Tuesday 12 November 2019


YEKHIEL SHRAYBMAN (March 12, 1913-December 9, 2005)

            He was an author of novels and stories, born in the town of Vad-Rashkev (Vadul-Rascov), Bessarabia [now, Moldova]. He attended religious elementary school and a Romanian public school, had private tutors, and later studied in the Hebrew teachers’ seminary in Czernowitz, where he was arrested for Communist activities. In his youth he sang with a synagogue cantor and choir on the High Holidays for two years in the neighboring town of Căpreşti. He worked for two years as a watchmaker, for two terms as a village teacher, and for about ten years he worked as a prompter for Yiddish theatrical troupes in Bucharest. In Czernowitz and Bucharest, he contributed to the underground revolutionary movement. In 1940 when Bessarabia became a part of the Soviet Union, he moved from Bucharest to Kishinev and became a member of the Soviet writers’ association. He was evacuated during WWII to Uzbekistan in the Soviet Union, where he worked on a collective farm, and afterward he settled in Kishinev and continued his creative writing. The Moscow publisher “Der emes” (The truth) brought out his prose work, Dray zumers (Three summers), in 1946. There was an interruption in his writings, 1948-1960, when the entirety of Yiddish culture in the Soviet Union suffered persecution.

            He debuted in print in 1936 with a story entitled “Ershte trit” (First step) in Signal (Signal), a proletarian literary journal in New York, and two of his poems also appeared in this issue of Signal. He went on to write for: Shoybn (Panes of glass) in Bucharest, Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper) in Warsaw, and Shtern (Star) in Kiev, among other serials. He published numerous stories in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland), which was launched in 1961, in Moscow; its very first issue included a cycle of prose miniatures by him, and he then renewed his creative activity. He brought out two collections of stories and essays in Bucharest. His work also appeared in: Tsum zig (Toward victory) (Moscow: Emes, 1944); and Af naye vegn (Along new pathways) (New York: Yidisher kultur farband, 1944); Dertseylungen fun yidishe sovetishe shrayber (Stories by Soviet Yiddish writers) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1969); Azoy lebn mir, dokumentale noveln, fartsaykhenungen, reportazh (How we live: Documented novellas, jottings, reportage pieces) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1964); and Oyfshteyg (Ascent) (Bucharest: Literatur farlag, 1964). He published a journal entitled Mayne heftn (My notebooks) in Bucharest (1939).

            His writings include: Dray zumers, dertseylungen (Three summers, stories) (Moscow: Emes, 1946), 146 pp.; Ganeydn epl (Apple from the Garden of Eden) (Kishinev, 1965), 278 pp.; Yorn un reges, roman, noveln un minyaturn (Years and moments, a novel, stories, and miniatures) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1973), 430 pp.; In yenem zumer (That summer) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1982), 63 pp.; Vayter…roman, dertseylungen, noveln, eseyen, minyaturn (Further…a novel, stories, novellas, essays, miniatures) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1984), 456 pp.; Shtendik...gresere un klenere dertseylungen, minyaturn (Always…longer and shorter stories, miniatures) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publishers, 1997), 271 pp.; Yetsire un libe (Creation and love) (Kishinev, 2000), 168 pp.; Zibn yor mit zibn khadoshim (Seven years and seven months) (Kishinev: Ruksanda, 2003); Kleyns un groys, kleyne noveln, miniaturn (Little and big, short stories, miniatures) (Kishinev: Ruksanda, 2007), 288 pp.

            Shraybman was a master of various literary genres—from miniatures to stories to novellas to novels. He wrote as well in Russian and Moldovan. He was renowned for his innovative use of Bessarabian Yiddish language, and his style is considered among the very best to come out of Soviet Yiddish literature from the second half of the twentieth century. He died in Kishinev.

            “Shraybman belonged to the type of writer,” noted Hersh Remenik, “who is everywhere creatively subjective in descriptions. He never paints like anyone other than himself…. Shraybman’s work is Shraybman’s autobiography…. Shraybman is…one of the most important masters of Soviet Yiddish prose.”

Sources: Hersh Remenik, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 9 (1973), 1 (1974, 2 (1974); Remenik, in Sovetish heymland 3 (1973), autobiography; Tevye Gen, in Sovetish heymland 10 (1980).
Y. Kara

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 534; and 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. 392-93.]

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