AVROM VEVYORKE (AVRAHAM VIEVIORKA) (1887-December 15, 1935)
He was a poet, prose author, and playwright, born in the town of Babyak (Babiak), Kalish (Kalisz) district, Poland, into a Hassidic family. His father was a ritual slaughterer and his younger brother the Yiddish writer and journalist, Volf Vevyorke. Avrom received a strongly religious Jewish education and even prepared to become a rabbi, but very early on he demonstrated an inclination for literature and began writing at a very young age. He published his first stories and poems in the daily newspaper Der veg (The way) in Warsaw in 1906 and in the weekly Roman-tsaytung (Fiction newspaper) also in Warsaw in 1907. He moved to Galicia in 1908, and there he devoted himself thoroughly to his literary pursuits, took part in a competition in Idisher vokhnblat (Jewish weekly newspaper) in New York, won the prize for his story “Der bal-tshuve” (The penitent), and from that point forward frequently published his work in a variety of American and European serials. From 1911 he was a contributor to and for a time literary editor as well of Tog (Day) in Cracow, edited by Yoyne Krepl. In 1912 he published and edited in Berlin Dos bukh (The book), a “monthly periodical for art and criticism,” in which he published the first chapters of his novel “Der misboyded” (The eremite), also poems and (using the pen names: A. Byelko and Ab"g) current events articles, reviews, and notices. He later lived in Antwerp and London, where in 1912 he edited a Shvues-blat (Shavuot sheet) and the weekly Dos yudishe vort (The Jewish word). He placed work in Avrom Reyzen’s Der nayer zhurnal (The new journal) in Paris in 1913, Di tsayt (The times) in London (edited by Morris Meyer), and Dos naye lebn, zamlbukh far literatur un kunst (The new life, anthology of literature and art” (London: Yugend, 1916), 46 pp. That year, 1916, he left for Russia, where in 1917, after the October uprising, he stood with the Bolsheviks. He contributed actively to the building of Soviet culture, working for a time as a letter censor in the Jewish Commissariat. In 1920 he moved to Moscow, and there he was a close contributor to Emes (Truth) until 1930.
Vevyorke was a creative personal in virtually every field of literature: a poet, a playwright, a prose author, a journalist, a critic, and a researcher. More than elsewhere, his talents were most revealed in playwriting and in critical and historical scholarship. His play Brilyantn (Diamonds)—also known as 137 kinder heyzer (137 children’s homes)—was produced at the Moscow Yiddish State Theater on June 8, 1926, as a musical comedy, and staged in New York by “Artef” Theater (November 20, 1930). He also contributed to the collection Shtrom (Current) and other periodicals, and he wrote a number of further plays, such as the following. Naftole botvin (Naftaly Botvin) was first staged by the Yiddish State Theater of Byelorussia (December 12, 1927) and at New York’s “Artef” (October 8, 1928). His play Der step brent (The steppe is burning) was first produced by the Kiev Yiddish State Theater in 1930. All of his dramatic works were dedicated to actual problems in light of their times. In his Honenkrey, a misterye in tsvey aktn (Cock’s crow, a mystery in two acts), written in verse, in which he depicted the Bolshevik Revolution in the environs of a petit bourgeois Jewish town; it ridiculed Jewish mysticism which had captivated him until the Revolution, and at the same time it was a satire of Jewish decadence. In Brilyantn he offered a picture of a Jewish town during the introduction of NEP (New Economic Policy). With the background of general destruction after seven harsh years of war and civil war, pogroms and economic chaos, the playwright presented an image of a kind of Jewish Khlestakov (as in Gogol’s The Government Inspector), a figure he calls Shindl, a former Bundist and now a racketeer, who declares himself in the town to ostensibly be a defender of Jewish interests at the center (in Moscow). In his play Naftole botvin, Vevyorke traced the image of a well-known revolutionary as a characteristic manifestation of the revolutionary movement generally. Der step brent was dedicated to an actual topic at the time: Jewish settlement on the land on the eve of collectivization. All of his works carried with them the imprint of the times. This is connected as well to Vevyorke literary critical work. In this sense, his effort to investigate the problems of “Shomer and Shomerism” and rehabilitate Shomer’s (Nokhem-Meyer Shaykevitsh) name in Yiddish literature is very interesting; he called Shomer a “forerunner of Yiddish proletarian literature.” This effort on his part is fascinating in connection with Sholem-Aleykhem’s [highly critical] “Shomers mishpet” (Shomer’s trial) of 1888; Vevyorke expressed his views in a series of articles published in the Soviet and American Yiddish press and later in his book Revizye (Revision) of 1931. He died of a heart ailment in Kiev.
