BENYOMEN SHLEVIN (February 1910, 1913-April 14, 1981)
The author of novels and stories, he was born in Brisk (Brest). His original surname was Sheynman. His father was a saddle-maker. He studied in religious elementary school, with private tutors, and later in a Jewish public school. In 1931 he left for Warsaw and in 1934 for Paris, and there he found employment as a typesetter. He spent five years during WWII in a German captivity as a French soldier. Early on he was drawn to the leftist movement. After the murder of the Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union, he underwent a spiritual reorientation.
In 1930 he began publishing in the Brisk weekly newspapers, Polyeser shtime (Voice of Polesia) and Brisker vokhnblat (Brisk weekly newspaper). He wrote stories, novels, poems, reviews, and articles for: Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) edited by Meylekh Ravitsh, Literarishe tribune (Literary tribune), Fraynd (Friend), Vokhnshrift far literatur un kunst (Weekly writing for literature and art), Parizer tsaytshrift (Parisian periodical), Naye prese (New press), Unzer kiem (Our existence), Shtern (Star) in Minsk and Kharkov, Farmest (Challenge), Hamer (Hammer), Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), Morgn frayhayt (Morning freedom), Di prese (The press) in Buenos Aires, and Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) and Di yidishe tsaytung (The Jewish newspaper) in Tel Aviv, among others. He edited Parizer heftn (Parisian notebooks) and Undzer eynikeyt (Our unity); and his work appeared in the collection Lebn un kamf (Life and struggle) (Minsk, 1936).
In book form, stories: Tsvishn vent, noveln (Between walls, stories) (Warsaw: Nay-bukh, 1933), 102 pp.; Groye profiln, noveln (Gray profiles, stories) (Paris, 1937), 126 pp.; Rus un noyme, dertseylung fun yidishn lebn in nidershlezye (Ruth and Naomi, stories of Jewish life in Lower Silesia) (Wrocław: Nidershlezye, 1939), 23 pp.; Geklibene dertseylungen, 1933-1963 (Selected stories, 1933-1963) (Paris: Bukh-komitet, 1964), 279 pp.; Unter di shtern fun negev un andere dertseylungen (Under the stars of the Negev and other stories) (Paris, 1974), 141 pp.; novels: Der marsh af brisk, roman (The march on Brisk, novel) (Paris: 1938), 285 pp.; Di yidn fun belvil, roman (The Jews of Belleville, a novel) (Paris: Oyfsnay, 1948), 358 pp., French translation by Marcel Arnaud as Les Juifs de Belleville, roman (Paris, 1956), 254 pp.; Geven es iz nekhtn, roman (It was yesterday, a novel) (Paris: Oyfsnay, 1951), 370 pp.; Dos hoyz in der topoln-gas, roman (The house on rue des Peupliers, a novel), a trilogy—(1) Di brider khaykin (The brothers Khaykin) (Paris: Oyfsnay, 1955), 269 pp.; (2) Afn parizer bruk (On Parisian cobblestone) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1955), 194 pp.; (3) Dos tsugezogte land (The promised land) (Paris: Oyfsnay, 1956), 200 pp.—Di goldene iluzye, roman (The golden illusion, a novel) (Paris, 1958), 224 pp.; Khaveyrim fun muranover rayon, roman (Friends from Muranov district, a novel) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1961), 407 pp.; Lipe kamashnmakher, roman (Lipe, the boot-maker, a novel) (Paris: Bukh komitet, 1969), 335 p.; Shotns fun monparnas, roman (Shadows of Montparnasse, a novel) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1971), 285 pp.; Vuhim geystu, danyel? (Where are you going, Daniel?) (Paris: Bukh komitet, 1977), 288 pp.; Shvere gemiter, dertseylungen, dermonungen, batreakhtungen (Heavy hearts, stories, remembrances, considerations) (Paris, 1981), 189 pp. His translations include: Honoré de Balzac, Di kuzine beti (Cousin Bette [original: La Cousine Bette]); L. Aragon, Dos roymishe rekht ekzistirt nisht mer, dertseylung (Roman law no longer exists, a story) (Paris, 1949), 60 pp.
He died in Paris.
“B. Shlevin is a writer of a difficult caliber,” noted Froym Kaganovski. “A novelist, he has a dimension of tomorrow—and tomorrow people will be reading him all the more.”
Shlevin’s novel Der marsh af brisk, wrote Avrom-Moyshe Fuks, “is a sweeping work, thorough and straightforward, in the best traditions of our classical authors.”
“Di yidn fun belvil is an important contribution,” commented Meylekh Ravitsh, “to our modern Yiddish literature.”
“His sensitive pen for social and ethnic issues,” wrote Shaye Shpigl, “created with its historical scope a specific genre in literature…. In my view, he belongs among the creators of our literature.”
Sources: Ber Mark, in Literarishe tribune (Warsaw) (1933); Zalmen Shneur, in Naye prese (Paris) (September 1938); Avrom-Moyshe Fuks, in Kiem (Paris) (1949); Dovid Sfard, Shtudyes un skitsn (Studies and sketches) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1955), pp. 121-29; Froym Kaganovski, in Naye prese (1956); A. Mukdoni, in Tsukunft (New York) 3 (1958); Shmuel Izban, in Tsukunft 11 (1965); Leyzer Domankevitsh, Verter un vertn (Words and worth) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1965), pp. 246-50; Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Forverts (New York) (August 8, 1971); Rivke Kope, Intim mitn bukh, mekhabrim, bikher, meynungen (Intimate with a book, authors, books, opinions), essays (Paris, 1973); Yitskhok Goldkorn, Heymishe un fremde literarishe etyudn (Familiar and foreign literary studies) (Buenos Aires: Svive, 1973); Shaye Shpigl, in Yisroel shtime (Tel Aviv) (November 19, 1975).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 530.]
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