Monday 17 October 2016


MOYSHE TAYTSH (MOSHE TEITCH, TEITZ) (July 1882-October 24, 1935)

            He was a poet and prose author, born in the settlement of Vartatsi, near the suburb Antokol (Antakalnis), Vilna County, Lithuania. His family later moved to the city of Vilna where he grew up. His father was an artisan, and he brought from Vilna a private teacher who taught his son Tanakh, Hebrew, Russian, and even a bit of German. For a short time when he was fourteen, Taytsh studied in Rameyle’s yeshiva, and he then moved to a Russian public school within the Jewish teachers’ institute, from which he graduated and then attended the institute itself, but he was soon expelled (from the second class) for not submitting to the fierce discipline which dominated there. That would have to have been around 1900-1901. Taytsh continued his education on his own, supported himself giving lessons, and joined in the illegal movement of the Bund in Vilna and Smorgon (Smarhon). He was arrested in 1901 in Smorgon during a strike of tanners, transported to Vilna, and placed in Number 14 Prison (in Antokol), where he remained for a short time. After being set free, he engaged in Bundist work with Shakhne Epshteyn, with whom he shared an apartment. He was arrested again later and placed in the Alekseyev Fort at the Modliner Fortress for two months in Warsaw—see his book, Di kore fun smorgon (The punishment at Smorgon), pp. 85f.

Around 1902-1903, he began writing. He had been writing poems in Hebrew and Russian prior to this, but at this time (apparently, under the influence of Avrom Reyzen’s first poems and stories) he began to write in Yiddish; he moved to Warsaw where he met Avrom Reyzen and began himself to publish in Mortkhe Spektor’s weekly newspaper Di yudishe folkstsaytung (The Jewish people’s newspaper) and in Avrom Reyzen’s anthologies, and from that point in time he contributed to a series of Yiddish newspapers and magazines, such as: Fraynd (Friend) in St. Petersburg; Y. Vortman’s Yudishe tsukunft (Jewish future) in London and Warsaw; Roman-tsaytung (Fiction newspaper) and Perets’s collection Yudish (Yiddish) in Warsaw; Chaim Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye lebn (The new life) and Di tsukunft (The future) in New York; and in Hebrew in Olam katan (Small world), Hatsfira (The times), and Hazman (The time). Together with Dovid Kasel, he contributed to a daily war leaflet in Yiddish (Warsaw, 1904), was one of the group that brought out in Warsaw (1907) the collections Nay-tsayt (New times), and was later the principal contributor to the first Yiddish daily newspaper in Bialystok, Byalistoker tageblat (Bialystok daily newspaper), edited by A. R. Hershberg (1913-1914). He edited M. Shiva’s weekly Hayntike tsayt (Contemporary times) (Bialystok, 1914) and compiled a variety of anthologies, such as: Arbayter-lider (Workers’ poetry) of 1906; Libe (Love) of 1907; and Shtile trit (Quiet steps) of 1908. He also compiled, together with M. Birnboym, a textbook for Yiddish beginners and did translations from Russian and Hebrew, among them Bialik’s “Arye bal guf” (Corpulent Arye). Over the years 1904-1915, Taytsh made his living from Yiddish newspaper work in Warsaw, Odessa, Vilna, Bialystok, and Lodz. He wrote—both under his own name and initials, as well as pseudonymously and anonymously—editorials and news reports, feature pieces and stories, poems and allegories, and he also read proofs for newspapers and presses. Around 1910-1911, he was already a writer with a reputation in Yiddish literature. It was mainly his poems that were popular, especially those celebrating nature and describing the sad landscape of impoverished Lithuania. Although in form Taytsh was clumsy, he was nonetheless direct in the subject matter of his verse, and the mournful, tender base tone of his lyric gravitated, indeed implored, to be sung. Not just ordinary readers but also young beginning writers (among them subsequently well-known poets among Jews) sang along with Taytsh: “I come to you from a wide-open field / With the friendliest of greetings, / The beloved son of spring / Has sent you warm kisses.” (“Friling” [Spring]); or “Uphill, downhill, for miles and miles, / Pulling my cart, the axle creaking, / The skinny grains look sad, / The sparse flax smiles bitterly.” (“Lite” [Lithuania]); or “Sing, my sister, your songs, / Your songs cast downward / All my empty worries / For today and for tomorrow.” (from his anthology Libe). His stories—semi-realistic and semi-symbolic, a kind of cloudy allegory—gravitated, irrespective of their artistic faults, toward readers of the time, making his stories just as popular then.

