drama in four acts (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1937), 91 pp.; Di shpil heybt zikh on (The play begins)—his plays: Zyamke kopatsh (Kiev: Kinder farlag, 1936), 105 pp., Derfinder un komedyant, and Fir teg—(Moscow, 1937), 210 pp.; Oktyabr-fayern (October fires), stories (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1938), 208 pp.; Di letste teg fun pyotr lukomski (The last days of Pyotr Lukomski), a story (Moscow: Emes, 1939), 32 pp.; A tate, tsvey vagonen mel (A father, two wagons of flour), stories (Moscow: Emes, 1939), 38 pp.; Mayn goldene kindheyt (My golden childhood) (Moscow: Emes, 1939), 201 pp.; Der heldisher brivtreger (The heroic letter carrier), stories (Moscow: Emes, 1940), 42 pp.; Ale verk (Collected works), two volumes (Moscow: Emes, 1940); Shloyme maymen, a drama (Moscow, 1941).

His work was also included in: Almanakh fun der sovetisher yidisher literatur (Almanac of Soviet Yiddish literature); Af barikadn, revolyutsyonere shlakhtn in der opshpiglung fun der kinstlerisher literatur (At the barricades, revolutionary battles in the lens of artistic literature) (Kharkov: Central Publishers, 1930); Der arbeter in der yidisher literatur, fargesene lider (The worker in Yiddish literature, forgotten poems) (Moscow: Central People’s Publishers, 1939); 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); Deklamator fun der sovetisher yidisher literatur (Declaimer of Soviet Yiddish literature) (Moscow, 1934); Der veg fun farat, kamf kegn bundizm un menshevizm in der yidisher proletarisher literatur (The way of betrayal, the struggle against Bundism and Menshevism in Jew proletarian literature) (Moscow: Central People’s Publishers, 1932); Sovetishe vaysrusland, literarishe zamlung (Soviet Byelorussia, literary collection) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1935); Komyug, literarish-kinstlerisher zamlbukh ([Jewish] Communist Youth, literary-artistic anthology) (Moscow: Emes, 1938); Far der bine: dertseylungen, pyeses, lider (For the stage: stories, plays, poems), with musical notation (together with Yekhezkl Dobrushin and Elye Gordon) (Moscow: Central People’s Publishers, 1929); Lenin un di kinder (Lenin and the children) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934); Shlakht (Battles) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932).

Sources: M. Litvakov, In umru (Disquiet), vol. 2 (Moscow, 1926), pp. 159-80; Y. P. (Yankev Pat), in Folks-tsaytung (Warsaw) (March 27, 1931); Y. Dobrushin, In iberboy, literarish-kritishe artiklen (Under reconstruction, literary-critical articles) (Moscow, 1932), pp. 137-59; In iberboy, literarish-kritishe artiklen (Under reconstruction, literary-critical articles) (Moscow, 1932), pp. 137-59; “M. danyel” (on the fifth anniversary of his death), Eybikeyt (Moscow) (February 1, 1945); H. Tsivin, “M. danyels sheferisher veg” (M. Danyel’s creative path), in Afn visnshaftlekhn front (On the scientific front), vol. 1-2 (Minsk, 1932), pp. 118-37; M. Olgin, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (November 20, 1932); M. Mizheritski, in Farmest (Kharkov) (April 1937); D. Bergelson, in Forpost (Birobidzhan) 2 (1937); M. Kitay, in Oyfboy (Riga) (June 1941); A. Gutman, in Der veg (Mexico) (March 8, 1941); A. Pomerants, Inzhenyern fun neshomes (Engineers of souls) (New York, 1943), 36 pp.; N. Y. Gotlib, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (March 30, 1953).

Aleksander Pomerants

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 188-89; 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. 92-94.]

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