Shalkovich, Abraham Leib

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SHALKOVICH, ABRAHAM LEIB (pen name Ben-Avigdor ; 1867–1921), Russian Hebrew author and pioneer of modern Hebrew publishing. Born in Zheludok province of Grodno, Shalkovich settled in Warsaw in 1891. In 1889 he wrote a sharp criticism of the *ḥalukkah system in Ha-Meliẓ (nos. 82–83), and his first story, "Elyakim ha-Meshugga" ("Eliakim the Insane"). In 1891 he began publishing the "Sifrei Agorah" series, offering Hebrew literature in an attractive and reasonably priced booklet form. The series served as the medium of the "new wave" which sought to revitalize Hebrew literature and to introduce the realism then current in Europe. The success of the "Agorah" books prompted Shalkovich to set up the Aḥi'asaf publishing house in Warsaw (1893), and he edited the first three volumes of the Lu'aḥ Aḥi'asaf annual (1894–96). He also contributed to Ha-Pardes, and to Ha-Zeman, published by Ezra *Goldin. In 1896 he left Aḥi'asaf and set up Tushiyyah, a new company which published translations from foreign languages. In 1901 Shalkovich founded a children's weekly called Olam Katan, and in 1904 renewed the publication of the daily Ha-Zeman.

His work as a publisher demanded his entire energy and curtailed his own writing. In 1913 he founded the Aḥisefer publishing house, which also issued the miscellany Netivot (1913) in the editing of which he had a share. In Netivot he published a long article, "Aḥad Ha-Am u-Venei Moshe" (pp. 238–90), on Aḥad Ha-Am whom he had previously supported and admired. Shalkovich died suddenly in Carlsbad, while attending the Twelfth Zionist Congress.

Shalkovich was among the first of the modern Hebrew writers to stress the problems of the individual Jew rather than those of the Jewish people. In his story "Menaḥem ha-Sofer" (1893) he called for a true portrayal of the Jewish scene in a simple realistic vein. But Shalkovich did not always remain loyal to his own views. The novel Lifnei Arba Me'ot Shanah (1892) was written in a florid and sentimental style. While Shalkovich's stories have little literary merit, he deserves respect as an innovator in Hebrew literature and a pioneer in modern Hebrew publishing.


Ben Avigdor Jubilee Volume (1916); Fichmann, in: Ha-Tekufah, 12 (1921), 477–80 (reprinted in his Ruḥot Menaggenot (1952), 387–94); Lachower, Sifrut, 3 pt. 2 (1931), 14–21; Klausner, Sifrut, index, s.v. Ben-Avigdor; A. Cohen, in: Hadoar, 11 (1921), 19–21; Waxman, Literature, 4 (1960), 80–84; Goell, Bibliography, 1955–56.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]