My Name is Asher Lev

My Name is Asher Lev PDF/EPUB ↠ Name is Asher  MOBI
  • Paperback
  • 320
  • My Name is Asher Lev
  • Chaim Potok
  • English
  • 10 December 2018
  • 0140036423

About the Author: Chaim Potok

My Name is Asher Lev PDF/EPUB ↠ Name is Asher MOBI name ebok, asher kindle, My Name mobile, is Asher book, My Name is Asher LevName is Asher download, My Name is Asher Lev PDFHerman Harold Potok, is Asher Epub Ú or Chaim Tzvi, was born in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrants He received an Orthodox Jewish education After reading Evelyn Waugh s novel Brideshead Revisited as a teenager, he decided to become a writer He started writing fiction at the age of At age he made his first submission to the magazine The Atlantic Monthly Although it wasn t published, he received a note from the editor complimenting his workIn , at the age of , his stories were published in the literary magazine My Name eBook Ó of Yeshiva University, which he also helped edit In , Potok graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English LiteratureAfter four years of study at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America he was ordained as a Conservative rabbi He was appointed director of Leaders Training Fellowship, a youth organization affiliated with Conservative JudaismAfter receiving a master s degree in English literature, Potok enlisted with the US Army as a chaplain He served in South Korea from to He described his time in S Korea as a transformative experience Name is Asher MOBI ó Brought up to believe that the Jewish people were central to history and God s plans, he experienced a region where there were almost no Jews and no anti Semitism, yet whose religious believers prayed with the same fervor that he saw in Orthodox synagogues at homeUpon his return, he joined the faculty of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and became the director of a Conservative Jewish summer camp affiliated with the Conservative movement, Camp Ramah A year later he began his graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and was appointed scholar in residence at Temple Har Zion in PhiladelphiaIn , he spent a year in Israel, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on Solomon Maimon and began to write a novelIn Potok moved to Brooklyn He became the managing editor of the magazine Conservative Judaism and joined the faculty of the Teachers Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary The following year, he was appointed editor in chief of the Jewish Publication Society in Philadelphia and later, chairman of the publication committee Potok received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of PennsylvaniaIn , Potok relocated to Jerusalem with his family He returned to Philadelphia in After the publication of Old Men at Midnight, he was diagnosed with brain cancer He died at his home in Merion, Pennsylvania on July , , aged .


My Name is Asher LevMy Name is Asher Lev PDF/EPUB ↠ Name is Asher MOBI name ebok, asher kindle, My Name mobile, is Asher book, My Name is Asher LevName is Asher download, My Name is Asher Lev PDFAsher Lev is is Asher Epub Ú the artist who painted the sensational Brooklyn Crucifixion Into it her poured all the anguish and torment a Jew can feel when torn between the faith of his fathers and the calling of his art Here Asher Lev plunges back into his childhood and recounts the story of love and conflict which dragged him to this crossroads.

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10 thoughts on “My Name is Asher Lev

