The Rise of Jonas Olsen: A Norwegian Immigrant’s Saga
The road to riches for the hero of this sweeping historical novel ends up being rockier than he initially expects. Norwegian immigrant Jonas Olsen arrives in late nineteenth-century Minneapolis with little money and less English. He quickly learns to reinvent himself — from laboring in sewer construction to building a profitable dry goods business, from losing everything in a banking collapse to settling the Red River Valley. While an eminently likable character, Jonas can also be ruthless in his ambition to find success in America.
The Rise of Jonas Olsen is at once an immigrant novel, business novel, political novel, and a western, offering a rich and panoramic view of Scandinavian immigrant life in the Upper Midwest. Author Johannes B. Wist combines realism and satire to depict the role Norwegian Americans played in the economic, political, and cultural life of the Upper Midwest.
Originally published serially in the Norwegian-language newspaper Decorah-Posten in the 1920s, The Rise of Jonas Olsen illustrates an immigrant’s struggle to preserve his identity and heritage while striving to become fully accepted as an American.
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