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Boris Gaponov, Prize Winning Poet, Dead at 38

July 26, 1972
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Funeral services will be held here tomorrow for Boris Gaponov, the prize-winning Jewish poet from Soviet Georgia, who died today at the age of 38. Gaponov arrived in Israel on May 27, 1971 after undergoing brain surgery in Leningrad to remove a tumor. He was hospitalized nearly 14 months following his arrival and never regained his power of speech. Gaponov’s mother who accompanied him to Israel claimed that Soviet authorities had delayed his exit visa until he contracted meningitis.

The Wilna-born Gaponov taught himself Hebrew secretly in Soviet Georgia and subsequently won, in absentia, Israel’s prestigious Tchernichovsky Award for 1969 for his Hebrew translation of “The Man in the Tiger’s Skin,” a 1669-stanza 12th century epic poem. Georgian authorities, according to his mother, charged him with possessing illegal writings, supervised his personal meetings, and confiscated all his manuscripts before he left the USSR. With his mother’s help, Gaponov translated Lermantoff’s “The Hero of Our Times” during his hospitalization here, and it was recently published.

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