Page 89 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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L
ipt z in
— P
o e tr y
o f
L
eon
F
e inberg
83
nd hells, and shed the non-Jewish layers of his soul. Unlike his
uthor, however, he resisted the temptation to settle in America.
ired of wandering, he returned to kibbutz life in the Emek. The
ankrupt Jewish Don Quixote, erstwhile worshiper of Apollo and
e Muses, finally found happiness and fulfillment as a tiller of the
il in the land of his forefathers but still dreaming Messianic
reams, a creative member of the blessed first generation of Jew­
h redemption. The final cantos of this poetic epic teemed with
earning for a world the author could not make his own, for an
rael that Feinberg could experience only in glowing verses
irring imagination, mind and heart in the autumn of his life.
The Ruined Generation
The last of Feinberg’s poetic epics of the Russian Jewish
tellectuals with whom he shared his early years was
Der Khorever
or
(Ruined Generation, 1967). In this work, patterned after
he stanzaic form of Pushkin’s
Eugene Onegin
, he dealt with
he Communist idealists who did not leave their native land, since
hey had faith in the vistas of freedom and equality seemingly
pened up by the Revolution of 1917. These Jews fought, even
s Feinberg did, in the ranks of the Bolsheviks against the pogrom
ands of counterrevolutionists. During the early years when Lenin
eld sway, some rose to high rank in the Soviet hierarchy. How­
ver, their Jewish origin, which they sought to forget, continued
o render them vulnerable, and under the Stalin dictatorship
he Kremlin realists wreaked havoc among them. Some perished
efore firing squads, others languished and died in Siberian labor
amps. In the Jewish youth, Pinie Yolles, who rose to the rank of
arshal of the Red Army and was subsequently liquidated,
einberg drew a sympathetic portrait of Jan Gamarik, who was
is friend and a brother-in-law of Chaim Nachman Bialik and who
n 1937 was ordered by Stalin’s secret police to shoot himself.
nly a single survivor of the Ruined Generation—the poet’s
lter ego—
succeeded, thirty years after the Revolution, in escaping
rom Russia and in penning a fierce condemnation of the entire
ppressive system. The tortured lives and unsung death of the
ews who remained found late expression in Feinberg’s poetic
aments.
Feinberg’s seventieth birthday in 1967 evoked enthusiastic ap­
raisals of his creative talent. In 1968 he was elected president
f the Yiddish PEN Club by his literary colleagues. In the twilight
f his life he pondered on his condemned, ruined yet blessed
eneration of Russian Jewish intellectuals and transformed their
xperiences into verses of tragic beauty. On January 22, 1969,
e passed away in New York while at the height of his creativity.