Poet, Novelist, Playwright

Peretz Markish

The great writer Peretz Markish was born a poor family in the Volhynian shtetl of Polonnoye on December 7, 1895. He studied in kheder and began working a variety of odd jobs from an early age. He enlisted in the Tsarist army during the First World War and, after his discharge, settled in Ekaterinoslav in 1917.

It was there he began writing and publishing his bold Expressionist influenced poetry, that would characterize his work. He quickly came to prominence as a leading poet of his generation. Markish moved from Ekaterinoslav to Kiev and from there to Warsaw in 1921, where he was part of the Khalyastre (Merry Gang) group of writers, producing an exciting, wholly modern Yiddish literature.

After settling permanently in the Soviet Union in 1926, he was perhaps the most significant Yiddish poet of the USSR — the only Yiddish writer to receive the Order of Lenin. Active in the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, he was arrested in 1949 with other committee members and executed August 12, 1952 in the Lubyanka Prison.

Watch animated settings of two of Peretz Markish’s poems, “בראָכשטיקער” (Shards) and “שלאָפֿט דער מאַרק” (The Marketplace Sleeps):

  • My translation of Markish’s anguished tribute to Shloyme Mikhoyls (Solomon Michoels), written upon seeing Mikhoyls’ broken body being prepared for viewing at the state funeral in the Moscow Yiddish Theater, is available on request.