YEKHIEL HOFER (1906-October 25, 1972)
He was a storyteller, poet, and literary essayist, born in Warsaw. He was raised in a deeply Jewish home and was highly learned in Mishna and the commentators. He was a doctor of medicine by profession, but he did not practice. He was a contributor and later director of the Psycho-Hygienic Consultation Center of TOZ (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia [Society for the protection of health]) in Warsaw. He was in Soviet Russia during WWII, and there he was exiled to the distant North. In 1948 he was in Paris, and from 1951 he was living in Israel. He began writing in Polish, later switching to Yiddish. He wrote poetry, stories, literary essays, and current events pieces for Yiddish periodicals in Poland, Paris, and Israel. His work was included in: M. Ḥalamish, Mikan umikarov, antologya shel sipure yidish beerets yisrael (From near and from far away, anthology of stories in Yiddish in Israel) (Merḥavya, 1966); Shimshon Meltser, Zugot, shemona-asar sipurim shel shisha-asar meḥabrim beyidish (Pairs, eighteen stories by sixteen authors in Yiddish) (Tel Aviv, 1972); and M. Ravitsh, Dos amolike yidishe varshe (Jewish Warsaw of the past) (Montreal, 1966). He received the Manger Prize in 1971. Among his writings: Lider fun der nakht (Poems of nighttime) (Paris: A. B. Tserata, 1950), 62 pp.; A hoyf af pokorne, shteyger-roman (A court in Pokorna, a novel of manners) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1959), 544 pp., Hebrew translation by Dov Sadan (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1968), 308 pp.; A hoyf af muranov, shteyger-roman (A court in Muranov, a novel of manners) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1962), 2 vols., Hebrew translation by Ḥanokh Kalai (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1977), 419 pp.; Amol (In the past), stories (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1963), 261 pp.; Mit yenem un mit zikh, literarishe eseyen (With another and with oneself, literary essays) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1964, 1976), 2 vols.; R. Tankhum (Rabbi Tanḥum) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1966), 218 pp., Hebrew translation by Eliyahu Poret and Ḥayim Peleg (Tel Aviv: Am oved, 1968), 174 pp.; In vayser farfalnkeyt, fun a sovetishn lager far tsvangs-arbet afn vaytn tsofn, roman (In white hopelessness, from a Soviet camp for forced labor in the far North, a novel) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1969), 418 pp., Hebrew translation by Shelomo Shenhod (Tel Aviv: Yavneh, 1972), 301 pp.; Lider fun shpitol un lider fun der nakht (Poems from a hospital and poems of the night) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1976), 203 pp., including Hebrew translations; Itsik manger (Itzik Manger), essays in bilingual edition with Hebrew translation by Ḥanokh Kalai (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1979), 139 pp. The principal theme in Hofer’s work was “Jewish life in Warsaw in the years prior to WWI…. We have in his books,” noted Y. Yanasovitsh, “such an abundance of descriptions of ways of life and such a wealth of types and images which populated the Jewish street in Warsaw in the past; there is thus in them a wealth of detailed depiction of Warsaw streets and plazas, such extraordinarily authentic events from that time…. The wide panorama of Jewish interrelationships, the vivid colorfulness of Jewish characters and even the relations between Jews and their Gentile neighbors…. Aside from his description of ways of life, we have in his works the very essence of every prose creation, and that would be: people, and not just random people, but human figures and human destiny.” Hofer was “the poet of thin sadness and of ‘poetry of the night,’” wrote Melekh Ravitsh, “the long-breathing and exceptionally vivid author of novels, whose background was the ‘Warsaw courtyard’ and the literary essayist, well primed and originally constructed.” He died in Yafo.
Sources: M. Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon) (Montreal, 1947), vol. 3, pp. 157-58; Y. Ḥ. Biltski, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (September 5, 1969); L. Fogelman, in Forverts (New York) (June 15, 1969); V. Kuper, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (December 27, 1969); Dov Sadan, Avne miftan (Threshold of stones) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1970), vol. 2, pp. 247-64; A, Oyerbakh, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (New York) (July 12, 1970); Sh. Rozhanski, in Idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (July 12, 1970); M. Mikhelson, in Hadoar (New York) (February 18, 1972); G. Kressel, in Davar (October 3, 1972); M. Ḥalamish, in Al hamishmar (October 3, 1972); Y. Hirshhoyt, in Tsukunft (new York) (February 1973); Y. Yanasovitsh, Penemer un nemen (Faces and names), vol. 2 (Buenos Aires, 1977), pp. 97-109.
Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 210-12.