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The Rise Of David Levinsky

4.0 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1419180637
ISBN-10: 1419180630
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The most important of all immigrant novels" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 476 pages
  • Publisher: Kessinger Publishing, LLC (June 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1419180630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419180637
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,958,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tyler Smith on December 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in the mid-70s when it was assigned as part of an undergrad history course. I devoured it then, rediscovered it ten years later and found I enjoyed it even more on a second reading. Subsequent readings have not diminished my admiration for the novel.
"Levinsky" is a rare example of the novel that works both as history and as literature. Cahan's firsthand observations of late 19th century industrial America and of the immigrants' struggles to adapt to life in a new land are compelling in their own right. But this is no mere slice of life realism. Cahan created complex characters who face conflicts beyond the struggle to survive.
Cahan's main character, Levinsky, spends the first part of the book struggling to master the Talmud in his village in Russia. Here Cahan introduces us to Levinsky's incisive mind, one that will serve him well when he goes to America and begins to serve a new master: business. In the opening section, Cahan also develops one of several beautifully drawn supporting characters: Levinsky's mother.
By novel's end, we realize the irony of the novel's title. On one level, Levinsky's story is a classic tale of rags-to-riches, American-style success. On the other, his story is one of failure to achieve the rich, personal, intellectually stimulating connection with others that he has craved since childhood.
This great novel deserves to be on the short list of indispensable American fiction. One seeking to understand the roots of our country would be hard pressed to do better than to read it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was prompted to buy and read this book by a bookclub-type event, and I am very glad to recommend this novel. Written in 1917 about an era even earlier than that, it is a classic tale of the immigrant experience, the American experience, and the Jewish experience, in the USA. The various pulls of culture, assimilation, poverty, wealth, sex, solitude, religion, secularism, education, and commerce are each subtly examined, so subtly that one doesn't realize until afterwards how much has been packed into a relatively simple story.
This Penguin version is the one to buy, it is compact, in readable type, and with a useful preface. Amazon is selling another version in an oversized paperback format--skip that one, it is awkward in size, and with many typos in the text. I actually disposed of that one and repurchased it in the Penguin paperback version.
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By A Customer on November 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
The realism in this novel is astounding. In a true-to-life rags-to-riches story, young David Levinsky grows up poor, yet motivated, in the heart of a small Russian town. A Hasidic Jew with visions beyond the Torah, Talmud, and a studious life, he takes a ship to America to seek his fortune. His rise in corporate America has the power to inspire, to invoke fear, reminiscence, tears. Do not be surprised to find yourself looking within after a particularly well-written, astute paragraph by Cahan, and feeling as if he has written about your own emotions or state of mind -- decades before you were even born! Some of his metaphors, I have found, even describe the way I have thought about the world, and the feeling that you could be there alongside David in his search for wealth, power, women, and ultimately himself (Who am I?) add to the fantasitic realism with which Cahan weaves his story. It is a masterpiece, a novel that deserves to be read worldwide. I am twenty years old, but read the novel when I was 16. I have not read it since, yet recall vivid details and even entire paragraphs which struck me then even as they do now; reconciling parts of the novel to my life comes easily as I experience new things and understand and appreciate even better what the fictional David Levinsky went through. It is classic, a novel for all time. I recommend, in the strongest possible terms, to read it, love it, and enjoy it. I did... and I am a science person.
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Format: Paperback
I read this novel the first time in college and am re-reading it now. The social realism dazzled me then, but it's the incisive characterization that strikes me more now. You get a sense of objective social conditions, but a deeper and deeper sense of the main characters' souls as you read further along. Some of the sketches of human emotion sound familiar as something that happened to me yesterday.
I believe this helps Cahan make his point, of Levinsky's material accomplishment and spiritual impoverishment. He gradually becomes emptied out, so to speak. He has lost his traditional religion and rejected the socialist substitute for religion. At the beginning, he has little but knows who he is - at the end, he has much but seems a stranger to himself.
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Format: Paperback
This is a highly recommended book for anyone who is interested in the history of the Jewish Lower East Side in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It is written by an author with intimate knowledge of the time and place. Written in 1917, it is a very captivating and compelling story of an Eastern European Jewish immigrant's plight on The Lower East Side. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
This book gives a solid sense of what it must have felt like to be a Jewish immigrant to New York around the turn of the century. I enjoyed the fact that the book was not only a very interesting adventure, but also a fascinating account of changing class consciousness and socialization to a new society. Kahan's account of what is gained and what is given up in this process allowed me to understand my own ancestors at a deeper level. He writes well in a journalistic style and is constantly providing details about his present that help me to understand the meaning of what was going on.
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