  1. Jim Fonseca says:

    The book is famous in part for its opening lines My name is Asher Lev, the Asher Lev, about whom you have read in newspapers and magazines, about whom you talk so much at your dinner affairs and cocktail parties, the notorious and legendary Lev of the Brooklyn Crucifixion A Jewish boy, only child to parents belonging to a strict Hasidic orthodox sect, is born with a gift for painting The sect is called Ladover in the book but wiki says it is the Lubavitch sect of Crown Heights, Brooklyn in w The book is famous in part for its opening lines My name is Asher Lev, the Asher Lev, about whom you have read in newspapers and magazines, about whom you talk so much at your dinner affairs and cocktail parties, the notorious and legendary Lev of the Brooklyn Crucifixion A Jewish boy, only child to parents belonging to a strict Hasidic orthodox sect, is born with a gift for painting The sect is called Ladover in the book but wiki says it is the Lubavitch sect of Crown Heights, Brooklyn in which the author grew up The story is et in the 1950 s His mother encourages him to paint pretty pictures but his strict father, a right hand man to the sect s Rebbe, sees it as childish and from the dark side But his gift is so powerful that at age 13 even the Rebbe eventually gives the boy permission to take lessons from a famous Jewish but non conforming painter within certain limits view spoiler which the painter ignores and has the child of ten years old painting nudes and crucifixions hide spoiler A key event in his childhood occurs when his mother loses her older brother in a car crash The brother had been both a mother and father to her Forthan a year the mother goes into an almost comatose mental and physical state, hardly eating and not talking His father hires a nanny maid to take care of his wife and son view spoiler Eventually she comes out of it, decides to carry on her brother s work, and receives the Rebbe s permission to go to college one of a few women to do so She eventually earns a doctorate and becomes a professor hide spoiler She recovers but she fears all her life for her husband traveling first all over the US and eventually with long trips to Europe getting Jews out from under Stalin s persecution in Russia, bringing some to the US, and setting up schools and synagogues for the sect in the US and Europe The boy is stubborn He upsets his parents by showing no interest in ordinary school work, just painting He refuses to go to Vienna when his parents want to go, initially forcing his mother to stay behind and later he stays with an uncle, rather than going with his parents By the time he is of age to go to college he has stopped going with his family to the Berkshires for a month of summer vacation and instead goes with the artist for summers at the artist colony in Provincetown Since he has his own money from selling paintings, he sets up a studio in Paris on his own for two years When he returns they are somewhat strangers to each other Now they his parents possessed a language of shared experience in which I was nonexistent Often I felt they were together now as they had been before I was born In the end view spoiler He never reconciles with his father In fact things get worse and all his father will do is shake his hand His father now has the strength to be indifferent to his art He regarded me as if from a distance and disliked me without rage However the young man remains religious, attending synagogue faithfully, eating kosher, wearing the proper garments and praying with his family But his famous painting, Brooklyn Crucifixion, depicting his parents as crucified against the backdrop of a window, is sold to a New York museum The Rebbe says he has disgraced his family and the sect and orders him back to exile in Paris hide spoiler I give the book a 4.5 rounded up to 5 There is a bit of repetition in some of the first half Could we get by with a dozen references to the boy asking his father if he is going to travel again instead of 20 And ditto for not wanting to go to Vienna And maybe five incidents of him going into a funk painting at school rather than 10 or so But that s quibbling a bit I highly recommend this book and I m adding it to my favorites A good companion read to the author s The Chosen which I also enjoyed Top photo, Lubavitch Jews of Crown Heights from almy.comThe Brooklyn Crucifixion painting by the author who was also an artist, from pinterest.com The author, 1929 2002, from figtreebooks.net

  2. Lucy says:

    Chaim Potok is a brilliant author who refuses to write a page turning book I can t tell you how many bad books I have finished hoping for a Potok esque finishmoving depth that justifies the slow pace of his books This was a book I had a hard time finishing It was too easily put down and, to be truthful, I didn t even like this book until about 3 4 of the way into it Now, I emphatically say that it is one of the best books I have ever read.There is so much to say about this book Throughou Chaim Potok is a brilliant author who refuses to write a page turning book I can t tell you how many bad books I have finished hoping for a Potok esque finishmoving depth that justifies the slow pace of his books This was a book I had a hard time finishing It was too easily put down and, to be truthful, I didn t even like this book until about 3 4 of the way into it Now, I emphatically say that it is one of the best books I have ever read.There is so much to say about this book Throughout my entire reading of it, I kept thinking the book was about this or that , only to be surprised by realizing the subject matter went far deeper At first I thought it was about an art prodigy that a difficult path is taken when your child is special or gifted.It kind of is.Then I thought it was about the pain and awkwardness of being a religious Jew right after the second world war.Again, kind of.Then I thought it was like The Namesake and the struggle between parents and children and different generations.Getting closer.Ultimately, I think this book is about perception What is honoring your father and mother and what is following your dream What is tradition and what is truth What is the better choice What is the better life Whose point of view matters I experienced a lot of frustration while reading this First of all, this book is about so many things that I either know nothing about or that don t interest me For instance, Asher Lev is a art prodigy As he is the main character, art its history and technique is a frequent subject matter I know very little about art It was hard for me to respond to Asher Lev s need to draw and paint As a person without any particular passion, I had to take his word for it that for him, drawing and painting wasn t a hobby, or something he liked to do, but that it was who he was, an insatiable need that controlled him That sort of passion would probably cause problems in any family but when you are a Hasidic Jew and the son of an important emissary of the Rebbe whose life work is to create safe places to teach the Torah to religious Jews throughout Europe, that passion tears apart a family.My second frustration is probably apparent by now I know very little about Judaism There is a no apologizes approach to Potok s description of Jewish life Obviously a Jew himself, he doesn t write for the goyim are you frustrated That s the Jewish term for the Gentile YeahI know I had to learn it all too.There is a noticeable lack of emotion written about such an emotionally charged situation Short, perfunctory sentences that made me feel as frustrated with the situation as I felt Asher Lev did with his father who did not get art By the end of the book, I could appreciate it for the technique that it was Asher Lev was the narrator and we experienced the story through Asher Lev That containment of emotion, the abrupt conclusion of dialogue with his parentsthat was his existence.It all builds up to this pinnacle of frustration, this burst of emotion that brings the most hurt to his parents although that is what his art is abouthis hurt, his mother s hurt, his father s hurt I actually cried through this part I rarely cry It s that good.An incredible book An important book A book, most definitely, worth reading

