Saturday, May 4, 2013

Problemists and Popular Writing

Igal Mosinzon playing chess. Photo credit: Igal Serena [see 2nd link below]

In Moshe Marmorosh's chess column from the 1930s we find, occasionally, rather interesting things that have nothing to do with chess. One of them is that a certain young solver -- "Y. Mosinzon" -- occasionally is acknowledged as a solver. Unless I am very much mistaken, this is the writer Yigal Mosinzon [link in Hebrew], the author of numerous Hebrew books and plays and one of the most important writers of the early decades of the state of Israel.

Apparently, Mosinzon, who died in 1994, kept his love for chess all his life, as can be deduced from the photo above, from the following blog [in Hebrew] by the Israeli writer Yigal Serena, who also notes that Mosinzon would regularly meet with his "good friend Tommy Lapid" to play chess.

He is particularly well known for his play Kazablan [made later into a now-classic movie in Israel, starring Yehoram Ga'on], and above all for a series of children's adventures stories, Hasamba -- the acronym of Havurat Sod Muchlat Be'Hechlet, a tongue-in-cheek title that can be roughly translated as "Gang of the Really Top Secret Secret". It is about a group of children who are, in effect, a commando unit which discovers spies, rescues Israeli soldiers from prison, help IDF special units or Mossad agents accomplish dangerous missions, and the like.

For people of certain generations who grew up in Israel, Hasamba, and the heroes of the series, were as popular and well known as, say, Superman or Batman in the USA. Indeed, Mosinzon wrote the series partially to provide Israeli children with Zionist-themed popular reading, instead of Tarzan or other foreign influences. The series' enormous success was a Pyrrhic victory for Mosinzon: actually a serious writer, Hasamba eclipsed everything else he did, despite the fact that, as the less-than-serious name of the series shows, he never took it too seriously from the literary point of view.

Still, Mosinzon's talent showed even in such popular work. Despite the fact that the heroes fought British or, later, Arab antagonists that were usually stereotypically typecast, there were many individualized and even positive Arab or British characters. Also, the female member of the group -- perhaps due to Mosinzon's exprience in the pre-IDF Palmach para-military organization where women, out of necessity, served in combat roles with men -- is just as brave and active as the boys.

I do not recall offhand any reference to a chracter in Hasamba playing chess -- but perhaps a reader can enlighten me.

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