           During WWI Taytsh’s material condition, none too exalted until that point in time, became all the more precarious. Between 1915 and 1918, he worked at posts for Yekopo (Yevreyskiy komitet pomoshchi zhertvam voyny—“Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims”) and ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) in Kharkov, Moscow, and Kursk; he traveled through Ukraine (already after the February Revolution, 1917, in Russia) as a speaker on Yiddish literature; and he worked in the Jewish Ministry in Kiev. He had by that time joined the Jewish Folkspartey (People’s party), took on an active role in the election campaign of the party at its founding meeting (1917), and edited its weekly organ, Kharkover tsaytung (Kharkov newspaper), from August 1918. In 1918 his booklet Poemen (Poems) was published, and he became a member of the Communist Party. He wrote children’s poetry and stories, 1918-1919, which were published by various Yiddish presses in Moscow and Kharkov, and he compiled a booklet about cooperation based on need (published by the Kharkov Jewish Workers’ Cooperative). He moved to Moscow in 1920, after turning to Communism, and took to writing “proletarian” poetry and stories, became a contributor to Emes (Truth), the Party’s central newspaper in Moscow, and corresponded from Moscow for Frayhayt (Freedom) in New York and Di prese (The press) in Buenos Aires. He was active in the “Jewish Section of the Moscow Association of Proletarian Writers” and entered into the network of internal Party intrigues and denunciations, and as a result of which he was in 1922 (during the Party purge in Moscow) expelled from the Party.

Taytsh, though, was not to be silenced, went to great pains to return to winning the trust of the Communist Party, was later for the most part “rehabilitated,” received permission from the government to have his own two-room apartment in Moscow (something of great value in the late 1920s), was transferred to a state salary, and in the eleventh volume of the Soviet Literaturnaia entsiklopediya (Literary encyclopedia) of 1939 there was an entire column devoted to him. He virtually ceased writing poetry and now devoted himself primarily to prose dedicated to social problems in the spirit of the proletarian writer. In his Communist period, Taytsh was extraordinarily creative. The breakthrough works of 1922-1923—Khronik-bukh (Chronicle book) Oktober-freyd (October joy); Teg on dir, kleyne poemen (Days without you, short poems); Remont, fun alef tsurik (Reconstruction, from alef back); Dlonyes in zun, poeme fun harbst (Palms [of the hand] in the sun, autumn poem)—were bloated, unnatural, howling. These works by Taytsh were not even deemed successful by a Soviet critic (A. Litvakov scoffed at these works, as he did at those of Khatskl Dunets, among others as well). He later calmed down, became more secure in his Soviet standing, and continued writing more objectively and more artistically. His story, A hoyf af tshebotarske (A courtyard on Tshebotaske), and especially his novel, Der toyt fun khaver vulye, roman in dray teyln (The death of Comrade Vulye, a novel in three parts), caused quite a stir in Soviet Yiddish literature. The novel, which was translated into a number of languages, was published in a second edition in 1931. In the “Foreword” to the second edition, the publishers washed their hands of Taytsh’s individualism in the novel, but they could not bring themselves to not praise it. An excellent work from his second period was also the collection of various descriptions, mostly autobiographical, entitled Di kore fun smorgon—included in this work were the stories “Fun ‘gutn’ amol” (From the “good” past) and “Zashtatne” (Zashtatne), which also appeared in separate publications, the first being Shnobl, dertseylungen (Beak, stories), 70 pp. Among the other novels of his last years, the most successful were his descriptions: Arum der fabrik “di ershte shvalb,” roman (Around the factory, “The first swallow,” a novel); and Parteyen un mentshn (Parties and men). He also wrote plays for adults and for children, and many of his works were reissued in various editions. He died in Moscow.

