Emmanuil Kazakevich - biography
Emmanuil Genrikhovich Kazakevich (Russian: Эммануи́л Ге́нрихович Казаке́вич, Yiddish: עמנואל קאַזאַקעװיטש) (February 24, 1913 - September 22, 1962) was a Soviet author, poet and playwright of Jewish extraction, writing in Russian and Yiddish.
Kazakevich was born at Kremenchuk in Ukraine (then part of Imperial Russia) in 1913 and received training as an engineer at Kharkiv. In the early 1930s he moved to the Jewish autonomous region of Birobidzhan on the Amur River, where he became the chairman of a local kolkhoz and also ran a theatre. During these years he began writing and publishing poems and stories in Yiddish. In 1941 he was in Moscow, taking part in the defence efforts of the capital and later joining the regular Red Army for frontier service. His war service brought him close to some of the major battles of 1943-45 and finally into the battle for Berlin; by this time he had become assistant director of intelligence in one of the armies involved.
After 1945 Kazakevich began writing in Russian, and his debut novel Zvezda (The star, 1947, adapted into a film in 1949 (remake - film 2002)) was an instant success. The story is set at a scouting unit on the frontier in WW2, and the book showcases some of his later recurrent traits: the sharp, lyrical evocation of nature, the interest in moral conflicts and ambiguities, often relating to the transition between war and peace, the sense of humour and psychological observation. Many of his later stories are set during or shortly after the Second World War. The novella "In the Light of Day" (1960) explores ambiguities of guilt, bravery and memory as a soldier makes a visit to the widow of his fallen friend and unit officer.
During the fifties, Kazakevich reached high positions in the Soviet Association of Writers and was aligned with the efforts of de-Stalinization. he kept picking up potentially sensitive subjects, and during his last years may have been working on a major novel about Lenin during the revolutionary years. The short novel Sinyaya tetrad (The blue notebook) appeared in 1961; it is set during Lenin's stay on the Karelian isthmus in the summer of 1917 and brings Lenin face to face both with ordinary people and with Grigory Zinovyev, who was still considered a traitor or at best a dubious figure at the time of writing. While Kazakevich, in the end, makes Lenin refute Zinovyev's fears and allegations, there is no attempt to show the latter as an evil or insincere person, which would have been a given for most Soviet writers at the time.
Kazakevich continued with Lenin as a main character in another story, "Enemies", written in his last year, and it is likely that he was planning to bring them together within a larger novel about Lenin. However, his sudden passing away in the summer of 1962 meant that those plans were left unfulfilled.