Monday 21 March 2016


TSVI HIRSHKAN (1885-January 20, 1938)
            His true name was Tsvi-Hirsh Kahn.  He was born in Tshashnik (Čašniki), Vitebsk region, Byelorussia.  He received a traditional Jewish education, and he acquired secular knowledge as an external student.  For a certain period of time, he stood close to the Socialist Revolutionary Party.  Around 1905 he lived in the Swiss colony of Russo-German emigrants, as he traveled a great deal through Western Europe, even visiting the United States.  His debut in literature was under the name Tsvi Girshkan (following a theme of “Studies on Jewish migration”) under the title “Na venad” (Wanderer) which appeared in Zhitlowsky’s Dos naye lebn (The new life) 1 (1908) in New York.  After returning to Russia, aside from shorter stories in various periodicals—such as Der shtral (The beam)—he published in Perets’s anthology Yudish (Yiddish) 1-2 (1910) his novel Tsvey veltn (Two worlds), a broad description of the Jewish town in Byelorussia, which although it appears to have congealed on the outside, was developing new life forms internally.  The novel helped the young author acquire a name for himself.  At the start of WWI, he served as plenipotentiary of the relief committee for Jews driven to ruin by the war; he lived in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev, wrote semi-publicist essays, critical articles, and—very rarely—thoroughly fictional items, among them the story “Nit hinter a ployt” (Not behind a fence) which was also published as a separate pamphlet (see below).  A collection of his “Studies,” written during WWI and the first year of the Russian Revolution, appeared later in a book entitled Fun dervaytns (From afar)—including as well articles on Mendele, Sholem-Aleykhem, Perets, and others.  Around 1921 he left Soviet Russia and lived in Germany, and then traveled through Israel, Syria, Egypt, Italy, and France; in 1925 he set out for the United States where he became a regular contributor to Tog (Day) in New York, also writing for other serials.  Tog also published his biographical novel, Ekhod-haam (Aḥad Haam).  He published depictions of the civil war era in Russia, as well as impressions from his trip in Israel.  From 1915 he was contributing pieces to such Yiddish publications as: Di vokh (The week), Vispe (Islet), Bikher-velt (Book world), and Di tribune (The tribune); and in Hebrew translation in Hazman (The times), Haolam (The world), and En hakore (Eye of the reader), among others.  He published in Tsukunft (Future) in New York, among other things, an unfinished novel entitled Ershte trit (First step) from April to October 1924, the story “Yudke der bal pshore” (Yudke the compromiser) (August 1925), and articles about Sh. An-ski (March 1925) and about Spengler (May 1925).  From 1934 he became a contributor to the Communist newspaper Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom).  The most important creative work of his last years was the novel Boris kabalkin (Boris Kabalkin).
            His books include: Tsvey veltn, roman (Two worlds, a novel) (Kiev: Kiever farlag, 1918), 124 pp., second edition (Kiev, 1919), third edition (Berlin: Klal farlag, 1923), 155 pp.; Nit hinter a ployt (Kharkov: Hofenung, 1919), 28 pp., second edition (Berlin: Klal farlag, 1922), 32 pp.; Etyudn (Studies), vol. 1: Fun dervaytns (Kiev: Idisher folks-farlag, 1919), 144 pp.; Fun dervaytns (Berlin: Klal farlag, 1922), 287 pp.; Dzheyk pempik in pariz, komedye in 3 aktn (Jake Pempik in Paris, a comedy in three acts), printed in Tsukunft (July 1928); Unter eyn dakh (Under one roof), concerning the Yiddish classical writers (Warsaw: Bzhoza, 1931), 274 pp.; Boris kabalkin (New York, 1940), 262 pp.  He died in New York.  Hirshkan excelled with the acuity of his pen and with his approach to concealed subjects.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); D. Roykhl, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (October 9, 1931); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (January 16 and December 31, 1932); H. Rogof, in Tsukunft (New York) (March 1932); D. Marbo, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (April 16, 1935); Tog (Vilna) (February 4, 1938); M. Kitay, in Literarishe bleter (February 11, 1938); Y. Robinson, in Tsukunft (April 1938); “Fun tsvi hirshkans arkhiv” (From Tsvi Hirshkan’s archive), Nyu yorker shriftn (New York) (January 1939), pp. 1-10; Moyshe Shtarkman, in Hadoar (New York) (Sivan 4 [= May 23], 1947), p. 863; “Fun tsvi hirshkans literarisher yerushe” (From Tsvi Hirshkan’s literary heritage), Yidishe kultur (New York) (January 1948), pp. 25-28; M. Olgin, Kultur un folk (Culture and people) (New York, 1949), pp. 290-94; Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Zamlbukh lite (Anthology Lithuania) (New York, 1951), p. 1076; Talush, Yidishe shrayber (Yiddish writers) (Miami Beach, 1954), pp. 154-60; Rashel Hirshkan, in Morgn-frayhayt (January 23, 1955); D. Eynhorn, in Forverts (New York) (August 19, 1956).
Aleksander Pomerants

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 221.]

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