Tuesday 25 September 2018


YEKHIEL FALIKMAN (December 31, 1911-June 10 [or May 9?], 1977)

            He was a prose author, born in the town of Lubar (Lyubar), Zhytomyr district, Ukraine, to a farming family. From an early age, he demonstrated a penchant for painting and wrote poetry as well. He completed a seven-year school in Lyubar. He went on to study at the Kiev Art School from 1928. He did not graduate but went to work at a steel foundry in the “Bolshevik” machine-manufacturing factory in Kiev. His literary activity began in 1931 in Kiev, when he debuted in print in the Kharkov journal Di royte velt (The red world) with a story entitled “Di stepes shitn zikh” (The steppes are crumbling). This piece provided early evidence of his later style: a talent for broad epic description, complex subject matter, realistic imagery, and romantic pathos. The editor of Di royte velt, Henekh Kazakevitsh, welcomed this young writer’s debut with a congratulatory note. Kazakevitsh was then appointed editor-in-chief of Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan star), and he summoned Falikman to join him there. He spent 1932-1933 in Birobidzhan as a contributor to the newspaper. As a result of his time spent in Birobidzhan, he brought out his first book: Tsvishn spokes, dertseylungen (Amid the hills, stories) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1937), 277 pp., second edition (Minsk, 1938), 280 pp.; a later book also concerned Birobidzhan, Onheyb friling, dertseylungen un noveln (Beginning of spring, stories and novellas) (Kiev-Lvov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1940), 267 pp. During the years of WWII, he worked as a military correspondent for various army newspapers at the Russian front. He composed a series of war stories which were compiled in his book, Libe un fayer, front-dertseylungen (Love and fire, stories of the front) (Moscow: Emes, 1943), 88 pp. From that point, his basic work was dedicated to the war, the tragic fate that millions of people faced, the Holocaust of the Jewish people, and the heroism of its best sons and daughters. For his military distinctions at various fronts against the Germans, he was awarded medals and the rank of major of the guard. His novels—Di shayn kumt fun mizrekh, roman (The light comes from the East, a novel) (Moscow: Emes, 1948), 538 pp., second edition (Buenos Aires: IKUF, 1951), 472 pp.; Der shvartser vint (The black wind); Der urteyl iz oysgefilt (Judgment fulfilled); and Fayer un ash (Fire and ash)—formed a tetralogy, in which Falikman reached an extraordinary level of depiction. Together with these works, he published a series of other prose writings, originals and translations into Russian and Ukrainian. The critics noted that it was characteristic of Falikman to have a profound understanding of the historical background, embodied in his writings. In the Yiddish literature of his day, he was distinguished for the historical quality of his writings. About those things which he should not have addressed in his writing—village life, the shtetl, the city, the Taiga in the distant east—everywhere he described the fighting strength, the struggle of good and evil, and the triumph of the good over the malevolent. Already advised against war novels, which were not only for him a socio-political and socio-historical theme, but also an ethnic one, it was the history of the dreadful catastrophe of the Jewish people. He published stories in: Der shtern (The star) in Kiev; Tsum zig (To victory), Heymland (Homeland), and Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) in Moscow; Af naye vegn (Along new roads), Almanakh (Almanac), and Ikuf (IKUF [= Jewish Cultural Association]) in New York (1948); and Folksshtime (Voice of the people) in Warsaw; among others.

Among his other works: Mentshn fun mayn land, dertseylungen (Men of my country, stories) (Moscow: Emes, 1945), 166 pp. He also translated by himself into Russian his work Der geviter in tishaish (The tempest at Tishaish [original: Groza nad Tishaishei]) (Kiev: Radians'skii pis'mennik, 1957), 243 pp.—it also appeared in Ukrainian. He was a member of the editorial collective of Sovetish heymland. He was one of the most important Soviet Yiddish prose writers whom the liquidations of 1948-1952 managed to avoid. Together with Note Lurye and Elye Shekhtman, among others (from the generation of writers on the eve of WWII), Falikman created the backbone of contemporary Soviet Yiddish prose. He died in Kiev.

Sources: A. Velednitski, in Sovetishe literatur (Kiev) (February 1938); Y. Nusinov, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (August 5, 1942); A. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1945); A. Kipnis, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (September 27, 1945); Yisroel Serebriani, in Eynikeyt (November 20, 1945); Noyekh Lurye, in Eynikeyt (April 20, 1946); N. Y. Gotlib, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (March 30, 1953); N. Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher shrayber in sovetn-farband (Jewish creation and the Jewish writer in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Biblyografye fun yidishe bikher vegn khurbn un gvure (Bibliography of Yiddish books concerning the Holocaust and heroism) (New York, 1962); A. Heldes, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) (March-April 1962).

Benyomen Elis

[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. 288-89.]

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