Thursday 21 April 2016



            He was a prose writer and essayist, born in Ukraine.  He began publishing sketches in Kiev’s Russian-language newspaper, Kievskaia mysl' (Kievan thought), in the years of WWI, and he placed a story in Maxim Gorky’s anthology Letopis' (Chronicle) (St. Petersburg). He debuted in print in Yiddish with a sketch, “Fun der gas” (From the street), in the newspaper Naye tsayt (New times) in Kiev (September 7, 1917). From 1918 he wrote, primarily in Yiddish, stories, novels, and critical essays, and he published them in: Bikher-velt (Book world) 3-4 (1919), pp. 61-65, and 4-5 (1919), pp. 43-47, in Kiev; Folks-tsaytung (People’s newspaper) 58 [319] (1919) and 59 [320] (1919) in Kiev; Royte velt (Red world) 3 (1926), pp. 7-15 in Kharkov; Almanakh (Almanac) 1 (1926), pp. 7-25 in Kiev; Naye tsayt (New times); Komunistishe shtim (Communist voice); Kompon; Emes (Truth); Sovetish (Soviet); and Sovetishe literatur (Soviet literature), among others. Over the period 1922-1923, he published two stories in the Moscow journal Shtrom (Tide). In literary circles, his graphic, rhythmically lyrical stories, although without plats, aroused great interest, and he garnered a respectable place among the new Yiddish prose authors. In the mid-1920, he was among the initiators and founders of the “Association of Jewish Writers in Ukraine,” which published the anthology Ukrayine (Ukraine), in which he placed fragments of his novel In aker (In a plough), dedicated to the civil war. In 1926 he joined the association “Boy” (Construction), which proclaimed that the goal of literature was “artistically to clarify and embody in words and images the great class struggles of the proletariat, the reconstruction processes” and to lead “a fight against literary parasitism, against cheapening and simplifying the processes of reality, against talentlessness and ideological poverty which often attempts to sloganeer with leftist phrases.” The “Boy” group resisted applying political pressure on writers and accentuated in its declaration that “artistic stature and development must be understood as an organic process. One must not create around the artist an atmosphere such that he will feel compelled to mask himself with borrowed formulations.” The Communist leadership was unable to respond to such a stance, and it harshly criticized him. At that point, Volkenshteyn began to write a novel Blut (Blood) about the contribution of the Jewish labor movement to the Revolution of 1905. When he finished writing the novel in 1930, however, it turned out that the official position concerning the historical role pf the Jewish labor movement had changed, and his novel could not see the light of day. Only certain parts of it were published over the years of the 1920s. In 1929 Volkenshteyn’s work Roygeshrey (Rude scream) was published, dedicated to the civil war. This was his last book—in the 1930s, he scarcely published anything artistic. From time to time, he published essays and, mainly, was concerned with translating from Russian into Yiddish (Mikhail Koltsov’s sketches, Maxim Gorky’s stories) and from Yiddish into Russian (Sholem-Aleichem’s stories. After evacuation during WWII, he returned to Kiev, but wrote nothing. A severe illness confined him to his bed. He died in Kiev and was honored with an obituary even in Moscow’s Literaturnaia gazeta (Literary newspaper).

Among his books: Har-hunger, dramatishe poeme in fir aktn (Lord hunger, a dramatic poem in four acts), after Leonid Andreev (Kiev: Komunistishe fon, 1922), 49 pp.; Yidishe literatur (Yiddish literature), a reader of literature and criticism (with Nokhum Oyslender, Noyekh Lurye, and Ezra Fininberg) (Kiev, 1928), 376 pp.; Roygeshrey (Kharkov: State Publ., 1929), 199 pp.; Rudolf shmitke (Rudolf Shmitke), a novel published in Sovetish 7-8 (Moscow, 1938), 252 pp.; Zeks shrayber ordentreger, etyud (Six decorated writers, a study) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1940), 49 pp.  He translated: Ulianova-Elizarova, Derinerungen vegn aleksander ilitsh ulyanov (Memories of Aleksandr Ilich Ulyanov [original: Vospominanii︠a︡ ob Aleksandre Ilʹiche Ulʹianove]) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 171 pp.; Mikhail Koltsov, Ikh vil flien (I want to fly) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1933), 180 pp.; Mark Twain, Tom soyer (Tom Sawyer) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1935), 320 pp.; Maxim Gorky, Drayen, roman (Three people, a novel [original Troe (Three of them)]) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1936), 307 pp.; Gorky, Di grivenke (The ten-kopeck piece [original: Grivennik]) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1937), 19 pp.  Significant essays would include: “Unzer gorki” (Our Gorky), Sovetishe literatur 6 (1938), pp. 159-69; “Taras shevtshenko” (Taras Shevchenko), Sovetishe literatur 2 (1939), pp. 214-48; “Shuesn vegn unzer proze” (Chats about our prose), Sovetishe literatur 7 (1939), pp. 115-25.  His work appeared in such places as: Shlakhtn (Battles) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932); the collection 1905; and he contributed to Ukraine, literarish-kinstlerisher almanakh (Ukraine, literary-artistic almanac) (Kiev, 1926).

Sources: Y. Nusinov, in Royte velt (Kharkov) 9 (1926); “Deklaratsye fun der literarisher fareynikung ‘boy’” (Declaration from the association Boy), Royte velt 5-6 (1927), pp. 139-42; Shimeni (Sh. Dubin), in Shtern (Kharkov) (September 26, 1926); A. Finkl, in Royte velt 3 (1930), p. 157; A. Abtshuk, Etyudn un materialn tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur bavegung in FSRR (Studies and material for the history of the Yiddish literature movement in the Soviet Union) (Kharkov, 1934), pp. 203-7, 268; B. Slutski, in Proletarishe pen (Kiev) 90 (1934); I. Fefer, in Proletarishe pen 21-22 (1935); Al Pomerants, Inzhenern fun neshomes, di shrayber un bikher fun der yidisher sovetisher literatur (Engineers of the souls, the writers and books of Soviet Yiddish literature) (New York, 1943), pp. 25, 56; Y. Lifshits and M. Altshuler, comps., Briv fun yidishe sovetishe shraybers (Letters of Soviet Jewish writers) (Jerusalem, 1979/1980), pp. 175-90.

Aleksander Pomerants 

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 230-31; 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. 130-31.]


1 comment:

  1. DOVID VOLKENSHTEYN translated from Russian into Yiddish L. Tolstoy'sKavkazer gefangener (orig.: Кавказский пленник = Prisoner of the Caucasus).- Kharkov : Ukrmelukhenatsmindfarlag, 1938.- 63 pp.
    קאװקאזער געפאנגענער
    ל.נ. טאלסטאי; ײדיש - ד. װאלקענשטײנ
    Kavkazer gefangener
    L. N. Tolstoy; yidish - D. Volkenshteyn