            His works in book form include: Bay der arbayt (At work) of 1903, which later was published under the title Arbayter lider (Labor poems), “collected by Moyshe Taytsh” (Warsaw: Progres, 1906), 56 pp.; Liebe [Libe] (Love), “compiled by M. Taytsh,” first edition (Vilna: Frayer mentsh, 1907), 32 pp., second expanded edition (Warsaw: Y. Edelshteyn, 1908), 48 pp.; Tsvey mayselekh (Two little stories)—“Baym sheydveg” (At the crossroad) and “Di shnee royz” (The snow rose)—(Vilna: Di velt, 1907), 17 pp.; Folks-shule, a lerbukh far anfanger tsu lezen un shrayben yudish, far shule un hoyz-lere (Poeple’s school, a textbook for beginners to read and write Yiddish, lessons for school and home), with M. Birnboym (Warsaw: Y. Edelshteyn, 1908), 64 pp.; Shtile trit, zamlbukh (Quiet steps, anthology), part 1 (Odessa: H. N. Bialik-Sh. Burishkin, 1909), 16 pp.; Erd un himl (Earth and heaven), poetry (Odessa, 1909), 16 pp.; Bay a glezl vayn, a shpyon (With a glass of wine, a spy), stories (Warsaw, 1909); Shriftn (Writings) (Warsaw: Velt-biblyotek, 1910), 78 pp., three volumes (third volume, poetry); translation of Bialik’s Arye bal guf (Corpulent Arye) (Warsaw: B. Shimin, 1910/1911), 76 pp.; Der graf un di idn, a legende (The count and the Jews, a legend), in verse (Moscow: H. Aktsin, 1917), second edition (Kiev: Folks-farlag, 1920), 14 pp.; Far idishe kinders vegn (For the ways of Jewish children), children poetry (Kharkov: Pedagogisher farlag, 1918); Di vunderlikhe nesiye (The wonderful trip), a story in verse (Khakov: Pedagogisher farlag, 1918), 32 pp.; Poemen—“Harei at mekudeshet” (Behold you are consecrated) and “Der zig fun di bazigte” (The victory of the defeated)—(Kharkov: Idish, 1918), 52 pp.; Di gebroykh-kooperatsye un der idisher arbeter (Cooperation based on need and the Jewish worker) (Kharkov: Jewish workers’ cooperative “Self-Action,” 1919), 32 pp.; Dovid un bas-sheve, historishe drame in 4 aktn (David and Bathsheba, a historical play in four acts) (Kharkov: n.p., 1920), 60 pp.; Khronik-bukh, a poem in three parts (Moscow and Kharkov: Veltkeyt, 1922), 32 pp.; Oktober-freyd (Moscow: n.p., 1922), 32 pp.; Teg on dir, kleyne poemen (Moscow: n. p., 1922), 40 pp.; Remont, fun alef tsurik (Moscow: Idishe poligrafishe shul, 1923), 30 pp.; Dlonyes in zun, poeme fun harbst (Moscow: n.p., 1923), 28 pp.; A hoyf af tshebotarske (Moscow: V.A.P.P., 1926), 94 pp.; Far tsvantsik yor (1903-1923), geklibene verk (For twenty years, 1903-1923, selected writings) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1927), 296 pp.; Der toyt fun khaver vulye, roman in dray teyln (Minsk: State Publ., 1928), 208 pp., second edition (Moscow-Kharkov-Minsk: Central Publishers, 1931), 308 pp.; translation of Ye. Shabad, Vi azoy dertsit men kinder fun 3 biz 8 yor? (How does one raise children from age three to eight?) (Moscow: Central Peoples’ Publishers, 1928), 26 pp.; translation of Nadezhda Izrailevna Kulisher-Buntselman, Farvos men tor kinder nit bashtrofn (Why one ought not punish children) (Moscow: Central Peoples’ Publishers, 1928), 16 pp.; translation of O. Yohanson, Farvos vert a kind abergloybik? (Why is a child superstitious?) (Moscow: Central Peoples’ Publishers, n.s.), 16 pp.; translation of L. Geshelin, Git dem kind gezunte shpayz (Give the child healthy food) (Moscow: Central Peoples’ Publishers, 1928), 26 pp.; A hoyf af tsherbotarske, a play in four acts, by the drama circle at the Minsk club “Royter boyer” (Red builder) (Minsk: State Publ., 1929), 68 pp.; Arum der fabrik “di ershte shvalb,” roman (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1929), 256 pp.; Di kore fun smorgon, stories (Moscow: Central Publishers, 1930), 157 pp.; Vaysrusland, land un folk amol un itst (Byelorussia, land and people then and now) (Moscow-Kharkov-Minsk: Central Publishers, 1930), 56 pp.; Infuzarishe erd (Infused land), a novel (Moscow: Central Publishers, 1931), 288 pp.; Der veg keyn donbas, dertseylung (The road to the Donbas, a story) (Moscow: Emes, 1932), 143 pp.; Parteyen un mentshn (1934); Shnobl, dertseylungen (Moscow: Emes, 1935), 71 pp.; Zashtatne, etyudn (Zashtatne, studies) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1936), 223 pp.; Geklibene verk (Selected work) (Moscow: Emes, 1936), 370 pp. His work also appeared in: Lomir zingen (Let’s sing) (Moscow: Emes, 1940); and Der arbeter in der yidisher literatur, fargesene lider (The worker in Yiddish literature, forgotten poems) (Moscow: Emes, 1939).

