Y. FINER (June 15, 1908-1996)
The pen name of Yitskhok Burshteyn, he was born in Warsaw, Poland. He studied in religious elementary school and public school, and he later became a laborer. Over the years 1914-1924, he lived in a Polish village, and later, from 1925, he was living in Paris as a designer of women’s clothing; there he became active in Jewish cultural life. He was an active fighter, 1941-1944, against the Nazi occupation in the French mountains and forests. After the war he returned to Paris. He began writing in his youth and debuted in print with a novella entitled “Kheymke” in Di naye prese (The new press) in Paris in 1947. From that point, he published sketches, novellas, and stories in: Di naye prese, Parizer tsaytshrift (Parisian periodical), Unzer vort (Our word), and Parizer tribune (Parisian tribune) in Paris; Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings) and Folks-shtime (Voice of the people) in Warsaw; Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), Tsukunft (Future), and Zamlungen (Collections) in New York; Letste nayes (Latest news) in Tel Aviv; and Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal; among others. A number of his novellas were translated into Hebrew by M. Ḥalamish and published in Al hamishmar (On guard) and other Israeli newspapers. He contributed to the following remembrance volume: A. Bern et al., in Yizker-bukh tsum ondenk fun 14 umgekumene parizer yidishe shrayber (Remembrance volume to the memory of fourteen murdered Parisian Yiddish writers) (Paris, 1946). In book form: Di sho fun beynashmoshes, dertseylungen fun der okupatsye yorn (The hour of dusk, stories from the years of occupation), with a foreword by B. Shlevin (Paris: Oyfsnay, 1951), 210 pp.; Noveln (Stories) (Warsaw, 1961), 133 pp.; Di fir tsaytn (The four times), stories with an introduction entitled “Kholem un var un emese mayse” (Dream and reality and a true story) by D. B. Malkin (Tel Aviv, 1966), 350 pp.; Tsvey mishpokhes (Two families) (Tel Aviv, 1971-1983), 3 volumes; Mayn mame, skitsn, dertseyln, noveln (My mother, sketches, stories, novellas) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1978), 341 pp.; Tsuzamen, lider (Together, poetry) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1983), 93 pp. He also translated seven books into French. “The problem of Jew and Frenchman became familiar in Yiddish literature,” noted Shloyme Bikl, “together with the problem of Jew and Pole and Jew and German. The problem of the dualism of Jew and Frenchman has arisen, or in any event in actuality first emerged, during and after WWII, under the German occupation regime and chiefly in the resistance movement against the Germans. In the underground movement, face to face with the common enemy, the Jew from Poland and from Romania, who for many years had lived in France, , became psychologically close to fellow French citizens with a genuine emotional naturalism, and the Jew sensed the closeness served to lower his Jewish identity—and he had to wrestle with this. This is the basic motif of virtually all the stories of the Polish Jew and longtime Parisian resident Y. Finer. Reading Finer’s stories, mainly from the time of the resistance against the Germans, one has the feeling that the images he created were not built from his creative fantasies, but people whom he knew, and what he recounts for us about them are memoirs.”
Sources: D. Sfard, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) (July-August 1956); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (July 30, 1961); B. Mark, in Yidishe shriftn (March 1962); Dr. Shloyme Bikl, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (April 24, 1962; April 2, 1967); D. B. Malkin, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 44 (1962); Sh. Ayznshtat, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (May 13, 1962); Herts Bergner, in Di yidishe post (Melbourne) (February 1, 1963); Barvin Frenkel, in Unzer shtime (Paris) (June 27, 1966); L. Bernard, in Arbeter vort (Paris) (November 18, 1966); L. Domenkevitsh, in Unzer vort (December 17, 1966).
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 441.]