Wednesday, 22 March 2017


MORTKHE LITVIN (LITVINE) (September 6, 1906-1993)
      He was born in the town of Shavel (Šiauliai), Lithuania.  He received a secular Jewish education.  He studied humanities at Kovno and Berlin Universities.  He lived for a number of years in Germany and spent 1934-1937 in Nazi prisons.  From 1939 he was living in Paris.  During the Nazi occupation, he was a partisan in the French resistance movement in the south of France.  After the war he returned to Paris where he was active (until 1958) in the cultural institutions in leftist circles and contributed to their press publications; in Di naye prese (The new press) in Paris (1944-1958), he published literary critical essays and theater reviews, as well as translations from French, Russian, and German literature.  He published his own and translated poetry in Parizer shriftn (Parisian writings) in 1946, and contributed as well to: Yizker-bukh fun 14 umgekumene yidishe shrayber (Remembrance volume for fourteen murdered Jewish writers) (Paris, 1946); the monthly journal Oyfsnay (Afresh) in Paris (1947-1948), for which he also served as co-editor; Parizer tsaytshrift (Parisian periodical) (1953-1958), in which he published translations of Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Émile Verhaeren, among others, and served as editor (1954-1958); Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) (Tel Aviv) 40 (pp. 110-17) published a translation by him of fragments of the poem “Shmol zaynen di shifn” (Narrow are the vessels [original: “Étroits sont les Vaisseaux”]) by the Nobel laureate Saint-John Perse; Yidishe kultur (Yiddish culture) in New York, in which (July 1962) he published a translation of five poems by the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko.  In 1958 he left Communist circles.  He co-edited, with M. Lerman, Dos bukh fun lublin (The book of Lublin) (Paris, 1952), 680 pp.  He wrote for: Unzer kiem (Our existence) and Unzer vort (Our word) in Paris; and he published essays on French poets and translations of their works, as well as on Yiddish poets in Goldene keyt.  Books include: Frantseyzishe poezye, iberzetsungen un komentarn (French poetry, translations and commentaries) (Paris: Unzer kiem, 1968), 42 + 462 pp.  In 1973 he received the Manger Prize.  The jury’s resolution noted inter alia: “M. Litvin has created for us an illusion, that we are not confronting professional translations, but the actual source, the original, a Yiddish creation itself.”  Among his pen names: M. Valder.

Source: B. Mark, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) (October 1954).
Khayim Leyb Fuks

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 331-32.]

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