SHLOYME BRIANSKI (b. 1899)
He was a playwright, educator, and literary researcher, born in the town of Malyn, Kiev district, Ukraine. His father was a Hebrew teacher; after the Revolution he worked as a ritual slaughterer, and a few years prior to his death he moved to Crimea to become a member of a collective farm. Shloyme spent his youth with his grandfather, the ritual slaughterer of Narodychi, not far from Korosten’ and Zhytomyr, and was raised in a traditional Jewish spirit. He gave private Hebrew lessons, and in 1918 he became a teacher in Jewish schools in the Zhytomyr region (Ovruch and later in Narodychi). Over the years 1922-1924, he studied at the Jewish Pedagogical Technicum in Kiev. It was at that time that he began his own literary career with several short plays for the Yiddish theater. In 1921 he composed his first skit, “Nep un step” (New Economic Policy and steppe), which was successfully staged by the Narodychi Drama Circle. In 1922 he helped found the drama troupe Meshulakhes (Calamity) at the Jewish Pedagogical Technicum, and he wrote for it skits, slapstick routines, and one-act plays about school life and general Soviet topics. His revue Nikolai-shpil (Nikolai play) was a great success (1922). Together with a group of enthusiasts, he founded at the same school the literary journal Trit (Step). He acquired a reputation as an organizer of drama circles, when he was working later (1924-1927) as a teacher in a Jewish laborers’ school in Vinnytsa; he organized a drama circle in the city, and there he staged, in addition to the aforementioned works, reworkings of Sholem-Aleichem’s Mentshn (People) and Goldfaden’s Di tsvey kuni-leml (The two kuni-lemls) with music by A. Guberman. In 1927 he received a teaching position in Kiev, where he continued his theatrical activities. For his drama collective, he composed plays which they staged with success, especially his comedy Yankl britvin (Yankl Britvin) and a satire in two scenes entitled Kultur-revolutsye (Cultural revolution), published in the anthology Far der bine (In front of the stage), edited by Yekhezkl Dobrushin and Elye Gordon. To perfect his theatrical training, he entered the drama faculty of the Kiev Theatrical Institute named for Lysenko and in 1929 the Kiev institute for professional education (the literary-linguistic office). He then tried to combine his theatrical work with his pedagogical work, and thus created in Kiev the First Yiddish Theater for Children. He wrote, dramatized, and translated a series of stage works from Russian. For children’s theater, he adapted Sholem-Aleykhem’s Motl peysi dem khazns (Motl, the cantor Peysi’s [son]) which was very successful, translated from Russian a play “Di biks” (The gun), and composed Tsvang (Constraint), a three-act play in eleven episodes (Kharkov-Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1938), 48 pp. As a researcher at the Kiev Institute for Jewish Culture (1922-1935), he published a series of works on topics in pedagogy and literary research, contributed to the compilation of textbooks for Jewish schools, published articles in such pedagogical journals as Af di vegn tsu der nayer shul (On the road to the new school) and Ratnbildung (Red education), and treatments of Yiddish writers in the newspapers Der emes (The truth) and Proletarishe fon (Proletarian standard), among others. He also compiled folklore and turned his attention to bibliography and translation. In late 1935, he suddenly became mentally ill. He was placed in a hospital, and from that time on there has been no information about him.
Among his other staged plays, we should note: Der khinezisher general (The Chinese general), a comedy; Laykhte kavalerye (Light cavalry), a revue, and (with Moyshe Gershenzon) Krizis fun kapitalizm (Crisis of capitalism), a satirical revue in three acts; and Meshiekh in amerike (Messiah in America), a comedy in three acts (a revision of Moyshe Nadir’s one-act play). Together with M. Mizhritski, he published: Lernbukh un khrestomatye fun literatur (Textbook and reader for literature), for fifth-graders (Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1933), 288 pp. (several editions appeared), in which he wrote treatises on Fefer, Kharik, Kulbak, Sholem-Aleykhem, Vintshevski, Rosenfeld, and the folklore division. Together with Zalmen Skuditski, he translated from Russian Terekhov’s Geografye (Geography), a textbook for primary school, grade three, part 1 (Kiev, 1933), 96 pp. (second edition, Moscow, 1934, 93 pp.). With Gershenzon, he compiled the humor pages for Proletarishe fon and Prolit (Proletarian literature). With Gershnzon and Skuditski, he wrote a longer story “Zalbedrit” (Group of three), a fragment of which appeared in Proletarishe fon. From this research, he published: D. bergelson in shpigl fun der kritik, 1909-1932 (D. Bergelson in the mirror of criticism, 1909-1932) (Kiev: Ukrainian Academy of Science, 1934), 79 pp. A monograph on Itsik Fefer’s works remains in manuscript.
In addition to the aforementioned works, he also published: 50 yor idisher teater (1876-1926) (Fifty years of Yiddish theater, 1876-1926) (Vinnytsa, 1926) (single periodical edition); translations from Georgi Shilin, Kamo, Ter-Petrosyants (Kharkov-Kiev: Cntral Publ., 1931), 90 pp.; Rodyonov-Pidlisniuk’s Naturvisnshaft (Natural science), sixth grade (1932), 76 pp.; V. Tetiurev’s Naturvisnshaft (Kharkov-Kiev, 1934), 92 pp.; “Vegn kulbaks sheferishn veg” (On Kulbak’s creative path), Farmest (Challenge) 4-5 (Kharkov, 1934); “Etyudn vegn itsik fefers shafn inem oyfshtel-peryod” (Studies of Itsig Fefer’s creations in his formative period), Visnshaft un revolutsye (Science and revolution) 1 (5) (Kiev, 1935), pp. 41-95. Brianski also translated fifty letters by Dovid Edelshtadt from Russian, which Kalmen Marmor published in Visnshaft un revolutsye 1-2 (Kiev, 1934); and he prepared all the texts, as he wrote in his work “Vegn dem tekst fun edelshats lider un proze” (On the text of Edelshtat’s poems and prose), for Dovid Edelshtat, Geklibene verk (Selected works), compiled by Marmor (Moscow: Emes, 1935), vol. 2, pp. 319-31; he also compiled “Osher shvartsman-biblyografye” (Bibliography for Osher Shvartsman), with annotations, which was published in the volume, Osher shvartsman, lider un briv (Osher Shvartsman, poetry and letters), ed. Max Erik and Mikhl Levitan (Kiev: Ukrainian Academy of Science, 1935), pp. 207-18.
Sources: V. Shats, “Af der shtelung fun Tvang” (At the performance of Tvang), Yunger leninets 57 (Minsk, 1933); Oktryaberl 2 (Kiev, 1933); the Fefer plenum and Fefer collection, in Visnshaft un revolutsye 1-2 (Kiev, 1934), pp. 142, 148, 150; performance session of the literature and criticism section, in Odeser arbeter (April 28, 1934); Kh. Nodel, “Oyflebn dos biblyografye-vezn” (Reviving the essence of bibliography), Eynikeyt (Moscow) (July 5, 1947); Al. Pomerants, “Edelshtat in der yidish-sovetisher literatur-kritik” (Edelshtat in Soviet Jewish literary criticism), in Dovid edelshtat gedenk bukh (Dovid Edelshtat remembrance volume) (Brooklyn, New York, 1952), pp. 214, 549, 551.
Aleksander Pomerants and Leyzer Ran
[Additional information from: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 61-62.]