The Angel Max: A Novel

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9780151002207: The Angel Max: A Novel

As a young child in polygolt Kovno, Max Petrovich Kraft had a clear vision of his own future and the wonderful adventures he was going to have in America. America! Where everyone spoke English, so that "no matter what anybody says or how anybody says it, everybody understands."

Who is Angel Max? Born in 1866, he is an orphan, raised by rich realitives, educated and enlightened Jews. As a boy, he becomes obsessed with English and James Cooper while his siblings get caught up in the anarchist/nihilist underground. He comes to America, to New York, and stays with realtives, not on the Lower East Side but in a townhouse on West 11th Street, just off Fifth Avenue. A sound marriage and equally sound business ventures, in real estate, make the American dream immediately come true-city and country homes, servants, carriages-and, above all, speaking English at all times. But there is the other side of the family-revolutionary stepsisters, a crazed, violent half brother, an anarchist cousin-mone other than "Red Emma" Goldman herself. They are in and out of his life, and Max becomes an "angel" for the anarchist cause, a little out of sympathy but more to keep them at a distance. This ambiguity is splendidly rendered in a richly inventive novel filled with memories of a time past, of lives lived and imagined in all seriousness and with empathy and humor.

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About the Author:

Author of The Angel Max and former editor at New Directions, Peter Glassgold is a noted translator (Dutch, Old English, etc) and a distinguished novelist. He lives in upstate New York.

From Kirkus Reviews:

From a veteran translator, a first novel that proves to be a lavishly detailed but emotionally tepid tale of revolutionary passions and politics in late 1880s New York. The Jewish narrator, Max Kraft, begins this long political saga in Tsarist-ruled Eastern Europe, where he was born in 1866. Like other principal characters here, Max is not a credible flesh-and-blood creation but, rather, resembles a subway car into which history and ideas are stuffed and then released at the appropriate junction. As a child, Max, unlike his half-sisters Sophie and Nina and half-brother Mishka, dreamed of emigrating to America. While his siblings were soon plotting to bring down the Tsar, Max taught himself English and read the novels of Fenimore Cooper. But he cant escape the politics of his sisters and their friends. He accidentally kills a Russian agent, acts as a courier, and once in the States, though he refuses to join their plots, becomes the financial backer``the Angel''of anarchists and revolutionaries. In Manhattan, he meets up with Zak, a fellow immigrant, and the two soon become wealthy builders and landlords; he marries Fanny, Emma Goldman's cousin, and has two children; his sisters escape from Siberia and continue their work, and Mishka turns into a radical thug. Max, always struggling to stay out of trouble, reluctantly bankrolls revolutionaries like the anarchist historian Kropotkin, hosts political discussions, and witnesses the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. But neither the times, nor his relatives and friends who plot, bomb, and attempt, like Sasha Berkman, assassinations, allow him to escape. As civil war breaks out in Russia, the US begins deporting foreign radicals, and, in a close call, Max finally becomes not just a good fellow but one of the revolutionary ``them.'' A light fictional gloss on history, with a disappointingly heavy and melodramatic hand. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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