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Dymov, Osip

(1878–1950), Russian and Yiddish writer, playwright, and journalist. Osip Dymov (also Dymow; Yosef Perelman) was born in Białystok, where his father was a merchant; Dymov’s brother, Iakov (1882–1942), was a well-known popular-science writer. Following graduation from a technical high school in 1896, Dymov studied land surveying at the Forestry Institute in Saint Petersburg. He began his literary career as a columnist for Teatr i iskusstvo (Theater and Art), a weekly in that city. As was the case with many Yiddish writers of his generation, Dymov immigrated to the United States.

Dymov’s first piece, “Rasskaz kapitana” (Captain’s Story), appeared in Vokrug sveta in 1892. Over his career, he published more than 25 plays, the short-story collection Solnt’s’evorot (Sun Cycle; 1905), a book of selected works called Dramen un dertseylungen (Plays and Stories; 1943), two volumes of memoirs titled Vos ikh gedenk (What I Remember; 1943–1944), and dozens of essays and newspaper articles, mainly in the New York Yiddish newspapers Tog and Forverts. In addition to focusing on specifically Jewish issues, Dymov built his writings around class and generational rather than individual conflicts. His predominant mode was dark, allegorical, and expressionist.

Dymov’s first play, Golos krovi (The Voice of Blood), was staged in 1903 at the Maly Theatre in Saint Petersburg. Three years later, his Slushay, Izrail! / Shema‘ Yisra’el (Hear O Israel) was dedicated to the victims of the Białystok pogrom of 1906, and represented his first involvement with Jewish themes. The latter work opened at the Sovremenii Theater in 1907 and was praised by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Dymov’s drama Vechnyi strannik (The Eternal Wanderer; 1913), concerning problems of Jewish emigration, was translated into Hebrew and performed in 1913 for delegates to the World Zionist Congress in Vienna. The production was directed by Naḥum Tsemaḥ, the eventual founder of the Habimah.

In 1913, at the invitation of the Yiddish actor and theater impresario Boris Thomashefsky, Dymov moved to the United States. His plays, from that point written exclusively in Yiddish, were often produced by Thomashefsky and David Kessler. Among the more popular were Yoshke muzikant (Yoshke the Musician; known also as Der zinger fun zayn troyer [The Singer of His Sorrow]; 1914) and Bronks Ekspres (Bronx Express; 1919). The latter play was translated into English and produced on Broadway in 1922.

Dymov sought to improve the artistic quality of Yiddish theater, collaborating with Maurice Schwartz and Rudolf Schildkraut. From 1927 to 1932, Dymov worked in Germany, where his plays formed part of the repertoire of the renowned Deutsches Theater, directed by his long-time colleague and friend, Max Reinhardt. When Dymov returned to the United States, he continued to write plays and to publish in the Yiddish press, and also was a screenwriter, creating Der Vilner shtot khazn (Cantor of Vilna [also known as Overture to Glory]; 1940) with Yankev Glatshteyn. In 1948, the founder and editor in chief of the Forverts, Abraham Cahan, formed a committee to publish Dymov’s collected works, but the project was not ultimately pursued.

Suggested Reading

Ossip Dymow, Dramen un dertseylungen (New York, 1943); Ossip Dymow, Vos ikh gedenk, 2 vols. (New York, 1943–1944); Viktoriia Levitina, I evrei: Moia krov’; Evreiskaia drama—russkaia stsena (Moscow, 1991); Nahma Sandrow, Vagabond Stars. A World History of Yiddish Theater (Syracuse, N.Y., 1996).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 108, Manuscripts, Collection, ; RG 114, Plays, Collection, ; RG 280, Jacob Mestel, Papers, 1914-1958 (finding aid); RG 315, H. (Halper) Leivick, Papers, ca. 1914-1959; RG 376, Leon Kobrin, Papers, 1898-1950; RG 453, Mendl Elkin, Papers, 1913-1961; RG 469, Ossip Dymow, Papers, ca. 1900-1958; RG 577, Ilya Trotsky, Papers, 1937-1968; RG 601, Leon Feinberg, Papers, 1920s-1968.; RG 639, Day–Morning Journal, Records, 1922-1972; RG 701, I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers’ Union, Records, 1903-1970s.