Monday 29 October 2018


EZRA FININBERG (November 17, 1899-November 22, 1946)

He was a poet, prose author, playwright, essayist, and translator, born in Uman (Uman'), Kiev district, Ukraine. His paternal grandfather was a ritual slaughterer, and his maternal grandfather an itinerant schoolteacher. Fininberg studied in a “cheder metukan” (reformed religious elementary school), where for speaking Yiddish one would get smacked. At age fourteen he was already well-read in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian, as well as in European literature. In 1917 he was a cofounder of the Zionist socialist organization (later, known as Fareynikte, or United [socialist parties]) in Uman. He remained a teacher until 1922. From 1923 he became completely dedicated to literature, having begun to write at the age of twelve in Hebrew. He later switched to both Russian and Yiddish. In 1917 he debuted in print in the Russian provincial press. From 1920 he lived mainly in Kiev, and there, together with Moyshe Khashtshevatski, he edited for a short period of time Litbletl (Literary pages), a weekly supplement to the newspaper Komfon (Communist banner). His first collection of poetry, Otem (Breath) (1922), was very warmly received by Yiddish critics in the Soviet Union, who remarked on his flaming temperament and fine workmanship. His second collection, Lider (Poems) (1925), further fortified his place as one of the best young representatives of contemporary Soviet Yiddish poetry, both because of his form and because of his motifs, mainly those of the shtetl and conditions in light of the new social spirit and also motifs based on the great events of the time. The 1926 publication of his story Galop (Gallop) demonstrated that he was also a highly talented prose writer. In these years the principal themes of his works were the civil war, the pogroms against the Jews, and the shtetl in the first years of Soviet authority. For his despairing pogrom motifs and for his inclination toward symbolism, he took a beating from the vulgar sociological critics. Fininberg was a member of the Kiev writers’ group Vidervuks (Renaissance) and later of the group “Antene” (Antenna), also in Kiev, and he was one of the initiators (together with Nokhum Oyslender, Lipe Reznik, and others) of the literary association “Boy” (Construction), which he cofounded in Kiev in 1925, as well as secretary and a member of the editorial board of the journal Di royte velt (The red world). In his play Yungen (Youth), staged at the time of the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution at the Kiev Yiddish State Theater, he dramatized a series of moments from the Russian Revolution, beginning in the year 1905. Aside from articles, translations, and reviews (using such pen names as H. Soyfer, Fin, F. Shtiler, and A. Miramin), in subsequent years he published poems, essays, prose works, stories, translations, and dramas in such anthologies, almanacs, and periodicals as: Shtern (Star), Di royte velt, Freyd (Joy), Shlakhtn (Battles), Ukrayine (Ukraine), Farmest (Competition), Af barikadn (At the barricades), and In fayerdikn doyer, zamlung fun revolutsyonere lirik, in di nayer yidisher dikhtung (In fiery duration, a collection of revolutionary lyrics in the new Yiddish poetry) (Kiev: State Publ., 1921), among others, in Kiev and Kharkov; Pyoner (Pioneer), Komyug (Communist youth), Farn heymland (For the homeland), In shlakht (In battle), Yungvald (Young forest), Far der bine (For the stage), Sovetishe dikhtung (Soviet poetry), Shtrom (Current), Deklamatsye far der sovetisher literatur (Declamation for Soviet literature), Tsum zig (To victory) (Moscow: Emes, 1944), Heymland (Homeland), and Emes (Truth), in Moscow. He also co-edited a variety of anthologies. Together with N. Oyslender, Noyekh Lurye, and others, he put together a reader of Yiddish literature for school use. His articles concerned such writers as Sholem-Aleichem, Yoysef Bovshover, Henekh Shvedik, and others. Following the Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, he volunteered to be mobilized into the Soviet army, took part in battles on various fronts against the Germans, and was severely wounded. He died in Moscow from the wounds received at the front within a year of victory in the war.

In book form: Otem (Kiev: Kultur lige, 1922), 31 pp.; Lider (Kiev: Kultur lige, 1925), 73 pp.; Galop (Kiev: Kultur lige, 1926), 70 pp.; Bam dnyepr, pyese in 6 bilder (By the Dnieper [River], a play in six scenes) (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1928), 47 pp.; Land un libshaft, lider, 1925-1927 (Land and love, poetry, 1925-1927) (Moscow: Central Publishers, 1928), 125 pp.; In fri fun yor (In early years) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers, 1929), 172 pp.; Shlek (Nuisances), a revue in four scenes, with Itsik Fefer (Kharkov, 1930), 142 pp.; Di krign doyern (The wars continue), poetry (Kiev: Kultur lige, 1930), 239 pp.; Fuftsn lider (Fifteen poems) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1934), 132 pp.; Shpil (Play) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934), 8 pp.; preface to Shike Driz, Shtolener koyekh, lider, 1930-1933 (Strength of steel, poems, 1930-1933) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934), 151 pp.; An erd an andere, lider, 1930-1933 (Another land, poetry, 1930-1933) (Moscow: Emes, 1934), 204 pp.; Afn roytn plats, lider un poemes far pyonern (At the red spot, poems for pioneers) (Kiev-Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1936), 161 pp.; Slavik un garik (Slavik and Garik), children’s stories (Moscow: Emes, 1936), 24 pp.; Zingevdik, 1933-1936 (Melodies, 1933-1936) (Moscow: Emes, 1936), 275 pp.; S’ken nit zayn, a folks-mayse (It can’t be, a folktale) (Kharkov: Kinder farlag, 1937), 16 pp.; Lider vegn rakhves (Poems about comfort) (Moscow, 1938); Geshikhtes, mayselekh un poemes (Stories, tales, and poems) (Moscow: Emes, 1939), 183 pp.; Lirik, 1920-1940 (Lyricism, 1920-1940) (Moscow: Emes, 1940), 239 pp.; Fun shlakht-feld (From the battlefield) (Moscow: Emes, 1943), 94 pp.; In rizikn fayer (In a massive fire), poetry (Moscow: Emes, 1946), 142 pp.; Geklibene verk (Selected works) (Moscow: Emes, 1948), 308 pp.

