Sasha and Emma: The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman [NOOK Book]

Overview

In 1889 Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman met in a Lower East Side coffee shop. Over the next fifty years they became fast friends, fleeting lovers, and loyal comrades. This dual biography offers a glimpse into their intertwined lives, the influence of the anarchist movement they shaped, and their unyielding commitment to equality and justice.
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Sasha and Emma: The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman

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Overview

In 1889 Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman met in a Lower East Side coffee shop. Over the next fifty years they became fast friends, fleeting lovers, and loyal comrades. This dual biography offers a glimpse into their intertwined lives, the influence of the anarchist movement they shaped, and their unyielding commitment to equality and justice.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
…an account, at once densely detailed and lively, that traces the pair from their births in what is now Lithuania to their deaths in exile in the shadow of World War II. With generous contemporary accounts and Paul Avrich's interviews with anarchists and their children, as well as Berkman's and Goldman's extensive writings, the book draws readers into the lives of its characters…Sasha and Emma is an enormously rich book, offering an absorbing portrait of the world of anarchists in turn-of-the-century America and of the loving yet competitive partnership at its center. In completing this work, Karen Avrich has done her father proud.
—Elsa Dixler
Publishers Weekly
America’s most notorious anarchists turn out to be appealing characters, according to Avrich, the late Queens College professor of history, and his daughter. Jewish immigrants from czarist Russia, Emma Goldman (1869–1940) and Alexander Berkman (1870–1936) met in 1889, already fierce advocates of a utopian society without government. Berkman entered the history books in 1892 when he attempted to assassinate Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick. After 14 miserable years in prison, he rejoined Emma on the revolutionary front lines. Their campaigns consisted almost entirely of writing, speeches, and demonstrations, which resulted in relentless police harassment, beatings, and arrests. Deported to Russia in 1919, they fared no better under communism, ending their lives agitating across Europe and Canada. The authors portray Berkman sympathetically, but his ascetic, militant idealism was perhaps too radical for the public to which he was so devoted. Readers will likely gravitate toward the charismatic Goldman, who even as a young woman thrilled crowds, enjoyed life and the arts, and fell in love frequently and passionately. She remained a committed anarchist to her death, holding forth on issues—from women’s equality to acceptance of homosexuality—well in advance of her time. This fine, definitive dual biography does justice to these radicals who fought lifelong for their ideals. B&w photos. Agent: Scott Moyers, the Wylie Agency. (Nov.)
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

Paul Buhle
A magnificent work that offers at once proof of the late Paul Avrich's keen scholarship and the lasting drama that is the life of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman.
Alice Wexler
With a wealth of detail, the richness of Paul Avrich's intimate knowledge of anarchism, and his personal acquaintance with many anarchists, this book brings Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman to vivid life, in all their heroism and human frailty.
Candace Falk
The story of Sasha and Emma—staunch comrades, intimate friends, intermittent lovers, consistent confidantes, co-conspirators driven by a passion for social justice and absolute freedom—is gripping and engaging. It's a rare narrative of the political underworld of anarchist militants for whom bonds of personal love and devotion are a matter of life and death.
Booklist (starred review) - Bryce Christensen
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.
Times Higher Education - Robin Feuer Miller
Riveting...Sasha and Emma joins a number of other recent dual biographies, including those on Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Leo and Sophia Tolstoy, Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. It is compelling to read about one life as counterpoint, irritant and inspiration to another, and to trace the meanderings of love and friendship over a lifetime. This dialogic form--understanding one life in terms of another--offers a robust and vibrant way to read about the lives of others. Along the way, two stories become one...The story of Berkman and Goldman cries out to be a screenplay. The narrative is dramatic...This book's minute-by-minute account of Berkman's decision to assassinate [Henry Clay] Frick is pure cinema.
New York Times - Sam Roberts
[A] smoldering dual biography.
New York Times Book Review - Elsa Dixler
An account, at once densely detailed and lively, that traces the pair from their births in what is now Lithuania to their deaths in exile in the shadow of World War II. With generous contemporary accounts and Paul Avrich's interviews with anarchists and their children, as well as Berkman's and Goldman's extensive writings, the book draws readers into the lives of its characters...For a modern reader, Sasha and Emma contains many surprises...Sasha and Emma is an enormously rich book, offering an absorbing portrait of the world of anarchists in turn-of-the-century America and of the loving yet competitive partnership at its center.
Bookforum - Rochelle Gurstein
As Karen Avrich recounts in the gripping dual biography Sasha and Emma, Berkman and Goldman were impassioned agitators, helping to give shape to what we now think of as the tradition of anticapitalist dissent...[She] 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.
PopMatters - John L. Murphy
This biography, the first to fully interweave their restless lives over six decades of agitation, education, and organization (if voluntary rather than coerced), results in a solid presentation. Paul Avrich gathered this material efficiently. Karen Avrich arranges the research into an objective, yet accessible and direct, prose style. The authors present the lives of two passionate, outspoken agitators in a calm, considered tone.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Len Barcousky
Provides an in-depth look at a lesser-known chapter of American and world history: the decades-long war that anarchists waged on governments around the world.
Choice - T. S. Martin

An exceptional account of the anarchist movement in the U.S. between the 1890s and 1940s. Readers see the leading characters, organizations, and events of the anarchist

community of the era, as well as the world at large, through the eyes of Sasha and Emma. Much of their history is already well known and has been the subject of many books, but Avrich sheds new light on certain aspects, such as what it was like to be a hated radical in a U.S. prison a century ago, and the experiences of the two in Bolshevik Russia after their deportation. Even such details as Emma's housekeeper's drinking problem are not neglected. Students of anarchism have plenty of other resources to understand its philosophy; this volume will educate them on what it was really like to live the anarchist life in the first half of the tumultuous 20th century.

