Heijermans, Herman

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HEIJERMANS, HERMAN (1864–1924), Dutch playwright and novelist. Heijermans grew up in Rotterdam, the eldest son of a prominent journalist, and started writing after an unsuccessful time in the rag business. In 1893 he became a theater critic for the Amsterdam-based daily De Telegraaf, while exploring the latest fashions in naturalism and symbolism in his plays and stories. After his dramatic encounter with the woman who would become his first wife, he intensified this exploration. He established a periodical called De Jonge Gids (1897–1903), largely filled by himself under a dozen pseudonyms and in the most divergent styles, and turned the encounter with his wife into the novel Kamertjeszonde ("Little Room Sins," 1898). He also turned to socialism, to which he would remain loyal for the rest of his life.

Heijermans' early works show both his interest in social questions and his struggle with Jewish identity. His concern for the fate of Jewry first manifested itself in Ahasverus (1893), a play about a Russian pogrom. A Hebrew version of this drama, Ha-Noded ha-Niẓḥi, appeared in 1917. In two novels, Sabbath (1903) and Diamantstad ("Diamond City," 1904), and in the play Ghetto (1898), Heijermans denounced the backwardness of traditional Jewry in the Amsterdam ghetto. A more compassionate attitude is apparent in the serials he published in newspapers under the pseudonym Samuel Falkland between 1894 and 1915. These stories, more than 800, were collected in 18 volumes.

After 1900 Heijermans slowly moved away from Jewish subject matter and concentrated on writing drama. Op hoop van zegen ("The Good Hope," 1900) movingly described the miseries of Dutch fishermen. Schakels ("Links," 1903) offered an ironic portrayal of domestic strife. Other plays include Uitkomst ("Outlet," 1907), Eva Bonheur (1917), and the satirical De wijze kater ("The Wise Cat," 1918).

Heijermans became the most important Dutch dramatist of his time, winning international acclaim. Op Hoop van Zegen was performed all over Europe. A Hebrew version, Dayyagim (1927), by Abraham *Shlonsky, was staged by the *Ohel company. Heijermans cooperated with directors like Konstantin Stanislavski, Max Reinhardt, and Otto Brahm. But after 1910 his international reputation faded and his national successes also decreased. In his last years he returned to the genre of the novel. Droomkoninkje ("King of Dreams," 1924) and its sequel, Vuurvlindertje ("Firefly," 1925) appeared posthumously.


S.L. Flaxman, Herman Heijermans and His Dramas (1954); B. Hunningher, Toneel en werkelijkheid (1947); H. Goedkoop, Geluk. Het leven van Herman Heijermans (1996).

[Hans Goedkoop (2nd ed.)]