  3. BlackOxford says:

    The World in One s Hands Sitra Achra, literally The Other Side in Aramaic, is the kabbalistic domain of evil It contains what is false and impure, the most important component of which is the idea that evil is contained in the Master of the Universe This idea is not only an impiety, it is also the source of countless other horrors that prevent human beings from appreciating their own reality The struggle against the Sitra Achra is the central theme of My Name Is Asher Lev, established at the o The World in One s Hands Sitra Achra, literally The Other Side in Aramaic, is the kabbalistic domain of evil It contains what is false and impure, the most important component of which is the idea that evil is contained in the Master of the Universe This idea is not only an impiety, it is also the source of countless other horrors that prevent human beings from appreciating their own reality The struggle against the Sitra Achra is the central theme of My Name Is Asher Lev, established at the outset and pursued constantly throughout the book.Evil is a very tricky theological issue Typically it is either rationalised away as only apparent in a world governed by Providence or it is considered an aberration brought about by human beings who act in error Judaic Kabbalah, unlike most religious practices, however, takes the existence of evil seriously as a fundamental and pervasive fact But it also refuses to fall into the Gnostic trap of including evil as an inherent part of the divine Evil exists in a sort of parallel universe, one which lacks a crucial component of the divine and its Creation language.Such a universe is in one sense impossible to conceive There are literally no words to describe it The best we can do it to call it darkness Within this realm of darkness, chaos reigns Out of it, the darkness seeks to overcome the light, in part by infecting language itself Stalin, for example, as part of the Sitra Achra kills Jewish writers, both because they are Jewish and because they write, and substitutes Soviet propaganda for divine truth There are even Jewish Communists who persecute other Jews Ultimately it is words that killed the writers, the millions of others in Russia, and in the Holocaust laws, and commands, and secret memoranda, and judicial verdicts, all in the language made unsafe by the Sitra Achra.Kabbalah can be considered as a mystical approach to disinfecting language by turning language in on itself, using language to undermine the pretensions of language when it becomes something that it shouldn t lies, misrepresentations, distortions, and claims to reality It is not enough to say the Krias Shema before sleep, the Modeh Ani upon waking, or the dozens of other prayers for every other occasion during the day Even the language of these prayers must transcend language itself.The artist in a community devoted to the Kabbalah is thus in an ambiguous position On the one hand, he relativises written and spoken language through his pictorial interpretation of the world, even the world of darkness which is immune from linguistic description Such interpretation challenges whatever existing representations of reality there might be and therefore is consistent with kabbalistic practice On the other hand, it is unclear whether any artistic innovation might be yet another attempt by the forces of the Sitra Achra to dim the light of divine guidance Is such art grace or heresy So the issue raised by Asher Lev s artistic talent is not aesthetic It is not even moral in the narrow sense of rightness and wrongness His abilities as a painter have profound significance, not just for the community but for the entire cosmos An artist attacks the Sitra Achra directly by entering into it with his art His duty is to bring the Sitra Achra within the world of divine creation by giving it a language, a means of representing itself in order to see itself clearly.This is a dangerous business The danger is that the artist attempts to emulate the Master of the Universe rather than act as His instrument Does the artist represent light or darkness Is his art a purification or a desecration These are as much questions for Asher Lev as they are for his community in Brooklyn s Crown Heights in which evenwashing for meals was a cosmic enterprise Postscript Also see

  4. Diana says:

    I hated to finish this book, because I loved it so much.It is the story of a Hasidic boy who loves to draw and paint and has the ability to become a great artist, but his father hates his obsession with art because he thinks it is from the Other Side and is evil.I loved how this story drew me into the daily life of this young boy, his family and his struggle to become who he was meant to be I, too, had a gift for drawing and know how devastating it is to be not only not encouraged, but actively I hated to finish this book, because I loved it so much.It is the story of a Hasidic boy who loves to draw and paint and has the ability to become a great artist, but his father hates his obsession with art because he thinks it is from the Other Side and is evil.I loved how this story drew me into the daily life of this young boy, his family and his struggle to become who he was meant to be I, too, had a gift for drawing and know how devastating it is to be not only not encouraged, but actively discouraged, from doing the one thing you love to do most.I also realized how much I didn t know about the Judaism and Hasidism in particular I loved learning about the prayers, customs, history and vocabulary.This is a beautiful book There was a sequel written in 1990 that I will be reading too

  5. Diane Barnes says:

    I have no words Truly Tina, thank you for the gift of this recommendation I would never have read this book on my own, and I will never forget it.

