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The Rise of David Levinsky (1917)

av Abraham Cahan

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
376549,131 (3.7)17
The Rise of David Levinsky, written by the legendary founder and editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, is an early Jewish-American classic. According to the scholar Sam B. Girgus, "The novel is more than an important literary work and cultural document. It forms part of the traditional ritual of renewal of the American Way." First published in 1917, Abraham Cahan's realistic novel tells the story of a young talmudic scholar who emigrates from a small town in Russia to the melting pot of turn-of-the-century New York City. As the Jewish "greenhorn" rises from the depths of poverty to become a millionaire garment merchant, he discovers the unbearably high price of assimilation.… (mer)

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41. The Rise of David Levinsky by Abraham Cahan
published: 1917
format: ~535 page ebook
acquired: 2014 from Project Gutenberg
read: Sep 8 - Oct 9
rating: 4½

I step into the WWI era of literature with a great deal of ignorance and find myself in the world of my ancestry. Cahan, a Russian Jewish immigrant who arrived in New York in 1882, captures a whole world of Jewish New York over a 30 year period of immigration and rebirth. He takes Dickens and Thackeray (or so he more or less claims) and creates history from first hand experience, and it’s moving to someone like me because this world is what four different parts of my family experienced (although not all in NY).

David Levinsky is an orphan and teenage Talmudic scholar who stumbles across a benefactor, a young female divorcee, who provides him with a ticket to America. He will arrive, and stumble and fall in so many different ways, each remarkably real. Discarding the Talmud and faith and even theism, he becomes through will and guts and luck someone who finds himself in the newpapers associated with “the Vanderbilts, the Goulds, the Rothschilds...by calling me ‘a fleecer of labor’ it placed me in their class. I felt in good company.”

Cahan was something of a leader in the Jewish socialist movement of the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. That he can write sympathetically of his capitalist hero, one who both fights and has a tolerance for socialists, is interesting and an expression perhaps of a wide experience and open mind.

There is a mixture of history and tragedy of sorts mixed. As Levinsky finds success, and reader gets a lesson on the evolution of Jewish clothing manufacture in American, he becomes a representation of the success of Jews in American with pride and also ambivalence. Listening to the Star-spangled Banner:

There was the jingle of newly-acquired dollars in our applause. But there was something else in it as well. Many of those who were now paying tribute to the Stars and Stripes were listening to the tune with grave, solemn mien. It was as if they were saying: "We are not persecuted under this flag. At last we have found a home.”

But what was the price. David will lose his culture, religion and in a way his soul. He has no family, few close friends despite extensive acquaintances, and is unable to find affection for women remotely appropriate for him. He will end up alone and unable, really, to understand why. A split of intellect from soul, or maybe of real and spiritual, a gain and a loss.

The Dickens sense in the title is no accident. This is the only Cahan novel I know of, but it’s very well developed, entertaining, capturing many different worlds in both Russian and America. It’s long coming of age, and a full fictional autobiography, if you like, and one that clearly reflects Cahan’s own experience. Recommended to those interested in American Jewish heritage.

2017
https://www.librarything.com/topic/260412#6211171 ( )
1 rösta dchaikin | Oct 15, 2017 |
A novel about an immigrant Jew and the trade offs of American business success and the "sacrifice of the intellectual life to the practical." (from the back cover.)
  Folkshul | Jan 15, 2011 |
A fascinating look at the Russian-Jewish emigre experience. We see in David Levinsky the entirety of life in pogrom-riddled, antisemitic 19th century Russia; leaving home for New York; followed by life as an impoverished immigrant struggling to succeed. Cahan's genius lies in his ability to paint the picture of life in Manhattan's lower east side and the immigrant experience. Where he falters is in the often-plodding narrative which left me wanting to skip whole pages and move on with the story. Levinsky's story, his rise to wealth at the expense of any values he may have possessed, is the driving force behind the story. ( )
  Opusnight | Sep 23, 2010 |
I found this very interesting, even though we were not provided with a lot of details. I learned about the garment industry and immigration in the early 20th century. I also feel that David Levinsky's psychology was not that different from the feelings of many people of today. ( )
  suesbooks | Sep 7, 2010 |
Written in 1917 The Rise of David Levinsky is the story of Russian born immigrant David Levinsky and his rise to riches in the garment industry in New York City. Cahan's depiction of Levinsky remains one of the best accounts of not only immigrants seeking opportunity and fortune in America at the turn of the century, but also the Jewish experience on New York's East Side as well. Cahan illustrates social attitudes towards poverty, religion, ethnicity and economic status through David's character. Using his situation as an orphan, David accepts pity from those with means. He has an uncanny ability to sense the heart of others and use it to his advantage. It is interesting to watch his rise to wealth over the course of David's lifetime. ( )
1 rösta SeriousGrace | May 26, 2009 |
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The Rise of David Levinsky, written by the legendary founder and editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, is an early Jewish-American classic. According to the scholar Sam B. Girgus, "The novel is more than an important literary work and cultural document. It forms part of the traditional ritual of renewal of the American Way." First published in 1917, Abraham Cahan's realistic novel tells the story of a young talmudic scholar who emigrates from a small town in Russia to the melting pot of turn-of-the-century New York City. As the Jewish "greenhorn" rises from the depths of poverty to become a millionaire garment merchant, he discovers the unbearably high price of assimilation.

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