Gordon, Shmuel

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GORDON, SHMUEL (1909–1998). Soviet Yiddish prose writer. Gordon was born in Lithuania to a family related to the Hebrew poet Judah Leib *Gordon, but grew up in Jewish orphanages in the Ukraine. In 1928 he was a student of the Yiddish department at the Second Moscow State University. A tyro poet, he showed some of his works to Aaron *Kushnirov, who advised him to send the poems to the Warsaw Literarishe Bleter, where they appeared on December 28, 1928, and provoked a scandal in the Soviet press, signaling the complete isolation of the Stalinist Yiddish literary world. Following Gordon's letters of repentance, he was allowed to graduate two years later from the Moscow Teachers Training Institute. For a couple of years he worked as a teacher before becoming a Yiddish journalist and writer. His first story was published in 1930 (under the pseudonym Sh. Dongar) by the Kharkov journal Di Royte Velt. During World War ii, Gordon served in the army and worked for the Jewish *Anti-Fascist Committee. In 1944 he was accepted as a member of the Writers' Union. Some of his stories written during the war were included in his 1946 book Milkhome-tsayt ("War Time"). He was imprisoned in 1949 and was sent to the Gulag as a Jewish nationalist. After Stalin's death he returned to literary activities, became a leading contributor to Sovetish Heymland and the author of a score of volumes. His prose represented an attempt to register the last sparks of traditional Jewish life in the Soviet Union. In 1988 he began to write his last novel, Yizker ("Commemorating the Dead"), which is matchless for a background understanding of the persecution of Soviet Yiddish literati in the 1940s and 1950s. Initially serialized in Sovetish Heymland, it was published in Israel in 2003 thanks to the endeavors of Gershon Winer's Foundation for the Advancement of Yiddish Studies.


T. Gen, in: Sovetish Heymland, no. 11 (1969), 20–29; G. Estraikh and M. Krutikov, The Shtetl (2000), 152–68.

[Gennady Estraikh (2nd ed.)]