Friday 16 May 2014


DOVID IGNATOV (DAVID IGNATOW) (October 14, 1885-February 26, 1954)
His earlier surname was Ignatovski.  Born in Brusilov (Brusyliv), Ukraine, into a Hassidic family.  He attended religious schools, and later became a university candidate.  In 1903 he left for Kiev, joined the group around Iskra (Spark) of the Russian Social Democratic Party, and was arrested.  When freed, he became a professional revolutionary.  In 1906 he emigrated to the United States and worked in various factories in Chicago, St. Louis, and New York.  He experienced every trial and tribulation that immigrants underwent at that time.  For a short time in New York, he worked as a union organizer.  He began writing in Russian, and made the acquaintance of young Yiddish writers which led him to write in Yiddish, but without success.  The Fraye arbiter shtime (Free voice of labor) did not wish to publish his first story.  This unsuccessful attempt, though, did not leave him discouraged.  His continued writing and gradually became one of the most active leaders of the group that revolted against the literary conservatism of the Yiddish press at the time.  This group was later known as Di yunge (The young ones).  In 1907 he debuted with a story in the anthology Yugnt (Youth), published by several young writers.  The active Yiddish reading public at that time was drawn to this collection, and Ignatov’s story made quite an impression, and he was encouraged to engage in further writing.  In 1910 he published, together with Y. Y. Shvarts, the collection Literatur (Literature).  In 1912 he began publishing the anthology Shriftn (Writings)—in which through him was founded the publisher, Amerike (America)—which appeared sporadically until 1926 with a longer break over the period 1915-1918.  Shriftn became the literary dais for a pléiade of young poets and prose writers who contributed much to the development of Yiddish literature in America.  Shriftn also—for the first time in the history of the Yiddish periodical press—made it possible for a number of Jewish painters to introduce to Yiddish readers new ideas and directions in the realm of the plastic arts.  Ignatov published in these collections his own longer and shorter works.  Outside of Shriftn he edited the anthology Velt ayn, velt oys (World in, world out, 1916), and he published short novellas and longer works in: Dovid Pinski’s Arbeter (Workers), Chaim Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye lebn (The new life), Avrom Reyzen’s Dos naye land (The new land), Tsukunft (Future), Yidishe velt (Jewish world) in Vilna, and Kritik (Critique) in Vienna), among others.
Among his books are the following: Tsvey kreftn (Two crabs) (New York, 1908), 35 pp.; Berl proger (Berl Proger) (New York, 1916), 48 pp., second printing (New York, 1921); Tsvishn tsvey zunen (Between two suns) (New York, 1918), 256 pp., second printing (New York, 1919); In kesl-grub (In the crucible) (New York, 1918), 228 pp., second printing (New York, 1919); Dos farborgene likht (The hidden light) (New York, 1918), 183 pp., second printing (New York, 1919); Vunder mayses fun altn prag (Wonder tales from old Prague) (New York, 1920), 231 pp.; Oyfbroyz (Spurt) (New York, 1932), 289 pp.; Af vayte veg (On a further road), a trilogy (New York, 1932), 277 pp., 253 pp., 269 pp.; Dos, vos kumt for (That which occurred) (New York, 1932), 272 pp.; Far a nayer velt (Toward a new world) (New York, 1939), 320 pp., a biblical tragedy full of poetic ideas and images; Gidon, tragedye in tsvey un tsvantsik megiles (Gideon, a tragedy in twenty-two scrolls) (New York, 1953), 444 pp., with drawings by Y. Tofel.  In 1921 a series of his children’s stories was published in New York: Dos goldene yingele (The golden lad), Gold un brilyantn (Gold and diamonds), In dem land fun raykhkeyt (In the land of wealth), Di malke shabes (Shabbat, the queen), and Vinter (Winter), among other others.  All had already been published and with colorful illustrations.  Ignatov’s books and collections were illustrated by such painters as: A. Volkovits, Y. Tofel, B. Kopman, B. Anisfeld, Yoysef Hekht, Sh. Vitkovits, Maks Veber, Z. Moud, and M. Shvarts.
Over a period of many years, Ignatov was active in HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society).  In 1937 he participated in the Jewish Cultural Congress in Paris, though he did not join IKUF (Jewish Cultural Association) which was created at this congress.  In 1948 he took an active role in the Altveltlekher yidisher kultur-kongres (World Jewish cultural congress); he was the originator of the art forum within this institution.  “Ignatov brought to Yiddish prose a tone and rhythm all his own, and he excelled with his beautiful, musical language….  Characteristic of Ignatov was an aspiration to rise above the quotidian….  The tendency in his work is a lyrical, religious one.” (Sh. Niger)  From 1950 he suffered from a serious illness and was completed kept isolated.  He passed away in New York and was buried along an honorary path for Yiddish writers in the Workman’s Circle cemetery.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon; Algemayne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), vol. 3; N. Oyslender, Veg ayn, veg oys (Way in, way out) (Kiev, 1924), pp. 173-202; Y. Botoshanski, Portretn fun yidishe shrayber (Portraits of Yiddish writers) (Warsaw, 1933); Yorbukh fun semeteri-department arbiter-ring (Annual of the cemetery department of the Workmen’s Circle) (New York, 1954); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Yidisher kemfer (April 30, 1954); Dr. Ch. Zhitlovsky, Vizie un gedank (Vision and thought) (New York, 1951); B. Tutshinski, in Bodn (New York) (April 1937); B. Tshubinski, in Tsukunft (October 1953); Mani Leyb and Dr. Y. Rozenfeld, Dovid ignatov, finf un tsvantsik yor literarishe shafn (Dovid Ignatov, twenty-five years of literary creations) (Chicago, 1935); N. B. Minkov, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (March 1954); Shmuel Niger, Shmuesn vegn bikher (Chats about books) (New York, 1922), pp. 186-94, and in Tog (New York) (February 12, 1933), and in Tsukunft (August 1938); Y. Pat, Shmuesn mit yidishe shrayber (Chats with Jewish writers) (New York, 1954); Y. Rolnik, Mayne zikhroynes (My memoirs) (New York, 1954); B. Rivkin, Undzere prozaiker (Our prose writers) (New York, 1951); V. Neyman, Gerangl: dovid ignatov der shriftshteler un kemfer (Struggle: Dovig Ignatov the author and fighter) (New York: Menakhem, 19--?), 103 pp.; Y. Rapoport, Fayerlekh in nepl (Solemn in the fog) (Melbourne, 1961)..

B. Tshubinski

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