Sunday 24 February 2019


DOVID KASEL (DAVID KASSEL) (January 18, 1881-May 12, 1935)
            A story-writer, novelist, poet, children’s author, and translator, he was born in Minsk.  His first wife was Sore Reyzen.  His father Shloyme Kisel, a tradesman, owned a large library, and thanks to this Kasel early on acquainted himself with the Yiddish book.  He studied in religious elementary school, later became a brush-maker and joined the Bund but was not active in the movement.  He was held under arrest for three months in Moscow.  He spent 1903-1904 in Warsaw, returned to Minsk, and went back to brush-making.  He settled permanently in 1910.  He was employed by a series of Jewish publishing houses and engaged in a variety of literary work for them.  He wrote poetry, stories, children’s tales, and translations from world literature.  He debuted in print with poems in illegal Bundist publications.  Thanks to Avrom Reyzen, Mortkhe Spektor published Kasel’s first legal poem in Di yudishe folkstsaytung (The Jewish people’s newspaper) which he edited.  He placed work in a variety of periodicals, many of them Bundist: Der minsker arbayter (The Minsk worker) in November 1901; Der veker (The alarm) in March 1902; Khanike (Hanukah) in Warsaw in 1903, edited by Avrom Reyzen; the annual Progres (Progress) in Warsaw in 1904; Boymer (Trees) in Warsaw in 1904; the anthology Blumen un funken (Flowers and sparks) in Warsaw in 1906; Di fraye harfe (The free harp) in Warsaw in 1907; A bletel grins (A green leaf) in Warsaw in 1907; Frihling (Spring) in Vilna in 1907; Frayhayt (Freedom) in Vilna in 1907; Frihlings-bleter (Spring leaves) in Warsaw in 1909/1910; Fraye teg (Free days) in Warsaw in 1909/1910; Sivan ([month of] Sivan) in Warsaw in 1911/1912; Avrom Reyzen’s Dos naye land (The new country) in New York in 1912; Nisn-ier ([the months] Nissan-Iyar) in Warsaw in 1912/1913; and Elel-tishre ([the months] Elul-Tishrei) in Warsaw in 1912/1913; among others.  Kasel published or reworked a series of works for children for M. Birnboym’s publishing house “Mayselekh” (Tales) (1913-1914, including, among others, works by Kurpin, Hans Christian Andersen, Korolenko, Rudyard Kipling, and Pushkin).  For the publisher “Yudish” (Yiddish), he compiled the series “Kinder-biblyotek” (Children’s library), which included his adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Feter tom (Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and Jonathan Swift’s Kleyne menshelekh (Little people) [from Gulliver’s Travels], as well as Gur-arye (Young lion [of Judah]), Der farkishefter shlos (Th enchanted castle), Mai-zhuk (May beetle), Di velt fun khayes (The world of animals), Di lebedike natur (Living nature), and Di kindheyt fun a groysen menshen (The childhood of a great man) about Beethoven, among others.  In the series Kasel compiled entitled “Kinder-teater” (Children’s theater) for the publisher “Kultur” (Culture), they brought out (1920-1921): In vinter-vald (In a winter forest), Roythitele (The little red hat), Der holtsheker (The woodcutter), Fayvele barimt (Well-known Fayvele), Lakhblimele, a kinderforshtelung in eyn akt (The laughing flower, a children’s play in one act), and Khatskele der mazek (Khatskele the mischievous child), among others.  Over the years 1916-1921, he compiled and published, together with M. Birnboym, more textbooks: Yudishe geshikhte in dertsehlungen un legenden far shulen un ovendkursen (Jewish history in stories and legends for schools and evening courses), part 1 (Warsaw: Shul-bikher, 1916/1917), 99 pp., a part 2 also appeared in print; Kinder-fraynd (Children’s friend), a reader for the second school year (Warsaw: Sh. Shreberk un Tsentral, 1916/1917), 95 pp.; Natur-visenshaft (Natural science), for schools and self-instruction (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1920s), three parts (for the third part he used the pen name Minkovski); Mayn bukh, lernbukh farn tsveytn lernyor (My book, textbook for the second school year) (Warsaw, 1921), 181 pp.; Geografye (Geography) (Warsaw, 1921), 2 parts; Algemeyne geshikhte, der alter mizrekh (General history, the ancient), 2 parts (Vilna, 1921-1922); Praktishe yudishe gramatik, elementarkurs, ortografye, etimologye un sintaksis (Practical Yiddish grammar, elementary course, orthography, etymology, and syntax) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1917), 2 parts.  