"THE FIRST IMPORTANT WORK OF JEWISH AMERICAN FICTION": FIRST EDITION OF ABRAHAM CAHAN'S FIRST NOVEL & FIRST BOOK IN ENGLISH, YEKL
CAHAN, Abraham. Yekl. A Tale of the New York Ghetto. New York: D. Appleton, 1896. Octavo, original full red- black- and gilt-stamped beige cloth, uncut.and partially unopened. $750.
First edition of the first book in English by the leading Jewish American novelist, journalist and publisher, Cahan's pioneering 1896 novel about the life of a Jewish immigrant in New York.
Born near Vilna Lithuania, Cahan escaped czarist pogroms by emigrating to America in 1882. He founded the Yiddish-language Jewish Daily Forward in 1897 and in 1903 became its managing editor, where "he was responsible for introducing the fiction of Nobel Prize-winning I.B. Singer, Israel Joshua Singer and Sholem Asch to the Yiddish-reading public" (Sternlight, Masterpieces of Jewish American Literature, 17-18). "With help from W. D Howells in the 1890s, Cahan had rapidly acquired the reputation of a 'new star of realism,' as Howells praised him when reviewing his first novel, Yekl" (ANB). Yekl remains "the first important work of Jewish American fiction… the two great influences on Cahan's fiction were the naturalism of American writers such as Stephen Crane… and the European naturalism of Zola" (Sternlicht, 17-18). While Howells also "called Yekl 'magnificent,' Cahan remains one of the most neglected of American authors" (American Jewish Archives 22-23:33). "As H.L. Mencken said of Cahan: 'It is a fine feat to write a first-rate novel, but it is also a fine feat to steer a great newspaper from success to success in difficult times. He has done both'" (ANB). The basis for director Joan Silver's Oscar-nominated 1975 film, Hester Street. First edition, first printing: with no edition or printings noted on copyright page. Serialized in Yiddish as "Yankel der Yankee in Cahan's newspaper Arbeiter Tzeitung beginning in October 1895" (Wald, Elliott & Arac, eds. American Novel, 219). With 12 pages of publisher's advertisements at rear. As issued without dust jacket. Wright III 876.
Interior fresh and bright, light soiling, mild toning to spine of original cloth. An extremely good copy.