KANOVICH, GRIGORY


KANOVICH, GRIGORY (pseudonym of Yakov Semenovich; 1929– ), Soviet prose writer, poet, and dramatist. Kanovich, who wrote in Russian and Lithuanian, was born in the town of Ionava near Kaunas or, according to another source, in Kaunas itself, into the family of an observant Jewish tailor. In 1953 he graduated from Vilnius University. His first writings were published in 1949. He wrote collections of poetry in Russian: Dobroye utro ("Good Morning," 1955) and Vesenniy grom ("Spring Thunder," 1960); of literary epigrams and parodies in Lithuanian ("With a Joyful Eye," 1964; Naked Ones on Olympus, 1981); 30 plays and film scenarios (some co-authored) on contemporary themes; and he translated literary prose from Lithuanian into Russian.

Kanovich's Russian prose works are almost all devoted to the life of Lithuanian Jewry. The theme of the moral quest of a Jewish boy from a Lithuanian shtetl in his long stories "Ya smotryu na zvezdy" ("I Gaze at the Stars," 1959) and "Lichnaya zhizn"' ("Private Life," 1967) is developed in his trilogy Svechi na vetru ("Candles in the Wind") consisting of the novels: Ptitsy nad kladbishchem ("Birds over the Cemetery," 1974), Blagoslovi i list'ya i ogon' ("Bless Both the Leaves and the Fire," 1977), Kolybel'naya snezhnoy babe ("Lullaby for a Snowman," 1979, translated into Hebrew in 1983). The trilogy, the action of which takes place between 1937 and 1943, recreates the traditional world and spirituality of East European Jewry. The events, even those on the most massive scale such as the Holocaust, are presented through the eyes of a youth and, as he develops, of a young man; in its structure the novel in places resembles a lyrical diary. An epic, philosophic element predominates in Kanovich's cycle of novels devoted to Jewish shtetl life of the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries – Slëzy i molitvy durakov ("Tears and Prayers of Fools," 1983); I net rabam raya ("There's No Heaven for Slaves," 1985), Kozlenok za dva grosha ("A Kid for Two Pennies"). The ethnic character of the novels (the heroes' way of thinking, reminiscent of Talmudic dialectics, and their way of speaking) and the problems they raise (the aspiration of the Jewish masses for national self-preservation, the feeling of responsibility for the ethical and ethnic essence of the people, the tendency of part of the Jewish intelligentsia to reject its identity for the sake of career, and assimilation) brought these works popularity among Soviet Jews. Kanovich visited Israel in 1980 and settled there in 1993.

[The Shorter Jewish Encylopaedia in Russian]


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