With M. Birnboym, he adapted the first two volumes in the series “Lender un Felker” (Countries and peoples) for the publisher “Yudish”: Khina un mandzhuryen, mongolyen, tibet, koriye un andere (China and Manchuria, Mongolia, Tibet, Korea, and others) (Warsaw, 1918), 162 pp.; Afrika (Africa), using the pen name Dr. Sh. Tsirlikh, 112 pp.  These textbooks were among the first in Yiddish and were used for many years in the newly emerging Yiddish schools.  He published a number of anthologies: Gezang un deklamatsye, lider zamlung (Songs and recitations, song collection), 2 vols. (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1913-1914); Far ovenden un fervaylungen, mustern fun yudisher literatur, fun shatskes biz kobrin (For evenings and entertainment, items from Yiddish literature, from Shatskes to Kobrin) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1918), 235 pp.; Der arbeter-deklamator (The worker-reciter) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1920), 191 pp.; Der kinder deklamator, lider mit tsaykhnungen un ilustratsyes far kinder (The children’s reciter, poetry with drawings and illustrations for children) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 19??), 114 pp.; Deklamatsye, zamlung (Recitations, collection) (Riga: Yavne, n.d.), 30 pp.  He made a not terribly successful effort to publish in modernized garb: Geklibene verk fun a. m. dik (Selected works of A. M. Dik) (Warsaw: Sh. Shreberk, 1922), 400 pp., with an introduction.  He compiled the Spektor-bukh (Volume for Spektor), included as volume 10 in Spektor’s Ale verk (Collected writings).  He also wrote articles on literature and art in: Lebens-fragen (Life issues), Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper), Arbeter-luekh (Workers’ calendar), and a bit in Forverts (Forward), among other serials—under such pen names as Arnold, Ben-Simkhe, B. Goldshteyn, and Rakover.  He was represented by his poetry in M. Basin’s Antologye, 500 yor yidishe poezye (Anthology, 500 years of Yiddish poetry), vol. 2 (New York, 1917); and Mut (Courage) (Moscow, 1920).  Kasel was one of the most productive translators of world literature into Yiddish (in addition to translated works for children): Savvatii (pseud.), Di neshome fun a froy (The soul of a woman) (Warsaw: Yudish, 1919), 148 pp., using the pen name M. Landoy; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Konfesyon, mayn vide (Confession, my confession) (Warsaw: Yudish), 329 pp.; V. M. Garshin, Di nakht (The night [original: Noch’] (Minsk: Kultur, 1905/1906), 26 pp.; Friedrich Schiller, Di royber, a tragedye in fir akten (The robbers, a tragedy in four acts [original: Räuber]) (Warsaw: P. Kantorovitsh, 1912), 79 pp.; Thomas Mayne-Reid, Der kamf fun levyosn (The fight with the Leviathan [original: The Chase of Leviathan]) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1926), 263 pp., writing as M. Landoy; Jules Verne, Afn shanselor, a geshikhte fun a ṭragisher nesie (On the Chancellor, a story of a tragic voyage [original: Le Chancellor. Journal du passager J.-R. Kazallon roman]) (Warsaw: B. Shimin, 1920s ), 252 pp., as M. Landoy; Leo Tolstoy, Di geshikhte fun mayn kindheyt (The story of my childhood [original: Detstvo (Childhood)]) (Warsaw: Yudish, 1915), 262 pp.; M. Y. Lermontov, Der held fun unzer tsayt (A hero of our time [original: Geroy nashevo vremeni]) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1918), 218 pp.; Henryk Sienkiewicz, On a gloyben (Without dogma [original: Bez dogmatu]) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1921), 513 pp.; James Fenimore Cooper, Der letster mohikaner (The Last of the Mohicans) (Warsaw: B. Shimen, 1921), 127 pp., using the pen name R’vitsh; V. Lang, In di vayte tsofn-felder (In the distant northern fields) (Warsaw: B. Shimen, 1921), 159 pp.; Mayne-Reid, In der melukhe fun fayer (In the state of fire [original: The Land of Fire]) (Warsaw: B. Shimen, 1921), 159 pp.; D. S. Merezhkovski, Aleksander der ershter (Alexander I [original: Aleksandr pervyi]) (Warsaw: Yudish, 1924), 734 pp.; Mayne Reid, A shpil mitn toyt (A play with death [original: Death Shot]) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1926), 255 pp., as M. Landoy; L. Tolstoy, Kindheyt un yugnt (Childhood and youth [original: Detstvo, otrochestvo i i︠u︡nost’ (Childhood, adolescence, and youth)]) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1929), 635 pp.  