Wednesday 23 January 2019


MOZI KOBRYANSKI (March 10, 1911-1989)

            He was a prose author and storyteller, born in the town of Khosove, Kiev district, Ukraine. Until 1923 he attended religious elementary schools in Khosove and Boslev (Bohuslav). He later graduated from the Rzhyshchiv Jewish middle school, and in 1931 from the Jewish metal polytechnical school in Kiev. He worked for years as a locksmith in a factory in Kiev. In 1941 he was evacuated to the Urals and returned to Kiev right after the war. He debuted in print in 1932 with a story in Prolit (Proletarian literature) in 1932, and from that point in time, he was contributing stories to: Farmest (Competition), Sovetishe literatur (Soviet literature), Onheyb (Beginning), the Kiev newspaper Der shtern (The star), and later large-scale novellas to Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) in Moscow—among others, the long stories about the lives of evacuated Jews in the Ural Mountains in In mitn veg (In the middle of the road) and Sha-shtil (Hush!), which appeared in Dertseylungen fun yidishe sovetishe shrayber (Stories by Soviet Jewish writers) (Moscow: Sovetshki pisatel, 1969). His artistic talents blossomed in the 1960s and 1970s. He published one piece after another in Sovetish heymland, such as: “A fardorbener kern” (A corrupt kernel), “A gute nakht, guter-bruder” (Good night, good brother), “In shtetele lyubave” (In the town of Lyubave [Liubavas]), “Di zaverukhes” (Blizzards), “A guter mentsh” (A good man), and the play Velvele gavriels (Velvele, Gabriel’s son). His first book appeared in 1940: Dem kovels tokhter (The blacksmith’s daughter) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities), 167 pp. They are distinguished by an innovative style and verisimilitude in imagery. At the core of his work stood simple, laboring people, their lives and troubles, and he depicted them with a wealth of detail and vivid picturesqueness. He very successfully made use of the monologue form, which adds to his work a distinctive quality, a coloring of the people themselves. He also excelled at depicting women, as well as the figures of children. In the pages of Sovetish heymland 5 (1968), there was a discussion surrounding Mozi Kobryanski’s work, in which the critic Moyshe Notovitsh and the poet Avrom Gontar took part. The discussion demonstrated that the writer’s protagonists were not indifferent to the reader. It was noted that Kobryanski described mostly healthy and beautiful people; among those in his stories, there were no caricatures or crass exaggerations, and the beauty of the people merges with the beauty of nature and labor. “The heroes of Kobryanski’s work,” wrote Hersh Remenik, “work and learn, love and suffer…. Their feelings and passions arise out of life, out of reality…. He does not tire of describing people…who work, people who build, who learn, who love, struggle, create.” In July 1977 he made aliya to Israel. He worked there on a novel of Israeli life, but his untimely death did not afford him the opportunity to complete the work. Only a few fragments of the novel appeared in the journal Sovetish heymland 12 (1990).

Sources: Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; H. Remenik, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 1 (1975).

Khayim Maltinski

[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. 304-5.]

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