  6. Roger Brunyate says:

    The Absence of ItalicsI returned to reread this classic after reading Talia Carner s recent novel Jerusalem Maiden, since the protagonists of both are talented artists raised within Orthodox Judaism, struggling to reconcile their art to their faith To succeed, the writers must convey the nature of both religious belief and artistic inspiration, a challenge that Potok meets brilliantly Consider one significant example Both novels are full of Hebrew words Shabbos, Rosh Hadesh, Krias Shema, Hasi The Absence of ItalicsI returned to reread this classic after reading Talia Carner s recent novel Jerusalem Maiden, since the protagonists of both are talented artists raised within Orthodox Judaism, struggling to reconcile their art to their faith To succeed, the writers must convey the nature of both religious belief and artistic inspiration, a challenge that Potok meets brilliantly Consider one significant example Both novels are full of Hebrew words Shabbos, Rosh Hadesh, Krias Shema, Hasidus, Rebbe, Mashpia, Torah, Chumash, Hashem, Ribbono Shel Olom but one comparison struck me immediately upon opening the Potok book he never uses italics.Trivial I think not Italics imply a gap between the writer and the reader They say, I know these words are foreign to you, so I ll mark them as such and explain them as we go along But Potok s absence of italics takes away all foreignness these are words that his characters use every day, as common as overcoat and arithmetic By using them matter of factly, without self consciousness, Potok s Asher Lev invites us into his world as an equal, erasing any gap between us He is also denying any sense of religious observance as something special reserved for the Sabbath, rather a part of ordinary life, every hour of every day Though not Jewish myself, I have read a great many novels with Jewish settings, but cannot think of any that immerse me so deeply in the culture as Potok s novels this one and The Chosen.Asher is the only child of Aryeh and Rivkeh Lev, descendants of two of the most prominent families of Ladover Hasidim the branch of the sect is fictitious, but clearly based on the Chabad Lubavitcher movement in Crown Heights, Brooklyn The Rebbe, or leader of the sect, is a charismatic figure a marvelous creation on Potok s part, though undoubtedly inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe of the time, who preached a relatively liberal form of Orthodox Judaism at home coupled with widespread outreach abroad Asher s father, like his father before him, travels widely for the Rebbe, and his mother takes a doctorate in Russian to help him in his work The story, which begins in the fifties, is set against the persecution of Jews in Russia under Stalin and the Ladovers attempts to bring them out after the dictator s death It gives a strong undertone of historical fact to a story that, otherwise, is largely in the mind and home of its title character.Asher is naturally expected to follow in the family tradition But although he remains a pious and observant Jew throughout his life, he is consumed by a different force a precocious talent for drawing Here again, it is the absence of notional italics that convinces us of Asher s genius Potok makes no attempt to highlight or explain he writes no set pieces translating Asher s creations into picturesque words Instead, he simply admits us into his thought, showing the process by which those pictures were createdthan that, showing art as the language through which Asher processes his entire life and conflicted feelings As Jacob Kahn, his teacher throughout his teens, says, Art is whether or not there is a scream in him wanting to get out in a special way And he has plenty to scream about Although he will be very lucky in his mentors, Asher s gift isolates him from his classmates and alienates his father, who calls his pursuit of Art rather than Torah a foolishness the same accusation that Potok s parents had leveled against his own artistic pursuits Overruled by the Rebbe, who understands the different needs of both men, Aryeh Lev stores up increasing bitterness against what he sees as the irreligion of his son, especially when he starts painting subjects anathema to the Jewish tradition Asher s mother, Rivkeh, is torn in two, not only between her husband and her son, but also between two radically different ways of honoring God through a life of practical good works, or through following the truth of a God given spirit The strife within his family and in his own mind will be the subject of the work which launches Asher Lev to notoriety and success a pair of canvases known as The Brooklyn Crucifixion Asher mentions this in his very first paragraph, writing the book to explain how an observant Jew could reach such an unlikely pinnacle But never to apologize It is absurd to apologize for a mystery Potok s great achievement is to exalt the mystery of both God and Art, while sharing the pursuit of each as though it were the most normal thing in the world Extraordinary things described in everyday words the absence of italics Potok was also a painter himself, and painted his own version of The Brooklyn Crucifixion It is here if you want to look at it, but I am protecting it as a spoiler since I personally find his verbal evocation comes across muchstrongly view spoiler Potok The Brooklyn Crucifixion hide spoiler

