Academic journal article Journalism History

Jewish Values in the Journalism of Alberto Gerchunoff

Academic journal article Journalism History

Jewish Values in the Journalism of Alberto Gerchunoff

Article excerpt

Returning from a vacation, veteran journalist Alberto Gerchunoff walked into the newsroom of La Nacion. True to its name, the newspaper wielded such influence that some readers conflated it with the nation of Argentina. "Gerch" was nearly that closely identified with La Nacion after four decades of special dispatches from Europe, the United States, and all over Latin America; personality profiles of world leaders; obituaries that read like eulogies; and countless news stories, occasionally under a byline, but most often not. Byline or none, other reporters knew that the squat figure in black, round-rimmed glasses and smoking a half-bent taper pipe was among the most prolific and versatile journalists in the newsroom. He greeted his colleagues, and between his usual quips, sat down to write, literally, because even in 1950, he had not made the transition to the typewriter. Two of the paper's linotype operators were valued for their skill at reading his rapidly scratched cursive. Finished with the story on a conflict over Formosa, he said his goodbyes, walked out the door and through the lobby, and, at the corner, fell dead of a heart attack.1 The final composition of one of Argentina's best-known writers, author of twenty-two books, was a daily news story.

Nevertheless, until recently, the scholarly work about Gerchunoff, although vast, has largely overlooked his contribution to journalism.2 The success and influence of his first novel, Los Gauchos Judios, published when he was in his late twenties, assured his place among both Spanish-language and Jewish writers, reflecting the double identity that Ricardo Feierstein captures in the title of his biography: The Most Jewish Argentine, the Most Argentine Jew.3 Los Gauchos Judios, a collection of vignettes with interlocking characters that depict life in Argentina's Jewish agricultural colonies, where Gerchunoff grew up in the late nineteenth century, famously "gave Jewish immigrants their Argentine passports."4 Analysis of Gerchunoff has focused on that first novel, Edna Aizenberg wrote, "overshadowing the rest of his extensive and important journalistic and narrative work in the following forty years, until his early death in 1950."5

The writer himself viewed journalism as not just a means of supporting his family, but as an integral aspect of his craft. After a year spent giving order to Gerchunoffs 2,000 bylined news articles, his son-in-law, Miguel Kantor, reiterated the author's own analysis of the relationship between journalism and writing, delivered in a 1938 speech on journalism at the University of Chile: "It is false that journalism negates the writer. On the contrary, generally one starts out as a journalist and ends up a writer. Journalism serves to test us and to disciplines us, as the anvil that teaches us to think clearly and to order our writing. Besides that, journalism means life, sacrifice, struggle."6 Miguel Alejandro Dujoven has noted that this symbiosis of journalism and literature was so typical among Argentine Jewish writers of the era that in 1924, when a group of writers formed a literary group, Zeglen or Sails, that excluded anyone who wrote for a daily newspaper, the organization soon disbanded. "At the same time they played one role, they also played another, alternatively or simultaneously, writers, journalists, and political activists," he observed.7

Recent scholarship has re-examined Gerchunoffs role as a journalist. Feierstein, known for his own exploration of JewishArgentine identity, recounted Gerchunoffs journalism in one chapter of his thematic 2013 biography.8 Gerchunoff arrived in Argentina from Russia in 1889 or 1890 at the age of six or seven, part of the first of three waves of Jewish immigration to Argentina.9 That immigration began as part of a strategy that prominent liberals, including Bartolome Mitre, proposed to attract foreigners who would "work the land, improve industry, and introduce science and the arts," Aizenberg wrote. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.