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Markish, Shimon

(1931–2003), literary and cultural historian; translator. The son of poet Perets Markish, Shimon (Simon Peretsovich) Markish was educated as a classical scholar, a choice determined by his father’s arrest in 1949, which precluded other, more prestigious choices. After his father’s execution, Markish was arrested and sent with the family to exile to Kazakhstan from 1953 to 1954.

In addition to translating Apuleius, Plutarch, Plato, and Feuchtwanger, Markish wrote about ancient Greece, publishing Gomer i ego poemy (Homer and His Poems; 1962) and Sumerki v polden’: Ocherk grecheskoi kul’tury v epokhu peloponnesskoi voiny (Dusk at Noon: A Study of Greek Culture at the Time of the Peloponnesian War; 1988). In 1962, on the recommendation of Anna Akhmatova, he was accepted into the Soviet Writers Union.

Markish left the Soviet Union in 1970, immigrating first to Hungary and then, in 1974, to Geneva. His book Érasme et les Juifs (1979) was published in 1979 and was translated into English as Erasmus and the Jews in 1986. He dedicated the greater part of his life to Russian Jewish literature, a subject that he established, promoted, and enriched as a field of research. He wrote essays and books on major Russian Jewish writers, notably Vasilii Grossman (Le cas Grossman [The Grossman Case]; 1986), whose novel Zhizn’ i sud’ba (Life and Fate) he shepherded on its painstaking path to publication in Geneva in 1980. His afterword to the 1979 Jerusalem collection of Isaac Babel’s stories was the first to examine Babel’s Jewish identity (“Russko-evreiskaia literatura i Isaak Babel” in Detstvo i drugie rasskazy [Childhood and Other Stories]).

Markish also compiled several anthologies of works by Russian Jewish writers (on Grossman, Ilya Ehrenburg, and Babel, as well as the book Rodnoi golos [Native Voice: Pages from Russian Jewish Literature]; 2001).

From 1991 to 1993, he coedited Evreiskii zhurnal (published in Munich). He was an invited scholar at many institutions around the world. A translator from six languages, he completed his last project, a translation from Hungarian into Russian of Imre Kertész’s Nobel prize-winning novel Sorstalanság (Fateless; 1975) with Zsuzsa Hetényi (published as Obezdolennost’ in Ierusalimskii zhurnal 14–15 [2003]: 131–186; 18 [2004]: 4–83); the translation received the Füst Milan Prize for translation by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Suggested Reading

Boris Czerny, “Shimon Markish,” Studia Slavica 49.3–4 (2004): 427–430; Zsuzsa Hetényi, “Biography and Bibliography,” Studia Slavica 49.3–4 (2004): 431–438; Ierusalimskii zhur-nal 18 (2004), special Shimon Markish me-morial issue; Shimon Markish, “La littérature juive d’expression russe,” unpublished manuscript (Paris, 1983); Shimon Markish, “À propos de l’histoire et de la méthodologie de l’étude de la littérature juive d’expression russe,” Cahiers du monde russe 26.2 (1985): 139–153.