BEN-AVIGDOR (pen-name, Abraham Leib Shalkovich):


Russian Hebrew novelist and publisher; born in Zheludok, government of Wilna, in 1867. He received the usual Biblical and Talmudical education, and was expected by his parents to become a rabbi; but he was attracted by modern Hebrew and Zionism, and engaged in writing and publishing as a vocation. In 1891 he was called to Warsaw to become secretary of a Zionist society. There he began to publish a popular "library," or series of original short stories under the name "Sifre Agurah" (Penny Books), and in the following four years brought out thirty-one numbers. They included six novels and novelettes by himself, the others being by the best-known Hebrew writers of the day, such as Frischman, Pereẓ, Taviov, and Brainin. Later he was one of the founders, and for three years the manager of the publication society Aḥiasaf, which has accomplished much in spreading and popularizing the newly revived Hebrew literature. When he left the Aḥiasaf company he founded a similar publishing-house, called "Tushiah" (Sound Knowledge), of which he is the editor and, with M. Balascher, manager. It has published various scientific works, both original and translations, and numerous works of fiction, and is one of the most potent agencies for the diffusion of knowledge among the Hebrew reading public.


As a writer, Ben-Avigdor is original and has considerable power of description and expression. Some of his longer stories—e.g., "Leah Mokeret ha-Dagim" and "Menaḥem ha-Sofer"—attracted much attention. Other stories of his and some articles gave occasion for interesting polemics. He was attacked not only for his ideas as a Nationalist, but also for his style, which he modeled after the so-called "new direction," caring more for being understood than for the purity of Biblical Hebrew. Some of his stories were published in the Aḥiasaf annuals.

  • Ha-Meliẓ, 1889, Nos. 82-86;
  • Ha-Asif, 1894, pp. 213-224 (review of his two works);
  • Lippe, Bibliographisches Lexikon, new series, Vienna, 1899, p. 32;
  • private sources.
H. R. P. Wi.
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