DANIEL MARSHAK (August 6, 1872-19370
He was born in Tukum (Tukums), Latvia. He was the son of an itinerant schoolteacher who a heretic, prepared in a short period of time to take the examination to become a private tutor, and thus had to leave the city, settle with his family in Libave (Liepāja), where he worked as a teacher in a state school, though he couldn’t remain there long. He taught his son to make cigarettes, while Daniel’s mother made kvass, and he (the father) then disappeared, later appearing in Warsaw, traveling through the towns as a preacher, and on one occasion found himself in a foul business involved a small synagogue and was killed. At age ten, Daniel Marshak had to interrupt his studies and support his family; he built chairs and made cigarettes. He read a great deal, paid with cigarettes the Christian children who lent him books in Russian and German. He later learned the cobbler’s trade. In 1891 he set out for the land of Israel, stopping en route in Warsaw where he met his father, and was deceived by a family that cheated him out of his travel expenses. He later became a soldier, serving in Kovno where he became a socialist and was active in the Bund. He later settled in Minsk where until his last days he worked in his trade (in a shoemaker’s workshop and on the street corner) and at the same time remained active as a writer. In the late 1890s, he began writing poetry and novellas in German, and initially in prison where he was thrown for revolutionary activities (1904), he began to write in Yiddish, debuting in print (autumn 1905) in Fraynd (Friend) in St. Petersburg with a story entitled “Aheym” (Homeward). From that point he published a great number of stories and sketches, the majority involving revolutionaries’ and workers’ lives (recounted in a simple, heartfelt realism), as well as poetry in: Fraynd, Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper), Leben un visnshaft (Life and science), and Veker (Alarm), among others. In 1913 he published in Fraynd a long story (about a working girl with a hunchback) under the title “Di farshtoysene” (The repudiated one); in 1915 he wrote a children’s play entitled Dos zibetel (The seventh) in Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees) in Vilna. He also produced a poem, “Der oytser” (The treasure) for Chaim Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye leben (The new life) (New York) 7 (1909); a poem “Der vofnshmid” (The arms-maker) in Veker; and other works. A book of his entitled Dertseylungen (Stories) was brought out by B. Kletskin in Vilna in 1921 (214 pp.). He also completed Sh. An-ski’s unfinished drama Tog un nakht (Day and night). In his second period of writing (in Soviet Byelorussia), he contributed stories and poetry to an array of journals. His book-length works include: Tamare (Tamara), a play in three acts (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publ., 1928), 87 pp.; Umzister tuml (Useless din), a comedy in one act (Minsk: Byelorussian Society of Playwrights and Composers, 1930), 40 pp.; Gots geyerke (God’s [female] peddler), one-act play (Minsk: Central People’s Press of the USSR, 1930), 32 pp.; Di frashtoysene, a novel (Minsk: State Publ., 1936), 461 pp. In his later years he also translated into Yiddish from German and Byelorussian: Vitalii Bianki, Murzuk (Murzuk) (Minsk, 1929); Sergei Timofeevich Grigor’ev, Amba (??) (Moscow, 1939), 136 pp.; A. Arlov, Krankeytn bay kelber (Illnesses among calves) (Minsk, 1932), 32 pp.; H. Kobet, Di hute (The glassworks), a contemporary play in three acts and fourteen scenes (Minsk, 1933), 83 pp.; Mikhas Linkov, Der bayan (The bayan [a kind of Russian accordion]), stories from Byelorussia (Minsk, 1934), 48 pp.; Af der hoykher khvalye (On the high cloud), from Byelorussian (Minsk, 1936), 125 pp.; Dzmitrok Biadulia, Der onkum (The arrival); and others.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); Y. Bronshteyn, in Prolit (March-April 1930); B. Orshanski, Di yidishe literatur in vaysrusland nokh der revolutsye (Yiddish literature in Byelorussia after the revolution) (Moscow, 1931); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.
[Additional information from: 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. 235-36.]