Library Journal
Paul Avrich, the preeminent historian of American anarchism (Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Backgrounwd), was working at the time of his death in 2006 on a biography of anarchist Alexander ("Sasha") Berkman. One of his daughters, writer Karen Avrich, completed this final work. The book traces the lives of onetime lovers and lifelong friends and comrades Berkman and Emma Goldman. While Goldman's life has been well documented, Berkman, who had an equally large impact on American and European anarchist history, has until now been treated as little more than a historical footnote, as the anarchist who attempted to assassinate the industrialist and financier Henry Clay Frick. This book corrects that, showing the close interconnectedness of the lives of Berkman and Goldman and their impact on 20th-century anarchism. VERDICT A sweeping narrative that retains Paul Avrich's voice. While the volume includes little new research, it is still an important contribution in its restoration of Berkman's place in anarchist history. Highly recommended.—Jessica Moran, California State Archives, Sacramento
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674070349
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 909,273
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Paul Avrich was Professor of Russian History and Anarchism at Queens College, City University of New York.

Karen Avrich is a writer and editor in New York.

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter Six: Attentat


On the day of Berkman’s attentat, Emma was anxious for news. Shaking off some men who seemed to be tailing her, she waited all night at Park Row to get the newspapers and read reports of Berkman’s attack. When she learned that Frick was likely to recover, she was acutely disappointed. “Frick was not dead,” she afterwards wrote, “and Sasha’s glorious youth, his life, the things he might have accomplished—all were being sacrificed.”

Emma’s disappointment was tempered by a feeling of relief, since she knew Frick’s survival meant Sasha could not be executed for the crime. The following evening, July 24, she addressed her comrades in Paul Wilzig’s Hall on Division Street, where she spoke in passionate support of Sasha’s act. She went to Rochester on July 25 to meet with Modska after his aborted trip to Pittsburgh, then returned to New York City and spent several nights stowed in Mollock’s apartment. When the police later raided the flat, they turned up pamphlets, photographs, and correspondence, but no hard evidence. After Mollock was released from custody in the Long Branch prison, he was evicted by his exasperated landlord.

Emma went to stay with her paternal grandmother, Freda Goldman. Freda operated a grocery store on East 10th Street and shared a two-room apartment with her daughter, son-in-law, and their children. There was little space, so Emma camped in the kitchen—an uncomfortable set-up, but one that afforded a measure of privacy; she was able to come and go without disturbing the rest of the family. She remained in the apartment for the next few months, using the Zum Groben Michel tavern as her mailing address to keep in touch with Sasha.

As Goldman went about her business, the police strained to connect her to an assassination conspiracy, but, despite her instrumental role in the plot, they could not find a way to prove her guilt. The same was true of Aronstam. A lack of evidence enabled Modska to avoid indictment or arrest. He spent several months hiding out in Detroit where he was sheltered by German comrades, among them the anarchist writer and editor Robert Reitzel. To earn cash, Modska took a job with an engraving firm. By the time he returned to New York, in the fall of 1892, the police were no longer looking for him.

The other New York-based members of the conspiracy likewise avoided prosecution. Not one of them was formally arrested, much less indicted and imprisoned—not Timmermann, nor the Oerters, nor their friends. Mollock, of course, briefly had been taken into custody, but soon after was set free. Berkman was captured and Bauer and Nold charged, but the rest escaped punishment.

For the remainder of her days Emma felt a deep sense of guilt at not having shared Sasha’s fate, even as she prudently took great care to avoid indictment. She had played a major role in the affair, and her complicity was undeniable. “Who Furnished the Lazy and Poverty-Stricken Anarchist with Money?” blared a headline in the New York Tribune. The answer, of course, was Emma. She had been aware of every detail, and had raised the funds for Berkman’s revolver, as well as for his suit and other expenses. “I had planned the Attentat with him; I had let him go alone,” she later wrote. “I strove to shake off the consciousness of guilt, but it would give me no rest.”

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Prologue 1

I Impelling Forces

1 Mother Russia 7

2 Pioneers of Liberty 20

3 The Trio 30

4 Autonomists 43

5 Homestead 51

6 Attentat 61

7 Judgment 80

8 Buried Alive 98

9 Blackwell's and Brady 111

10 The Tunnel 124

11 Red Emma 135

12 The Assassination of McKinley 152

13 E. G. Smith 167

II Palaces of the Rich

14 Resurrection 181

15 The Wine of Sunshine and Liberty 195

16 The Inside Story of Some Explosions 214

17 Trouble in Paradise 237

18 The Blast 252

19 The Great War 267

20 Big Fish 275

III Open Eyes

21 The Russian Dream 291

22 The Bolshevik Myth 303

23 Charlottengrad 314

24 Globe-Trotters and Colonizers 324

25 Now and After 333

26 Bon Esprit 347

27 Pillar to Post 356

28 Old Glory 365

29 Nothing but Death Can End 379

30 Waldheim 390

Notes 405

Acknowledgments 475

Index 477

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