  7. Annalisa says:

    Powerful This is the story of a Hasidic Jew who is a gifted painter, a talent not approved of among orthodox Jews His life becomes a struggle between his father who tries to stir him away from the arts totraditionally accepted hobbies all the while trying to understand him and his need to draw to express himself I could sympathize with all the characters in the book his father for trying to hold onto his religious convictions without dominance but love, his mother for trying to love Powerful This is the story of a Hasidic Jew who is a gifted painter, a talent not approved of among orthodox Jews His life becomes a struggle between his father who tries to stir him away from the arts totraditionally accepted hobbies all the while trying to understand him and his need to draw to express himself I could sympathize with all the characters in the book his father for trying to hold onto his religious convictions without dominance but love, his mother for trying to love and encourage her son while staying at one with her husband, the mentor for his love and devotion to art, and especially Asher for trying to balance it all I loved that it wasn t a story about how his parents rejected him because he was different but tried to understand and love their son the best way they knew how and still maintain their faith It was an honest parent child relationship and I think Asher valued his faith and his parentsfor their attempt at understanding him I enjoyed learning about Hasidic Jews and understanding their religious convictions as well as experiencing the aesthetic pull to explain the world through art The backdrop was so real to me that I could feel this boy s life My one complaint would be that I still wonder what a few of terms mean Like what exactly does Ladover mean Asher says this of painting I paint my feelings I paint how I see and feel about the world But I paint a painting, not a story I absolutely loved that the writing style correlates with a painting style Asher is non descriptive about his feelings, only stating his replies to people s questions instead of delving inside his own emotions Just a painting, the reader is left to interpret those for himself The story flows through the years smoothly, but it is the writing style that puts it on a higher level When style can add another layer by making you feel Asher s love of painting, it makes the book beautiful.The reason this is one of my favorite books is that I connected with this book on a deeply personal level As someone who dabbles with the art of writing and an extremely religious person, I often wonder how I would balance art and religion I hate that it has to be a choice, but if you are going to commit yourself that deeply to an art, there will come a time when you have to pick your art or your faith I hope I would pick faith, but where I draw the line may different than someone else s and therefore I run the risk of offending Part of being an artist is coming to terms with this displacement It is the reason I empathized with Asher and come back to his story time and again in my own quest to balance it all