He would later write other plays: Drayendike fligl (The twisted wing), A patsh (A slap), Mayn soyne (My enemy), and Di mishpokhe maymon (The family Maymon), among others. His books include: Himl un erd (Heaven and earth), Hassidic tales, monologues, and sketches (Lemberg: Kh. Itskovitsh, 1909), 78 pp.; Libshaft (Love), poetry (Cracow: Shulamis, 1911), 80 pp.—in Zalmen Reyzen’s Leksikon, this is listed as Benkshaft (Longing) (Lemberg: Shulamis, 1909), 80 pp.; Baladn (Ballads) (Cracow: Dos bukh, 1912), 49 pp.—including “Di sreyfe” (The blaze), “Der tsadek in tol” (The pious man in the valley), and “Bay di toyern fun roym” (At the gates of Rome); Farloshene likht (Light extinguished), stories of Hassidic life (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1923), 222 pp.; Af a vaysn boym (On a white tree), a play in four acts (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1923); Honenkrey, a misterye in tsvey aktn (Moscow: Kultur-lige, 1923), 63 pp.; Der oysleg fun yidish (The spelling of Yiddish) (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1926), 45 pp.; Af der grenets (At the border), a comedy in four acts (Moscow, 1928), 69 pp.; Naftole botvin, a drama in four acts (Minsk, 1929), 80 pp.—staged first by the Yiddish state theater of Byelorussia on December 12, 1927; Der step brent, a play in three acts (Kiev, 1930), 86 pp.; Revizye (Kharkov-Kiev: Literatur un kunst, 1931), 222 pp.; Unzer yat naftole (Our guy Naftole), “a drama for youngsters, Communist youth, and pioneers,” a reworking of the play Naftole botvin (Kharkov, 1932), 66 pp.; Yidsektsye mapp (The Jewish section of MAPP [Moskovskaia assotsiatsiia proletarskikh pisatelei, or Moscow association of proletarian writers]), a drama (Kharkov, 1932), 103 pp.; In shturem (Under assault), articles on literature and theater (Kharkov-Kiev, Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 148 pp.; Der stil fun der proletarisher literatur (The style of Proletarian literature) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 63 pp.; Dramatishe shriftn (Dramatic writings) (Kharkov: Literatur un kunst, 1933), 404 pp.; A kholem in a zumer-nakht (A dream on a summer’s night), a comedy in three acts (Kharkov, 1934), 80 pp. He also compiled: In shotn fun tlies, almanakh fun der yidisher proletarisher literatur in di kapitalistishe lender (In the shadow of the gallows, an almanac of Yiddish proletarian literature in the capitalist countries) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 347 pp; Der shlogler hot dos vort (The shock troop has the word) (Kharkov-Kiev: Literatur un kunst, 1932), 236 pp. He translated Upton Sinclair’s Kenig koyl (King Coal) (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1925), 389 pp.; and Johannes R. Becher’s Maysim maskarad (Tales of masquerade) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1931), 45 pp.; among others. His work was included in: Shlakhtn (Battles) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932); Almanakh, fun yidishe sovetishe shrayber tsum alfarbandishn shrayber-tsuzamenfor (Almanac, from Soviet Jewish writers to the all-Soviet conference of writers) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934); and 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 Jewish proletarian literature) (Moscow: Central People’s Publishers, 1932).
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (under “Vyevyorka”); Shmuel Niger, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (April 29, 1927); Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (November 1934; January 1947); Niger, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (March 23, 1956); Y. Bronshteyn, in Prolit (Kharkov) (March-April 1930); Avrom Reyzen, in Tsukunft (August 1930; February 1931); M. Khashtshevatski, in Di royte velt (Kharkov) (August 1931); A. Glants, in Tog (New York) (May 17, 1932); M. Viner, in Farn leninishn etap in der literatur-kritik (For the Leninist stage in literary criticism) (Kiev, 1932); Viner, in Shtern (Minsk) (April-May 1932); Viner and A. Gurshteyn, in Problemen fun kritik (Issues in criticism) (Moscow, 1933); M. Olgin, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (February 11, 1933); N. Rubinshteyn, Dos yidishe bukh in sovetn-farband in 1932 (The Yiddish book in the Soviet Union in 1934) (Minsk, 1933), p. 91 (concerning Esther Vevyorke); Avrom 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. 25, 27-29, 50-51, 66; B. Glozman, in Idisher kemfer (October 4, 1940); D. Tsharni (Charney), A yortsendlik aza, 1914-1924, memuarn (Such a decade, 1914-1924, memoirs) (New York, 1943); E. Almi, Momentn fun a lebn (Moments in a life) (Buenos Aires, 1948), pp. 103-53; H. Vaynroykh, Blut af der zun, yidn in sovet-farband (Blood on the sun, Jews in the Soviet Union) (Brooklyn, 1950), p. 49; Al. Pomerants, in Dovid edelshtat gedenk-bukh (Dovid Edelshtot memory book) (New York, 1952), pp. 535-40, 543, 546; Pomerants, in Literarishe bleter (January 3, 1936); Pomerants, in Signal (New York) (January 1936); Pomerants, in Forverts (New York) (March 1, 1959); Ts. Kahan, in Tshenstokhov (Częstochowa), ed. Sh. D. Zinger (New York, 1958), with a bibliography prepared by Yefim Yeshurin, pp. 121-24; N. Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher arbeter in sovetn-farband (Jewish creation and the Jewish worker in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; A. A. Roback. The Story of Jewish Literature (New York, 1940).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 249; 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. 141-42.]