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Fichmann, Ya‘akov

(1881–1958), Hebrew poet, critic, and editor. Born in Beltsy (Bălți), Bessarabia, Ya‘akov Fichmann received a traditional and secular education, and was well versed in Hebrew maskilic writing as well as Yiddish, Russian, and German literature. The rural landscape of his childhood village remained an integral part of his imagination for the rest of his life.

Fichmann’s first two poems, one original, the other a translation of a piece by Mikhail Lermontov, were published in the children’s newspaper Gan sha‘ashu‘im in 1900. Another early poem, “Amarti etyatsev me-raḥok” (I Told You I Would Stand from a Distance; 1901), earned him his reputation as a serious poet.

After discovering the writings of Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik, Fichmann traveled to Odessa in 1901 to be under his influence and to interact with that city’s circle of writers. Beginning in 1903, he divided his time between Odessa and Warsaw, writing original poetry and critical essays, as well as producing translations and editions of the works of prominent living writers. He published his first book of poems, Giv‘olim (Stalks), in Warsaw in 1911, and later in his career wrote short stories and children’s literature.

In 1912 Fichmann moved to Palestine to edit the children’s magazine Moledet. His love for his new land and his participation in its reawakening were not at odds with his love of wandering and his feelings about being a “passing guest.” Two years later he returned to Europe on a temporary visit, but was detained there until after World War I. He continued to write lyrical poetry and participated in the literary circles of Germany and Russia, as well as Odessa, where he resumed his association with Bialik (an admiration that led Fichmann in 1946 to supplement an edition of Shirat Bialik [Bialik’s Poetry] with a selection of essays).

Between 1919 and 1921, Fichmann was back in Palestine, again editing Moledet as well as the journal Ma‘abarot. He then worked until 1925 as an editor for Stybel Publications, for the most part in Warsaw; in that year he returned to Palestine once more. Beginning in the 1930s, he produced poetry, essays, children’s books, and textbooks, in Yiddish as well as Hebrew. His essays about contemporary writers are noted for his personal familiarity with his subjects, but he supplemented this knowledge with the skills of an unbiased critic who had sharp instincts for fine literature.

While Ya‘akov Fichmann belonged chronologically to Bialik’s generation, his poetry spans both the romantic milieu that pervades Bialik and Sha’ul Tchernichowsky’s works and the impressionistic, modernist outlook of the generation that succeeded him. Employing a diverse range of styles, Fichmann wrote sonnets, idyllic verse, ballads, and narrative poems. He drew upon the landscape of his youth, choosing recurring key words and phrases to express sadness, tenderness, stillness, and enchantment. Writing about old age and youth, sadness and joy, and showing alternately an intimacy with the landscape and a detachment from it, he draws imagery that brings emotion into sharp focus as he delicately attempts to find wholeness in a shattered world. Allusions to a stressful natural situation, such as a heat wave, contain the potential to cleanse and enchant, however much suffering such an event may cause.

Although Fichmann’s early images were joyful, harmonious, optimistic, and bright, they were later supplanted by emotions revealing fictitious calm, two-faced landscapes, and intimidating messages. Autumn, rather than spring, is his favorite season, as it uncovers the earth’s “moment of truth” and is not subject to the “sun’s enticements.” Sunset is his preferred time of day, in contrast to that of Bialik and Tshernichowsky, whose poetic settings stress sunlight. Fichmann’s writings are the poetry, as Bialik maintained, of “revelation and concealment,” and its key images include marvels, abysses, and blood as expressions of the universe’s life force.

Ya‘akov Fichmann died in Tel Aviv in 1958.

Suggested Reading

‘Arugot: Kovets le-zikhro shel Ya‘akov Fikhman, various eds., 3 vols. (Tel Aviv, 1973, 1976, 1983); Hillel Barzel, “Ya‘akov Fiḥman: Lirikah epit,” in Shirat ha-teḥiyah: Omane ha-zianer, pp. 452–553 (Tel Aviv, 1997); Nurit Govrin, ed., Ya‘akov Fikhman: Mivḥar ma’amre bikoret ‘al yetsirato (Tel Aviv, 1971); Getzel Kressel, “Fikhman, Ya‘akov,” in Leksikon ha-sifrut ha-‘ivrit ba-dorot ha-aḥaronim, ed. Getzel Kressel, pp. 602–608 (Merḥavyah, 1976); Zvi Luz, Shirat Ya‘akov Fikhman: Monografyah (Tel Aviv, 1989).



Translated from Hebrew by David Fachler