Page 39 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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KARP / EAST EUROPEAN JEWISH IMMIGRANT
29
Mamie whom he met in a dance hall. T h e last paragraph o f
Yekl
reads:
But the distance between him and the mayor’s o ff ic e was
dw ind ling fast. Each time the car came to a halt he wished
the pause could be pro longed indefinitely; and when it
resumed its progress, the violent lurch it gave was accom­
panied by a corresponding sensation in his heart.34
In America the imm igrant Jew was on a jou rn ey to America, a
jou rn ey which took him even further from the world which had
nurtured him. It was a jou rn ey he had to undertake and com ­
plete, but which was, nonetheless, accompanied by heaviness o f
heart.
Cahan continued to in fo rm the American reading public o f the
real life o f the imm igrant in short stories published in lead ing
magazines: “ A Sweat Shop Romance,” in the June, 1895, issue o f
Short Stories;
“ Circumstances,” in the
Cosmopolitan
o f Ap r il, 1897;
“A Ghetto W ed d in g ” in the prestigious
Atlantic Monthly,
February
1898. As in
Yekl
the reader is once again made aware o f the
sweatshop; he reads o f high hopes and dashed dreams, o f anti-
Semitism encountered by a young couple whom adversity cannot
defeat; and he learns o f the bitter frustration o f intellectual Jews
whose aspiration fo r the professions is thwarted and whom reality
forces into drudgery in the factories. These three were among the
five short stories which comprise Cahan’s second work o f fiction,
The Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories o f the New York Ghetto
(1898).
Th e headline above William Dean H ow e ll ’s review o f
Yekl
in the
New York World
35 proclaimed: “ T h e Great Novelist Hails A b ­
raham Cahan, the Au thor o f ‘Y ek l ’ as the N ew Star o f Realism
. . .” Cahan did present a realistic picture o f the east European
immigrant, o f his passions and his problems, his aspirations and
yearnings, o f love frustrated but life continuing with hope. A bove
all, hope and struggle.
JACOB A. R I IS
Most Americans who came to know the imm igrant Jew through
published works did so through Jacob A . Riis’ //ott»
The Other H a l f
34 A . Cahan,
Yekl: A Tale o f the New York Ghetto,
N.Y ., 1896, p. 190.
35 July 26, 1896.