Moyshe Kulbak

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Moyshe Kulbak (1896, Smarhoń – 1937, near Minsk) was a Yiddish-language writer.


Born in Smarhon (present-day Belarus) to a Jewish family, Kulbak studied at the Volozhin Yeshiva in Lithuania. In 1914 he moved to the Russian city of Minsk; in 1920, after the Soviet Revolution, to Berlin; and in 1923 to Wilna (then a city in Poland), a center of Yiddish literary culture. In 1927 he returned to Minsk.

Kulbak wrote poems, fantastical or "mystical" novels, and, after moving to the Soviet Union, what are described by one source as "Soviet" satires. But his novel, The Zelmenyaners, depicted with some realism the absurdities of Soviet life. In September 1937, during the Stalinist purges, Moyshe Kulbak was arrested, and executed a month later.[1]

His mystical novel, The Messiah of the House of Ephraim, draws together many strands of Jewish folklore and apocalyptic belief, presenting them from a perspective that owes much to German expressionist cinema. It principally concerns the poor man Benye, who may or may not be a Messiah, and whose destiny is intertwined with the Lamed-Vavniks. (In Jewish mysticism, the Lamed-Vavniks are a group of 36 holy Jews on whose goodness the whole of humanity depends.) Benye, and the many other characters, undergo experiences the strangeness of which approaches incomprehensibility, to themselves as well as the reader. Legendary figures such as Lilith and Simkhe Plakhte are characters in the novel. Nació en Smorgonie (Bielorrusia) el 20 de marzo de 1896. En 1909 ingresó en la yeshiva de Volozhin (Lituania), donde estudió hasta 1916, año que coincide con el cierre de la yeshiva y la ocupación alemana de la zona. En 1920 emigró a Berlin trabajando como apuntador en el teatro de Piskator y colaborando con los diarios yidis de Polonia y EE.UU. En 1923 se estableció en Vilna, donde trabajó como profesor de hebreo en dos institutos de bachillerato y la Escuela de Magisterio. En 1928 se trasladó a Minsk, entonces dentro de la URSS, siendo contratado por la Academia de Ciencias de Bielorrusia y se dedicó a traducir del ruso y escribir obras de teatro. El 11 de septiembre de 1937 fue arrestado y acusado de espionaje. El 29 de octubre de 1937 fue fusilado en las cercanías de Minsk, en Kurapaty.


  • Lider (Poems), 1922.
  • Disner Childe Harold, 1933.
  • The Messiah of the House of Ephraim. English translation in: Yenne Velt, ed. and trans. Joachim Neugroschel (1976; repr. New York: Wallaby, 1978).
  • "The Wind Who Lost His Temper", in Yenne Velt (above).
  • The Zelmenyaners


  • "Raysn" (Poemas), 1922.
  • "Yankev Frank (Drama),1922.
  • "Meshiekh ben Efrayine" (Novela), 1924.
  • "Vilné" (Poema), 1926.
  • "Lunes" (Novela), 1926. Editado por el Círculo d´Escritores, 2014.
  • "Bunye un Bere afn shliakh" (Novela), 1927.
  • "Zelminianer" (Novela), 1931.


  1. ^ Bella Szwarcman-Czarnota: Z Wilna do Ziemi Izraela. Midrasz (Warsaw), October 2007. p. 48. The article makes clear that Moyshe Kulbak was arrested in September 1937 and executed one month later. Even so in many cyclopaedia articles (similarly to the case of Isaac Babel) 1940 is given as the date of his death.


  • Charles Dobzynski, Le monde yiddish, ed. L¨Harmattan, París, 1998. Historia de la literatura yidis.
  • Henri Minczeles, Les Litvaks, ed. La Découverte, París, 2008. Rachel Ertel Acerca de los poetas de la joven Vilna.
  • Yves Plasseraud, Lituanie juive 1918-1940, ed. Autrement, París, 1996. Moshe Kulbak et Zalman Shnéour.