He also translated a series of other works: by Jules Verne, In der himlisher emperye (In the heavenly empire), Mentsh un vunder (Man and wonder), Af di vegn fun der velt (On the roads of the world), Di kinder fun kapitan grant (The children of Captain Grant), Der tsarisher kuryer (The Tsarist courier), and Di shule fun di robinsons (The school for Robinsons); by Mayne Reid, Vald-kinder (Forest children); and by Guy de Maupassant, Shtarker fun toyt (Stronger than death); among others.  Other pseudonyms he assumed include: A. Shabaszon and A. Blum.  Other writings of his include: Meyerke fun kleynem bund (Meyerke of the little Bund) (Vilna: Di velt, 1907), 14 pp., new edition (Lodz, 1947); Nisht beziegt, legende (Undefeated, a legend) (Vilna: Di velt, 1907), 23 pp.; Shriftn (Writings) (Warsaw: Bikher far ale, 1912), 240 pp., only one volume appeared; Ovend-blaskeyt, novelen (Evening pallor, stories) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1913), 204 pp.; Ertseylungen (Stories) (Odessa: Literatur, 1918/1919), 240 pp.; Eynzamkeyt (Loneliness), a story (Odessa: Literatur, 1919), 24 pp.; In restoran (In a restaurant) (Odessa: Literatur, 1918/1919), 16 pp.; Der gast (The guest), a story (Odessa: Literatur, 1918/1919), 29 pp.; A dertrunkener (A drowned person), a story (Odessa: Literatur, 1918/1919), 16 pp.; Nokh der arbayt (After work), a story (Odessa: Literatur, 1918/1919), 16 pp.; Umet (Gloom), stories (Kharkov: Idish, 1918/1919), 186 pp.; Moysheles kinder-yorn (Little Moyshe’s childhood years) (Warsaw: Dinezon school committee, 1920/1921), 114 pp.; Baym yam (By the sea) (Vilna, 1921), 23 pp.; On an oysveg (No alternative) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1922), 207 pp.; Unter a vaysen forhang (Under a white curtain) (Warsaw: Yidish, 1922), 277 pp.—an effort to describe childhood eros (fragments of this may be found the above-cited Moysheles kinder-yorn).  He gained a reputation in Yiddish literature for his novel In dorf (In the village) (with the stories Umet and Dvoyrele [Little Deborah]) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1912), 186 pp., new edition (Kharkov: Idish, 1919), 149 pp., fourth enlarged edition (Warsaw: Tsental, 1923), 210 pp.  “Kasel’s principal importance…lies in his stories,” wrote Zalmen Reyzen, “in which he may have been the first in Yiddish literature to offer a fine analysis of the emotion of love.  He was also clear and sure in his descriptions of nature, often displaying a sharp eye and performing a certain function for the formal side of Yiddish prose, although often affected and rhetorical.”[1]  He died in Warsaw.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 6 (Mexico City, 1969); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Y. Sh. Herts, Doyres bundistn (Generations of Bundists), vol. 1 (New York, 1956), pp. 420-22; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1921); Niger, Shmuesn vegn bikher (Chats about literature) (New York, 1922), pp. 295-303; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, in Bikher-velt (Warsaw) 3 (1922); Avrom Reyzen, in Tsukunft 6 (1935); Avrom Reyzen, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 20 (1935); Nakhmen Mayzil, Forgeyer un mittsaytler (Forerunner and contemporary) (New York, 1946), p. 12; A. Lyesin, Zikhroynes un bilder (Memoirs and images) (New York, 1954), pp. 272ff; Y. Mastboym, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (May 14, 1954); Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
Berl Cohen

[1] Under the pen name M. Landoy, there were published Communist pamphlets which have no connection to Dovid Kasel.  See the entry for “Yitskhok Mayski-Tsimerman”:

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