OSIP DYMOV (DIMOV, OSSIP DIMOW) (February 16, 1878-February 3, 1959)
The pseudonym of Yoysef Perelman, he was born in Bialystok, Poland, into a semi-assimilated family. His mother was a teacher of foreign languages. He studied in the Bialystok high school. He graduated in 1894 from the Forestry Institute in St. Petersburg. He began his literary activities in 1892 with humorous sketches in the Russian provincial press. He gained a name for himself with his ingenious feature pieces and humorous sketches at the time of the first Russian Revolution, when Russian humor journals, such as Signali (Alarms), sprang up. He wrote a short essay in 1894, entitled “Der eybiker vanderer” (The eternal wanderer). He later reworked it into a drama with the same title, which was staged in the best theaters in virtually the entire world and in many languages. From 1906 he was a standing contributor to the largest, Russian, progressive newspapers, such as: Svobodnaia mysl’ (Free thought), Utro (Morning), Rus (Russia), and Satirikon (Satyricon). He was also writing under the pen name “Kin.” In 1905 he published an anthology of symbolist stories, Solntsevorot (Sun cycle) (St. Petersburg), 169 pp., which would appear in a number of editions; in 1908, his collection Zemlya svetet (The earth blossoms) (Moscow), 122 pp.; in 1910, Beselaia pechal’, yumoristicheskie razskazy (Joyous sadness, humorous stories) (St. Petersburg), 210 pp.; in 1911, Razskazy (Stories) (St. Petersburg); and the like. From 1907 he began writing in Yiddish and contributed to Roman-tsaytung (Fiction newspaper) in Warsaw. In 1907 he composed his play Slushay, Izrail! (Hear, O Israel!), translated into Yiddish by A. Goldring (Warsaw, 1907), 48 pp., in which he introduced using bold action Jewish suffering during pogroms in Tsarist Russia. The drama was well received by the Jewish and the Russian public while it was playing on the Russian and Jewish stage. It was translated into Hebrew by Pesaḥ Kaplan and staged, under the direction of Naḥum Tsemaḥ, by the Bialystok’s “Habima beivrit” (Habima in Hebrew). Particularly successful was his play Kazhdyi den’ (Every day) which was staged in Russia and in Europe, and also in film. Also, his second play about Jewish loss of rights, Der eybiker vanderer, in three acts, with a prologue (St. Petersburg, 1913) appeared in Yiddish (Warsaw, 1928), 66 pp., and had a strong nationalist tenor, but was tendentious and not sufficiently absorbing, and yet had a major impact. The well-known American Yiddish actor and theater director Boris Tomashevsky, while performing in a guest role in Lodz, watched a performance on the Russian stage of Der eybiker vanderer, and he invited Dymov to the United States where he had in that very year staged the play in his own theater (translated by Dr. A. Mukdoni). This had the effect of bringing Dymov generally closer the Yiddish stage, language, and literature. Der eybiker vanderer was translated into Hebrew in 1912 and was staged by Tsemaḥ at Habima. Dymov was living from that point in time in the United States, where he was active in the realm of theater and literature. He published hundreds of stories, human interest pieces, and humorous sketches in Tog (Day), Kundes (Prankster), and elsewhere. His two volumes of memoirs, entitled Vos ikh gedenk (What I remember) (vol. 1: New York, 1943, 345 pp.; vol. 2: New York, 1944, 311 pp.), in which he describes his life until WWI, were initially published serially in Forverts (Forward) in New York. Dymov was thoroughly devoted to the stage. He wrote the play Der gedungener khosn (The rented bridegroom) of 1914 (anonymous translation by B. Rivkin, staged by B. Tomashevsky in New York). The same play, under the title Der zinger fun zayne leydn (The singer of his sufferings) was performed in Minsk, directed by Bertonov, translated by Moyshe Goldberg (1922). In 1925 the play, now titled Der zinger fun zayne troyer (The singer of his sorrow), was adapted by Yoysef Bulov (Joseph Buloff) and Yankev Shternberg and performed in grotesque form by the Vilna Troupe. In 1926 the play, now dubbed Yoshke muzikant (Yoshke the musician), a drama in three acts (Riga, 1925), 63 pp., played at the Warsaw Skala Theater and in the Schildkraut Theater in the Bronx. The play was also performed in Polish, Hebrew, and German. Other dramatic works by him include: Di milkhome (The war), a play in three acts (1914); Der katorzhnik (The convict), a one-act play (1914); Tsvishn felker (Among peoples) (1915); Di tragedye fun mayn folk (The tragedy of my people), a drama in three acts (1915); Der shtot gayst (The city spirit) (1916, published as Der gayst fun shtot (The spirit of the city) (New York, 1917), 68 pp.; Di velt in flamen (The world in flames), a drama of war (1917), anonymously translated by B. Rivkin, and the role of Yoysef was played by Dymov himself; Shklafn fun folk (An enslaved people), a comedy in four acts (1918); Di ervakhung fun a folk (The awakening of a people) (1918), staged by Maurice Schwartz at the Irving Place Theater in New York; Yerusholaim (Jerusalem), a historical drama in four acts (1919); Der yom-hadin (The day of judgment), a drama in three acts (1920), performed at the Tomashevsky Theater in New York; Nudnikes (Pests), a comedy in three acts (1921), performed at the New Yiddish Theater in New York; Dendzher (Danger) (1921), a social drama in four acts; Leydi khaye tsipe (Lady Chaya Tsipe), adopted from Madam san zhen (Madame Sans Gêne) by Victorien Sardou (1922); Broyt, sotsyale drame (Bread, a social drama) (1923), staged by Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theater; Ven meshiekh kumt (When the Messiah comes) (1924), a comedy; Dem rebns khasene (The rebbe’s wedding) (1924), a tragi-comedy in three acts; and more. In the autumn of 1925, Dymov, together with Rudolph Schildkraut, took over the latter’s intimate theater in the Bronx and staged his comedy Bronks-ekspres (Bronx express), written in 1919, which enjoyed extraordinary success; Di letste gelibte (The last beloved), a comedy in three acts, staged in 1926 in New York, and staged in 1929 in German at Max Reinhardt’s Kammerspiele and in other German theaters; Kafeterye (Cafeteria), a comedy in three a acts (1927); Mentshn shtoyb (Human dust), a play in three acts (1927), staged by Maurice Schwartz in New York’s Yiddish Art Theater. Only a small portion of Dymov’s stories were published in book form. Those few appeared in the following books: Meydlekh-muters un shtot meshugoim, ertseylungen (Girls-mothers and city crazies, stories) (New York, 1919), 115 pp. and 120 pp.; Dramen un dertseylungen (Plays and stories) (New York, 1943), 205 pp. He also wrote for the English-language theater a comedy entitled Personality. The American playwright Guy Bolton adapted it, and it was performed with great success in New York and London under the title Polly Preferred. He received a number of prizes for his works of fiction and for his dramas, as well as from the Malyi teatr (Little theater) in St. Petersburg. From 1942 he was in charge of the drama programs on the Yiddish radio station of the Forverts in New York, WEVD. In his final years he was consumed by sculpture. He made a number of successful bas-relief. A writer with an international reputation, Dymov was simultaneously one of the most respected representatives of the new Yiddish comedy and drama, and he earned a great deal of money from the Yiddish stage with his many and sundry activities. He enriched the Yiddish stage with plays which were artistically constructed, and they gave opportunities for actors to excel in their roles.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; S. Raskin, in Tsayt (New York) (April 8, 1922); L. Kobrin, Erinerungen fun a yidishn dramaturg (Remembrances of a Jewish playwright), vol. 2 (New York, 1925), p. 137; M. Vaykhert, Teater un drame (Theater and drama), vol. 2 (Vilna, 1926), pp. 174-76; Abraham Teitelbaum, Teatralya (Theatricality) (Warsaw, 1929), pp. 69-77; B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog (New York) (December 12, 1932); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (June 21, 1933); Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), vol. 3 (Vilna, 1935), pp. 274-76; M. Osherovitsh, in Tsukunft (New York) (September 1943); N. Y. Gotlib, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (August 23, 1943); Y. Kreplyak, in Byalistoker shtime (New York) (March-April 1948); A. Sh. Hershberg, in Pinkes byalistok (Records of Bialystok), vol. 1 (New York, 1949), p. 417; Sh. Perlmuter, Yidishe dramaturgn un teater-kompozitorn (Yiddish playwrights and theatrical composers) (New York, 1952), pp. 272-75; Sh. Shveler, in Keneder odler (September 30, 1953); Sh. Yudson, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 21, 1954); Osip Dimov, in Zelbstportret (New York) (June 28, 1957); Kh. Ehrenreich, in Forverts (New York) (February 28, 1958); Ehrenreich, “Mayn geshprekh mit osip dimov” (My conversation with Opip Dymov), Tog-morgn-zhurnal (March 13, 1958).
Khayim Leyb Fuks