Wednesday 11 July 2018


MIMI PINZON (PINZÓN) (April 25, 1910-December 1975)
            The pen name of Adela Vaynshteyn-Shlyapotshnik, she was born in Belaya Tserkov (Bila Tserkva), Kiev district, Ukraine.  As a four-year-old child in 1914, she moved with her parents to Argentina.  She studied with a private tutor and in evening courses; one of her teachers was the poet Moyshe Pintshevski.  Subsequent education she acquired in Spanish-language institutions of higher learning.  Although she grew up in Argentina, like every authentic writer, she preserved and cared for her first childhood impressions of the old, beloved country, that traditional Jewish home in Bila Tserkva whose Yiddish name was “Shvarts-tume” (Black impurity).[1]  In Buenos Aires, the Argentine Paris, her family settled into one of the hugely overcrowded conventillos, a courtyard with numerous neighbors, where the city’s poor lived.  “Shvarts-tume” and the conventillos formed in her a writer’s figure for this young woman from Bila Tserkva.  She later put this down in writing in her book Der hoyf on fenster (The courtyard without windows).  The main protagonist Etl—socially and environmentally—is a blood relation of Sholem Aleichem’s Motl, the cantor Peysi’s son, and of Dovid Bergelson’s Penek.  Even the sound Motl-Etl (and one might also add in this instance Adela’s own name) ring back and forth between them both ethnic children’s figures.  Pinzon was the first in Yiddish literature to introduce the character of a Jewish girl at the center of a broad artistic canvas.  Using the name Mimi Pinzon, she published in the newspaper Di prese (The press) a fictional reportage piece concerning salesgirls in the Buenos Aires fashion shops.  The sharp social illumination of her theme, her vigorous descriptions in Yiddish, and her pseudonym Mimi Pinzon (“Mimi Pinson” being the name of the French protagonist and title character in Alfred de Musset’s novel of a Parisian seamstress who is seduced) aroused a sensation in Yiddish writing circles.  Her second story—more artistic than the first—“Di legende fun baranka-belgrano” (The legend of Baranca Belgrano), was held up in the editorial board for over a year.  The editor could not believe that a sixteen-year-old girl, raised in Spanish-speaking Buenos Aires, would be able to write such an artistic work in idiomatic Yiddish.  She was “interrogated” and after several conversations they were persuaded that she was the actual author.  In her subsequent creative years, she turned her attention to essay writing, but she also wrote fictional work.  Being an essayist, it would appear, was the continuation of her reading.  For many years she worked as a teacher in the Zhitlovsky School and in the dramatic studio of the theater “IFT” (Idisher folks teater [Yiddish people’s theater]); she was in charge of the Perets Middle School and gave public lectures on literary topics.  She contributed to many Yiddish and Spanish periodicals, such as: Di prese, Folks-shtime (Voice of the people), Haynt (Today), Der veg (The way), Ikuf (IKUF [= Jewish Cultural Association]), Oyfsnay (Afresh), Nayvelt (New world), Nay-lebn (New life), Kinder tribune (Children’s tribune), Unzer fraynt (Our friend), In gang (In progress), and Di yidishe froy (The Jewish woman); in Spanish, Judaica (Judaica) and Renovación (Renovation).  She had charge of regular columns—such as “Fun do un dort” (From here and there) and “Di nol fun zak” (The awl in the bag).  She co-edited the journals Ikuf and Di yidishe froy and the newspapers Tribune, Undzer lebn (Our life), and Renovación.  In book form: Der hoyf on fenster (Buenos Aires, 1965), 317 pp.  She translated into Spanish works by Der Nister, Grosman, Marshak, and others; Dovid Bergelson’s Baym dnyeper (By the Dnieper); and Yoysef Rabinovitsh’s three volumes of stories.  Into Yiddish she translated works by Jorge Luis Borges, Alfonsina Storni, and Horacio Quiroga, among others.  Other pseudonyms she used include: Ad-Sum and Yidl Kotoynti.  She died in Miami Beach, Florida.

Sources: V. Bresler, Antologye fun der yidisher literatur in argentine (Anthology of Jewish literature in Argentina) (Buenos Aires, 1944), p. 561; Pinye Kats, Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings) (Buenos Aires, 1947), pp. 103-5; Kats, foreword to Mimi Pinzon’s book, Der hoyf on fenster (Buenos Aires, 1965), pp. 7-10.
Yankev Birnboym

[1] Translator’s note.  “Bila Tserkva” literally means “white church”; in Yiddish the idea of a pristine or pure church is anathema, hence the euphemism “Shvarts-tume” or “black impurity” (or stain). (JAF)

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