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The Rise of Jonas Olsen

A Norwegian Immigrant’s Saga

2005
Author:

Johannes B. Wist
Translated by Orm Øverland
Introduction by Orm Øverland
Foreword by Todd W. Nichol

The Rise of Jonas Olsen

A novel of one man’s trials and ambiguous triumphs as a newcomer to 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. 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.

This story is fast paced, the characterizations finely nuanced and full of human insight. This novel sparkles with humor, and it deals with immigrants who cope successfully (though not without difficulties) with American farming, small towns, and urban life. It describes a rich multicultural panorama of midwestern immigrant life, literature, and culture. This is a marvelous Scandinavian American novel, well worth your time and money. It deserves to stand next to Rolvaag on your bookshelf.

Annals of Iowa

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 successful 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. 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 the 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.

Published in cooperation with the Norwegian-American Historical Association.

The Rise of Jonas Olsen

Johannes B. Wist (1864–1923) was a journalist and editor of the Decorah Posten from 1900 to 1923.

Orm Øverland is professor of American literature at the University of Bergen, Norway, and the author of The Western Home: A Literary History of Norwegian America and Immigrant Minds, American Identities: Making the United States Home, 1870-1930.

Todd W. Nichol is editor of the Norwegian-American Historical Association publication program.

The Rise of Jonas Olsen

This story is fast paced, the characterizations finely nuanced and full of human insight. This novel sparkles with humor, and it deals with immigrants who cope successfully (though not without difficulties) with American farming, small towns, and urban life. It describes a rich multicultural panorama of midwestern immigrant life, literature, and culture. This is a marvelous Scandinavian American novel, well worth your time and money. It deserves to stand next to Rolvaag on your bookshelf.

Annals of Iowa

By translating Johannes B. Wist’s book into Enlgish, Orm Øverland has greatly enriched the study of American immigration history, culture, and literature from a Scandinavian perspective. And he has given an American and an international audience an added opportunity to explore and understand the situation of the immigrants, their ethnic communities and, implicitly, to understand the story of America itself.

American Studies in Scandinavia

The Rise of Jonas Olsen is a gold mine, and a funny one at that. Wist’s saga deserves to be read and reread and to occupy a permanent place in American Literature.

North Dakota Quarterly

The Rise of Jonas Olsen

Contents

Foreword Todd W. Nichol
Translator’s Introduction

A Note on the Text and Translation the rise of jonas olsen

Book I. Scenes from the Life of a Newcomer: Jonas Olsen’s First Years in America
Book II. The Home on the Prairie: Jonas Olsen’s First Year in the Settlement
Book III. Jonasville

Notes
Bibliography