Tuesday 5 November 2019


YANKEV-MORTKHE SHERMAN (November 18, 1885-September 6, 1958)
            He was a journalist as well as the author of stories and poetry, born in a small village near Posvol (Pasvalys), Lithuania.  He attended yeshivas until age seventeen.  In 1903 he made his way to South Africa, became a merchant and later a farmer, later still a business employee.  He was a leftist.  He was one of the veterans of the Yiddish literary and cultural movement in South Africa.  He debuted in print in 1904 in Hebrew in Kineret (Kinneret) in Cape Town, and in 1906 in Yiddish in Hakokhav (The star), edited by Yisroel-Mikhl Troyb.  From that point he placed poetry, stories, feuilletons, journalism, and literary articles in virtually all Yiddish-language publications in the country: Di yudishe fohn (The Jewish banner) in Johannesburg (1910-1913), a weekly, from 1913 until late August a daily; Der afrikaner (The African) (from mid-1915); Dos naye vort (The new word) (5 issues, 1916); the monthly Unzer veg (Our way) (1919-1921), edited by Shloyme Kartun; Dorem-afrike (South Africa) (nine issues, December 1922-August 1923, co-editor; July 1928-January 1929, editor) and for the revived Dorem-afrike (from 1948); and Foroys (Arise) (1937-1940); among others.  He was co-editor of Dorem-afrikaner zamlung (South African anthology).  His work also appeared in: Shmuel Rozhanski, Doren-afrike (Buenos Aires, 1971).  He died in Johannesburg.
            His works include: Di afrikaans shprakh un literatur (The Afrikaans language and literature) (Johannesburg, 1936), 24 pp.; Af transvaler erd, dertseylungen un lider (On Transvaal soil, stories and poetry) (Johannesburg, 1949), 190 pp.; Land fun gold un zunshayn, dorem-afrikaner roman (Land of gold and sunshine, a South African novel) (Johannesburg: Kayor, 1956), 248 pp.; In shtile shoen, lider on pretenzyes, 1904-1949 (In quiet moments, poetry without pretensions, 1904-1949) (Johannesburg, 1957), 190 pp.  He also translated from Afrikaans into Yiddish.
            “The prose writer Y. M. Sherman,” wrote Mortkhe Tsanin, “…is the South African Borekh Glazman.  As B. Glazman’s prose breathed with America, so too does Sherman’s prose breath with South Africa….  Sherman had added to Jewish world literature a coat of fresh color.”  His pen names included: Sh., M. Y. (in editorials), A Yidish Yingl, A. V. Vays, B. Berman, M. Y. Zinger, Shamay, D. Alter, A. Shadovski, and M. Yoslzon.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; several articles in Dorem-afrike (Johannesburg) (November 1955); Yitskhok Kharlash, in Tsukunft (New York) 10 (1957); B. Grin, in Morgn frayhayt (New York) (December 21, 1958); Mortkhe Tsanin, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (November 15, 1968); Yitskhok Kahan, in Letste nayes (April 6, 1973); Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
Dovid Volpe

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