Wednesday 20 April 2016


            He was born in Lublin and lived in Warsaw, Grodno, and Bialystok, where he entered circles of followers of the Jewish Enlightenment.  He worked as a private tutor, a broker, and later a craftsman and a merchant.  He was the author of a series of pamphlets, among them: Rebe yokhontshe oder der geshtudirter magid (R. Yokhontshe or the studious preacher), “a highly interesting novel” (Warsaw, 1883), 45 pp., with a foreword by the author, in which we learn that Voltsonek had already published the following pamphlet: Di geheyme hokhtsayt (The secret wedding) (Warsaw, 1884), 60 pp.  His other works include: Dos farbrente kind (The zealous child) (Warsaw, 1886), 48 pp.; Der kaydaner ile (The prodigy of Kaidan), “in my version, this would be a story, in Shomer’s version a novel” (Warsaw, 1886), which appeared in a number of editions, the last in Vilna (1927), 32 pp., with a preface in which the author notes: “It is particularly difficult to write a work for Yiddish readers….  The reader seeks a novel, and first of all a novel should be burning with love, with unhappiness for that love, with all the appurtenances.  By the way, says he, it might not be a bad idea to have two, three, or at least one murder with a proper denunciation, so that a good Jew might suddenly flip out.  Why not, who’ll be bothered by it; who would say that at first glance a little person, say for example a teacher of little children, would become out of thin air a ‘residential doctor.’  That would certainly be a novel!...  So what can a poor writer who feels a spark in himself of the divine fire that we call talent do—he would have to rid himself of such worthy merchandise.  It leaves him feeling unsettled, like a beloved muse hangs him by the throat, yanks him along by the hand, smacks him on the ear, there!  Have pity, don’t be confused, give an accurate picture of Jewish life, an accurate image of its nature….  So pleads the talented one on the one hand, while on the other stands the bookseller with his handful of rubles reproachfully.  What’s the good of this talent of yours, we see the joys that Spektor makes with his journal, and that’s sufficient talent.  Give us a novel, brother.  Bring the Prussian frontier together with the Western Wall, but it’s okay to be confused.”  Voltsonek was also the author of: Shoshanim ben hakhokhim (Lilies among the thorns) (Vilna, 1892), 55 pp.; Der bakanter doktor (The well-known doctor) (Warsaw, 1882), which he later published as a drama in five acts with the title Der bakanter doktor, oder vi nit lib iz im der apikoyres (The well-known doktor, or how the heretic was not loved) (Warsaw, 1882), 30 pp.; Di geheyme libe (The secret love) (Warsaw, 1883),  second edition (Lublin, 1885), 32 pp.; A fuler vogn lebedige skhoyre, oder shloymke der bal-agole (The full wagon of living merchandise, or Shloymke the wagon-driver) (Warsaw, 1894), 32 pp.; Di farlorene kinder, oder der ataman iber di vald royber (The lost children, or the head of a band of forest robbers), a novel in two parts (Warsaw, 1889), 112 pp.; Der groyser gevins (The great winnings) (Warsaw, 1895).  He also compiled two textbooks: Utshebnik kontroler, a metode vos lernt oys shraybn un lezen rusish in dray vokhn on a lerer un kontrolirt zikh zelbst (A manual, a method to master writing and reading Russian in three weeks without a teacher and through self-regulation) (Warsaw, 1895), 64 pp.; Der yudisher kaligraf, vos lernt zelbst shraybn un lezen yudish (The Jewish calligrapher, which teaches oneself to write and read Yiddish), 2 volumes (Warsaw, 1895), each 32 pp.  He also published stories about Jewish life in Varshever yudisher familyen-kalendar (Warsaw Jewish family calendar) and in Mortkhe Spektor’s Hoyz-fraynd (House friend) 5 (Warsaw), under the pen name “V-k.”

Sources: Noyekh Prilucki, in Mame-loshn (Mother tongue) (Warsaw, 1921); Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO) (Warsaw, 1928); Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; Zalmen Reyzen, in Vakhshteyn-bukh (Wachstein book) (Vilna, 1939), p. 605; Dr. Y. Shatski, Geshikhte fun yidn in varshe (History of Jews in Warsaw), vol. 3 (New York, 1954), p. 269.
Khayim Leyb Fuks

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