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Sasha and Emma: The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman Hardcover – November 1, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Sew edition (November 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674065980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674065987
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #385,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Emma Goldman would forever remember the November night in 1889 when she first met fellow anarchist Alexander “Sasha” Berkman: “Deep love for him welled up in my heart,” she later wrote, “a feeling of certainty that our lives were linked for all time.” Thanks to the extensive research of historian Avrich, completed by his daughter, Karen, readers feel the shared passions—for equality, for justice, for freedom—that forged the bond between these two firebrands, political passions that burned bright long after the cooling of the romantic passions that briefly united them as lovers. Readers will marvel at the indefatigable labors of this pair—speaking, writing, organizing—kindling new hopes for a society free from oppression and want. Still, the honest narrative exposes the dark underside of anarchist hopes, an underside evident in Berkman’s failed attempt to kill tycoon Henry Clay Frick and anarchist Leon Czolgosz’s assassination of President McKinley, an act inspired by Goldman’s incendiary rhetoric. A narrative laced with irony details the remarkable reorientation of this pair after they were deported to a Soviet Russia they had lauded as a utopia but soon fled as a monstrous dystopia. A fully human portrait of two tightly linked yet forever fiercely independent spirits. --Bryce Christensen

From Bookforum

Avrich’s new and comprehensive account is more than a memorial for her subjects; it is also a tribute to her late father, Paul Avrich, the premier historian of anarchist movements in America and Russia. Karen Avrich’s skilled editorial guidance delivers the full dramatic sweep that the subjects of Sasha and Emma demand, and beyond that, the book’s central strength is that it gives Berkman a place of equal prominence to Goldman. —Rochelle Gurstein

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 12 customer reviews
Neither book sold very well.
John L Murphy
The book which can be read as a history, a novel or the combination of two is extremely well written, with many anecdotes.
Paul Gelman
This is a very concise history and biography of two leading American anarchists at the turn of the 20th century.
Caspar M. Johannes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Red Emma" Goldman turns out a misnomer. She and her companion, and one-time lover, "Sasha" born Alexander Berkman, shared a defiant commitment to anarchism. Deported to newly Soviet Russia after the newly imposed Espionage Act expelled the pair from a WWI America resenting their revolutionary calls for no government and voluntary cooperation, Sasha and Emma within weeks resented their return to their homeland. Exiled, one came back for only three weeks years later and the other never did. They both died in the South of France, four years apart, as again war loomed.

So, if neither Berkman nor Goldman were communists, how did their anarchism infuse their lives? Paul Avrich, a professor of Russian History and Anarchism at Queens College, CUNY, spent his career interviewing those who knew the pair. His daughter, Karen, completes his project and their joint effort in this dual biography pays tribute to the odyssey of this compelling, angry, idealistic pair, fittingly.

The Avriches fluently transcribe the memories of many who shared their recollections with Paul in the 1970s. As I read this, I found myself intrigued by how deeply anarchists a century ago had entered into their own Occupy Movement, from Puget Sound communities where my father-in-law grew up and less surprisingly the Lower East Side neighborhood where I would stay next month, to a few miles away from my house, where the first Los Angeles Times building was blown up during a pro-union dispute in 1910. That location lent itself to over a half-dozen causes célèbres infusing these four-hundred pages of text with places and names still resonating today, for a few radicals.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gelman on November 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These words were uttered by Alexander Berkman before he was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison. The story of Berkman and Emma Goldman is well known. This brilliant book which was completed by the author's daughter is a comprehensive history not only of this famous couple but is also a riveting social history of the years 1880-1940. Berkman was accused of attempting to murder Frick,the famous capitalist. The detailed description about this whole affair is offered to the reader as if it were scrutinized under a microscope.
Other interesting chapters deal with Emma Goldman's affair with Ben Reitman,the killing of President McKinley in 1901, the deeds of many other lesser known anarchists, the deportation of Emma and Sasha to Russia (courtesy of Edgar J. Hoover) and the final days of both after having returned, disillusioned by the Bolshevik Revolution, from Russia to Canada and France, respectively. As Sasha wrote,"the breath of yesterday is dooming millions to death; the shadow of today hangs like a black pall over the country. Dictatorship is trampling the masses under foot. The Revolution is dead; its spirit cries in the wilderness".
Berkman, known as "Sasha', was an eternal rebel whose disturbing acts of violence were tempered by his tireless efforts to improve the lot of the oppressed. He served his sentence for assault and it was in prison where he wrote his memoirs of an anarchist ,which detailed his bleak experience and exposed corruption in the American penal system.
Between 1909 and 1919,the year he was deported, he edited the two most prominent anarchist periodicals of the era, organized mass protests on behalf of radical and labout causes, and also gave speeches around the United States about his beliefs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Keith Wheelock on July 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For me, SASHA AND EMMA: THE ANARCHIST ODYSSEY OF ALEXANDER BERKMAN AND EMMA GOLDMAN is the Avrich magnum opus on anarchism. The Kronstadt rebellion of 1921 sparked Professor Avrich's two-generation professional career as THE leading chronicler of anarchism, its personalities, and its diverse ramifications. in 2006, at the age of 74, Professor Avrich died, leaving a partially completed SASHA AND EMMA manuscript, which he asked his daughter Karen to complete.

Six years later, SASHA AND EMMA was published. I find it astonishing that a father/daughter could collaborate on a book that is as seamlessly 'Paul Avrich' as his seminal 1984 THE HAYMARKET TRAGEDY (see my July 7, 2013 Amazon review) and SACCO AND VANZETTI: THE ANARCHIST BACKGROUND.

SASHA AND EMMA is a whacking good read. It is especially important for those like me (a college American and world history professor since 1992) who think they know about the Homestead Strike, anti-anarchist hysteria, the antecedents to the 'Palmer raids' and the rise of J. Edgar Hoover, and about a fierce warrior who could harangue in multiple languages, cook, sew, and nurse, love Russia and then leave it totally disillusioned. I urge that you discover how little you really know. Incidentally, only an accountant could calculate whether Emma Goldman had more lovers than arrests.

The Avrichs provide a rich panorama of the genesis of American (and immigrant-fueled) anarchism through the lives of Emma Goldman, Alexander (Sasha) Berkman, and a cast of hundreds of anarchists both in America and in Europe. Sasha, whom I had only known as a minor figure who had bungled the assassination of Henry Clay Frick during the Homestead Strike, emerges as a major counterpoint to "Red Emma' over two turbulent generations.
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