Der Nister

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Der Nister


(pen name of Pinkhos Mendelevich Kaganovich). Born Oct. 20 (Nov. 1), 1884; died June 4, 1950. Soviet Jewish writer.

Born in Berdichev, Der Nister was educated in a heder. In 1907 he published a book of poems in prose, Thoughts and Motifs. Der Nister’s prerevolutionary verse and prose were modernistic in form, but in content his works were democratic.

From 1922 to 1925, Der Nister lived in Berlin and published his work in Soviet Yiddish journals. Published in 1929, the short-story anthologies Among My Possessions and Imagination reveal a symbolist perception of revolutionary reality. Three Capitals, a book of essays, marked Der Nister’s transition from symbolism to realism. The sociohistorical novel The Mashber Family (parts 1–2, 1939–43) depicts the life of Jews in Russia during the last third of the 19th century. Der Nister’s realist works include the unfinished novel 1905 (published 1964).


Gurshtein, A. Izbrannye stat’i. Moscow, 1959.
L’vovskii, la. “In togteglekhn lebn.” Sovetish geimland, 1964, no. 6.


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Bergelson and his friend Der Nister (the pen name of Pinchas Kahanovitsh, 1884-1950) joined Milgroym's founder, the scholar Mark Wischnitzer (1882-1955), as its literary editors.
Alarmed by the violence with which they were assailed for having joined what were denounced as "the forces of reaction," unable to reconcile their personal sense of personal displacement with the Wischnitzers' conservative insistence on Jewish national unity, and unwilling to sever ties with colleagues in Soviet Yiddish centers, both Bergelson and Der Nister resigned from Milgroym's editorial board after the appearance of its first issue, publishing a joint one-sentence letter in the third issue of Shtrom implying their desire to show solidarity with their Soviet co-workers.
Among these radicals were Meylekh Ravitsh (1893-1976) and the poet Peretz Markish (1895-1952) who, in the first issue of his ultra-radical journal Khaliastre (Gang) in Warsaw, derided both Bergelson and Der Nister for betraying the straggle for Yiddish culture in the Soviet Union, which they regarded as its true motherland.
By using pseudonyms, Singer was following a long tradition in Yiddish literature; many, if not most, of the greatest names in Yiddish letters are pseudonyms: Sholem Aleichem, Mendele Mokher Seforim, Der Nister, H.
Pinkhes-Pinye Kahanovitsh (1884-1950), modern Yiddish literature's leading symbolist, is best known under his pen name, Der Nister (The Concealed One).
By avoiding realism and reviving instead the language of Jewish mysticism in a contemporary and secular context, however, Der Nister situated himself on the fringes of mainstream Yiddish letters, since his politically engage critics, though admiring his mastery of language, neither understood nor respected his eclectic subject matter.
Between 1915 and 1920, Der Nister was actively in the Kiev Group of Yiddish literati, led by Dovid Bergelson.
Der Nister and Bergelson immediately resigned from Milgroym, publicly distancing themselves from its orientation in an open letter published in Shtrom's third issue.
But following years of neglect by literary critics, Der Nister was now crushed by a negative review by Dovid Hofshteyn (June 1928), which sharply criticized the symbolist movement in general and Der Nister in particular.
Political pressures notwithstanding, in 1929, as mentioned earlier, Der Nister published a collection of stories entitled Fun mayne giter (From my Possessions) which went virtually unnoticed.
Der Nister, like all other Soviet Yiddish writers, tried to tread a fine line between moral and physical survival.
DER NISTER, is the pen name of Pinkhes-Pinye Kahanovitsh, famed Yiddish author of Symbolist fiction who died in 1950 in the Stalinist anti-Yiddish culture pogrom in the Soviet Union.