YITSKHOK KAHAN (YITZHAK KAHN) (September 28, 1909-1996)
He was a literary critic, born in Ostrolenke (Ostrołęka), Lomzhe district, Poland. He received a traditional education and studied on his own. In 1938 he emigrated to Australia. From his youth he was connected to the Bund. He debuted in print with an article in Yugnt-veker (Youth alarm) in Warsaw (1929). He contributed literary critical and journalistic articles to: Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) and Letste nayes (Latest news) in Tel Aviv; Unzer vort (Our word) and Unzer shtime (Our voice) in Paris; Tsukunft (Future) and Unzer tsayt (Our time) in New York; and in most of the Yiddish publications in Australia. He wrote a great deal about Australian Anglophone writers and received a stipend from the Australian government to continue his literary work. His writings include: Funken un flamen, pen-tseykhenungen, eseyen, un monografyes (Sparks and flames, descriptions, essays, and monographs) (Melbourne, 1964), 400 pp.; Afn tsesheydveg, literatur-kritik, eseyen, impresyes (At the crossroads, literary criticism, essays, impressions) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1971), 400 pp.; Shmuesn mit oystralishe shraybers (Chats with Australian writers) (Melbourne, 1976), 232 pp.; Portretn un profiln (Portraits and profiles) (Melbourne, 1979), 408 pp.; Tsurikgekumen tsum shoyresh (Returned to the root) (Melbourne, 1983), 397 pp.; Kholem, nes un vor (Dream, miracle, and reality) (Melbourne, 1985), 256 pp.; and in English translation by Joseph Leftwich, Portraits of Yiddish Writers (New York: Vantage Press, 1979), 262 pp. His pen names included: Ben-Khayim and Lebenzon. In 1977 he received the Glatshteyn Prize from the Jewish Culture Congress in New York. As Yankev Glatshteyn put it, Kahan “comes from Poland and yet exhibits a proficiency in Russian literature, even in the Russian language…. [His book Funken un flamen] reflects his strong interest in literature and his search for an approach…to contemporary man with his open and latent wounds…. Kahan possesses…an analytic strain. He displays it…in emphasizing the important pages of an artist’s work.” “Kahan is an erudite writer,” noted Yekhiel Hirshhoyt, “with a broad horizon of literary interests…. [His] critical treatments are thorough and faultless works, written with deep knowledge of the topic and with complete writer’s honesty.”
Sources: B. Shefner, in Forverts (New York) (April 20, 1971); Avrom Shulman, in Unzer tsayt (New York) (November-December 1971); Y. Emyot, in Forverts (January 30, 1972); Y. Okrutni, in Tsukunft (New York) 1 (1973); Yankev Glatshteyn, Prost un poshet, literarishe eseyen (Plain and simple, literary essays) (New York, 1978); Yekhiel Hirshhoyt, in Tsukunft (July-August 1980).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 469.]