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Gekht, Semen Grigorevich


GEKHT, SEMEN GRIGOREVICH (1903–1963), Russian writer. Gekht was born in Odessa and from the mid-1920s lived in Moscow where he worked on the newspaper Gudok. With his first prose work, the novella Chelovek, kotoryj zabyl svoyu zhizn' ("The Person Who Forgot His Life," 1927) Gekht appeared as a representative of Russian-Jewish literature. The basic theme of his books (including the novel Pouchitel' naya istoriya ("An Instructive Story," 1939); stories for children; Syn sapozhnika ("Son of the Cobbler," 1931); Efim Kalyuzhny iz Smidovichey ("Efim Kalyuzhny from Smidovichi," 1931), etc., is the transformation of Jewish life in the post-revolutionary period and the participation of Jewish youth from the shtetl in the struggle for the industrialization of the country. In his major novel Parokhod idet v Yaffu i obratno ("The Steamship Goes to Jaffa and Back," 1936), set in Palestine of the first third of the 20th century. Gekht describes positively the daily life of the ḥalutzim, accurately depicts the bloody attacks of the Arabs in Jerusalem and Jaffa, and reproduces at length passionate speeches of Zionists about assimilation and antisemitism. Some Soviet critics accused the novel of manifesting "camouflaged Zionism."

During World War ii Gekht was military correspondent for the newspaper Gudok. At the end of the 1940s his works were suppressed but he was rehabilitated in 1956.

Gekht maintained his Jewish themes throughout his career (see Budka solov'ya ("Nightingale Booth," 1957), or Dolgi serdtsa ("Debts of the Heart," 1963)). His heroes are Jews whose lives are ruined by the war. Even his works in which the characters are non-Jews contain tragic motifs concerning the destruction of Ukrainian Jewry, with references to Babi Yar, the tractor factory in Kharkov (the site of another massacre of Ukrainian Jews), and so on. In 1960 Gekht wrote memoirs about E. Bagritsky, I. *Ilf, and others. He translated from Yiddish works by Sholem *Asch, Shalom *Aleichem, and M. *Daniel.

[Mark Kipnis /

The Shorter Jewish Encylopaedia in Russian]

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