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); Evreiskaia entsiklopediya (Jewish encyclopedia), vol. 14; Literaturnaia entsiklopediya (Literary encyclopedia), vol. 11 (Moscow, 1939); M. Vanvild, in Dos naye land (New York) 24 (1911), ed. Avrom Reyzen; M. Olgin, in Tsukunft (New York) (April 1912); M. Litvakov, In umru (Disquiet), vol. 2 (Moscow, 1926), pp. 109-12; L. Lerer, Di psikhologye fun literatur (The psychology of literature) (New York, 1926), p. 162; Shmuel Niger, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (April 29, 1927); Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), part 2 (Vilna, 1929), pp. 138-41, 209, 210, part 3 (Vilna, 1935), pp. 303-5; M. Mizheritski, in Di royte velt (Kharkov) (September-October 1931), pp. 197f; Khatskl Dunets, Far magnitboyen in der literatur (For the great works of literature) (Minsk, 1932), pp. 45-46; 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. 25, 27-29, 35-36, 95-96; A. Kushnirov, in Sovetish (Moscow) 3 (1935), pp. 290-91; Z. R. (Zalmen Reyzen, in Vilner tog (Vilna) (October 29, 1935); M. Kitai, in Literarishe bleter (November 8, 1935); Elkhonen Tsaytlin, In a literarisher shtub (In a literary home) (Warsaw, 1937), p. 54; D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), A yortsendlik aza, 1914-1924, memuarn (Such a decade, 1914-1924, memoirs) (New York, 19430, pp. 294, 296, 297-98, 311-12; Y. Dobrushin, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (December 25, 1945); A. Sh. Hershberg, in Pinkes byalistok (New York) 2 (1949), p. 147; E. Almi, in Undzer veg (New York) (February 15, 1950); Y. Baskin, “Epizodn fun mayn lebn” (Episodes from my life), in Baskin-bukh (Volume for Baskin) (New York, 1951); Yosl Kohn, Baym rand fun onhoyb (At the edge of the beginning) (New York, 1960), pp. 224f; Y. Lifshits and M. Altshuler, comps., Briv fun yidishe sovetishe shraybers (Letters of Soviet Jewish writers) (Jerusalem, 1979/1980), pp. 193-230.

Yitskhok Kharlash

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 282; 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. 162-63.]

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