Imber, Samuel Jacob

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IMBER, SAMUEL JACOB (Shmuel-Yankev ; 1889–1942), Yiddish poet. Born in Sasów in Austrian eastern Galicia (now Sasiv, Ukraine), son of the Hebrew writer Shmaryahu Imber and nephew of Naphtali-Herz *Imber, the author of *Ha-Tikvah, he studied at the University of Lemberg and made his literary début in 1905 with a poem in the Tshernovitser Vokhnblat. In 1907 he published poems in Polish. In Lemberg, with Melekh *Ravitch, he strove to promote the aesthetic ideals of neo-Romanticism, inspired by Jewish writers such as Arthur *Schnitzler and Stefan *Zweig. The influence of Heinrich *Heine, whom he translated into Yiddish, is also conspicuous. With his verse collection Vos Ikh Zing un Zog ("What I Sing and Say," 1909) and with his poetic romance Esterke (1911), he became the acknowledged leader of a generation of Galician Yiddish writers. Esterke recounts the 14th-century legend concerning the love of King *Casimir iii for the daughter of a Jewish blacksmith. The tone is one of Romantic nationalism, while despite Imber's noted enthusiasm for Polish-Jewish symbiosis, the illicit love is portrayed as inevitably doomed. In 1912 he visited Palestine, which resulted in a volume of delicate poetry somewhat reminiscent of Eliakum *Zunser or Abraham *Mapu, In Yidishn Land ("In the Jewish Land," 1912), in which Rachel rejoices at the sight of her returned children once more tilling the soil. During World War i Imber edited Inter Arma ("Amidst the Clash of Arms," 1918), a volume including not only his own war poetry but also that of his Lemberg associates Uri Zevi *Greenberg, and Melekh *Ravitch. Immediately after World War i he founded the literary monthly Nayland (1918–19) as the organ of the Galician neo-Romantic movement. Imber achieved full maturity in his last poems, in his essays in Yiddish and his polemic prose in Polish. Imber was murdered in Ozernaya by Ukrainian antisemites during pogroms following the Nazi occupation of the town in 1942.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 1 (1928), 87–90; lnyl, 1 (1956), 80–2; M. Ravitsh, Mayn Leksikon, 1 (1945), 17–19; S. Bickel, Shrayber fun Mayn Dor, 1 (1958), 152–60; S. Liptzin, Maturing of Yiddish Literature (1970), 131–5. add. bibliography: Ch. Shmeruk, The Esterke Story in Yiddish and Polish Literature (1985).

[Sol Liptzin /

Hugh Denman (2nd ed.)]