His translations in book form include: Aleksandr Neverov, Tashkent, di broyt-shot (Tashkent, city of bread [original: Tashkent, gorod khlebnyi]) (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1924), 143 pp.; Victor Hugo, 93er yor (The year 93 [original: Quatrevingt-treize (93)]), abridged translation (Kiev: Sorabkop, 1924), 88 pp.; Mark Twain, Tom soyer (Tom Sawyer) (Kiev: Kultur lige, 1927), 225 pp.; Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, Dertseylungen (Stories), translated from Ukrainian (Kiev: Kultur lige, 1928), 167 pp.; Aleksandr Fadeev, Tseklapt, roman (Beaten, a novel [original: Razgrom]) (Kiev: Kultur lige, 1929), 234 pp.; Konstantin Paustovsky, Kara-bugaz (Kara-Bugaz) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1933), 237 pp.; Aleksandr Avdeenko, Ikh hob lib (I love [original: Ya lyublyu]) (Moscow: Emes, 1934), 214 pp.; Aleksandr Pushkin, Mayselekh (Stories) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1936), 89 pp.; Goethe, Faust (Faust), part 1 (Moscow: Emes, 1937); Shota Rustaveli, Der held in der tiger-fel (The hero in the tiger pelt [original: Der Ritter in Tigerfel (The knight in the tiger pelt)]) (Moscow: Emes, 1937), 47 pp.; Vladimir Mayakovsky, Oysgeveylte verk (Selected works) (Moscow: Emes, 1940), 158 pp. In 1948 there appeared in Moscow a volume of his poetry in Yiddish and in 1957 a book of poems in Russian [see image below]. In the journal Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) 2 (1963), a part of his unpublished play entitled Nikolay petrovitsh (Nikolai Petrovich), from his posthumously unpublished manuscripts, was published. In manuscript there remains a volume of translations from world poetry and a number of essays.

Fininberg in a volume of his poetry in Russian

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; M. Litvakov, In umru (In anxiety), vol. 2 (Moscow, 1926); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (January 14, 1927); Tsharni, in Tog (New York) (January 17, 1931); A. Vevyorke, in Di royte velt (Kharkov) (July 1929); Y. Leshtshinski, in Forverts (New York) (March 9, 1931); M. Khashtshevatski, in Di royte velt (August 1931); A. Holdes, in Prolit (Kharkov) (January 1932); Af di shlakht-pozitsyes fun der proletarisher literatur, barikht fun der tsveyter alukrainisher konferents (At the battle positions in proletarian literature, a report from the second All-Ukrainian Conference) (Kiev, 1932), pp. 197-99; Avrom 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); Y. Bronshteyn, in Shtern (Minsk) (October 1934); Y. Dobrushin, in Shtern (November 1934); Dobrushin, Sovetishe dikhtung (Soviet poetry) (Moscow, 1935); Dobrushin, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (December 18, 1947); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (December 16, 1934); I. Fefer, in Farmest (Kharkov) (October 1934); Fefer, in Eynikeyt (January 1, 1947); A. Gurshteyn, in Sovetish (Moscow) 3 (1935); D. Bergelson, in Forpost (Birobidzhan) 2 (1937); A. Druker, in Sovetishe literatur (Kiev) (February 1938); Y. Nusinov, in Eynikeyt (August 5, 1942); N. Y. Gotlib, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (May 14, 1943); Gotlib, Sovetishe shrayber (Soviet writers) (Montreal, 1945); A. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1947); Rivke Rubin, in Eynikeyt (January 7, 1947); B. Mark, in Folksshtime (Lodz) 40 (1947); Mark, in Yidishe shriftn (Lodz) (August-September 1949); Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Getseltn (New York) 17-18 (Winter 1949); Shulman, in Unzer tsayt (New York) (January 1957; July-August 1957; September 1957); Shulman, in Frayland (Paris-New York) (July 1959); Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (New York) (1949); Nakhmen Mayzil, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (May 1957; June-July 1957); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1962), see index; A. Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes, tsu zeyer 10-tn yortsayt, vegn dem tragishn goyrl fun di yidishe shraybers un der yidisher literatur in sovetnland (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government, on their tenth anniversary of their deaths, concerning the tragic fate of the Yiddish writers and Yiddish literature in the Soviet Union) (Buenos Aires: YIVO, 1962), pp. 182-87; M. Grubyan, in Yidishe kultur (June-July 1963); Moshe Basok, Mivar shirat yidish (Selected Yiddish poetry) (Tel Aviv, 1963), pp. 181-84; Yefim Yeshurin, 100 yor moderne yidishe literatur, biblyografisher tsushteyer (100 years of modern Yiddish literature, bibliographical contribution) (New York, 1966); Y. Lifshits and M. Altshuler, comps., Briv fun yidishe sovetishe shraybers (Letters of Soviet Jewish writers) (Jerusalem, 1979/1980), pp. 403-12.
Benyomen Elis

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 441; 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. 290-92.]

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