  8. Chris says:

    I ve heard good things about Potok s Chosen and it sounds like that s his book that most people have read I enjoyed his style here and I suspect I ll pick up The Chosen to read later Content Theme Before commenting on anything else, I need to comment on the theme and content of the book This book is deeply entrenched in the Jewish culture and has many references that are likely very commonplace to those in the Jewish culture, but were very foreign to me I got the general meaning of most I ve heard good things about Potok s Chosen and it sounds like that s his book that most people have read I enjoyed his style here and I suspect I ll pick up The Chosen to read later Content Theme Before commenting on anything else, I need to comment on the theme and content of the book This book is deeply entrenched in the Jewish culture and has many references that are likely very commonplace to those in the Jewish culture, but were very foreign to me I got the general meaning of most things from context, but I still have a long list of terms, phrases and actions to look up and better understand.This book also has a lot of great detail about the art world This is another realm in which I am an inexperienced traveler I had a better understanding of art than Judaism, but there were still numerous names, periods, phrases and theories that I didn t understand directly.One suggestion that I would make which added huge depth to me, is to Google the names of the various paintings sculpures artists that are referenced and that Asher studies intently Some areimportant than others, but just seeing what it is he s seeing and experiencing brought a huge new depth to the book Characters Obviously, Asher is the main character He is a very deep character with a ton of internal conflict and a lot of passion which he doesn t understand or know fully how to direct His development throughout the novel was very subtle I found it very interesting that he was portrayed largely as a pawn in his own life A few times, he tells his father that he can t control it , meaning his art In much of the dialog that happens between Asher and most characters, he is largely a character who isn t directing the actions of his world He is often silent and lets others make their assumptions and their decisions And yet, through that silence, he imposes his will on those who are closest to him.Asher s parents are also very lucid characters Asher s mother is passionate and very torn between her devotion to her husband and to her son The final climactic work of Asher truly captures his mother s character His father was also very well portrayed I found myself frustrated with him at times but also sympathizing with him There was a section where Asher tries to explain art to his father, going into the technical artistic terms and phrases That scene was a very profound description of the huge disparity between their two worlds.The other characters in the book were largely there as tools either for Asher s own development or for exploring the gap between Asher s two worlds, art and Judaism Plot Writing Pacing There were times that I would have liked the story to pick up the pace a bit The descriptions were great very artistic and the depth that the scenes gave to Asher and his family and friends was huge I m not sure what scenes I would have cut or tightened up, but there were times that I would to have liked it to speed up a little.The plot itself was intense The novel was divided into books outlining different parts in Asher s life and development Each book built on those before it and none of the sections came to a final conclusion or at least to a happy ending Even though I would not like to see them split into stand alone books, looking back, I see that as a possibility They each had their own rising action, climax, and hint of resolution And together through the course of the novel, they provided an overall rising action, with the final book having the greatest climax before the final resolution Overall Even though this book focussed on conflict between art and Judaism, it goes much deeper than that dynamic I found myself relating many times to things that Asher would say or think He was conflicted between his religious heritage and the carnal world He was conflicted between respecting his parents and becoming his own person He was conflicted between Tradition and Growth He was conflicted between two things that were both good So much of his character development embodies principles that apply to us all.The story and the writing was very interesting and thought provoking I enjoyed reading it The final climax made my soul churn as I realized there was no happy way for things to resolve I m not one to beg for happy endings, but after getting so attached to Asher, I had hoped that things would turn out better Still not to spoil the end , things didn t end up as grim as they could have done I believe Potok wrote a second book about Asher Lev I may have to read that as well to see what becomes of him beyond this novel.The reading isn t heavy , but the tone of the book is heavy But Definitely Recommended 4 Stars

  9. Jenny says:

    A tragically gripping, page turning work of total genius I hate to even review it because it was that good and maybe just five stars would be better than me blubbering about it I was completely engrossed and almost read 3 4ths of it one night, but stopped abruptly to have the novel follow me around the house and in my bag for another week because I didn t want to be through with it I came back to it and finished it in one sitting Some books change your life, some books are your life Diffe A tragically gripping, page turning work of total genius I hate to even review it because it was that good and maybe just five stars would be better than me blubbering about it I was completely engrossed and almost read 3 4ths of it one night, but stopped abruptly to have the novel follow me around the house and in my bag for another week because I didn t want to be through with it I came back to it and finished it in one sitting Some books change your life, some books are your life Different art professors who meant a lot to me and friends through the years all have urged and recommended me to read this All the recommendations were given at different times and curiously still,from people unrelated to each other which held the title of the book in my memory for a long time as something of significance, especially in the way that they told me it especially for me But like trips to Paris and having children somethings take time to happen The years have passed and a copy of the book never seemed to come my way I m so glad it finally did

  10. Mike says:

    Let me preface this review by stating that I have little basis for identifying with many characters in the book I am not Jewish, was not raised in a religious community, did not see my community nearly exterminated during the worst conflict in the 20th century, and couldn t draw a properly proportioned stick figure to save my life In spite of all of these obstacles I found this book both challenging and emotionally compelling.This book raises many questions what does it mean to be an artist Let me preface this review by stating that I have little basis for identifying with many characters in the book I am not Jewish, was not raised in a religious community, did not see my community nearly exterminated during the worst conflict in the 20th century, and couldn t draw a properly proportioned stick figure to save my life In spite of all of these obstacles I found this book both challenging and emotionally compelling.This book raises many questions what does it mean to be an artist What does it mean to be a Jew Can the two be reconciled Can someone meet the responsibilities of being an artist and a Jew without betraying the other To what do we owe ourselves and what do we owe our family and community These are not easily answered because they are so unique to every person They are dependent upon a person s proclivities, experiences, and environment.This book told the story of one particular Hasidic Jew, Asher Lev, his struggle with these questions, and the impact of them on those around him, especially his parents.The setting is very important to this novel It takes place from Asher s youth in the early 1950 s through his early adulthood in the late 1960 s The holocaust is still a living memory for the Jewish community and Stalin was busy being Stalin towards Russian and Eastern European Jews It was a time of great uncertainty for Jewish culture, yet another dark chapter in their history that threatened their continued cultural existence Asher s father worked for a Rebbe think of them as sort of mini Popes for particular Hasidic Sects next to God in their righteousness , traveling the country and later Europe establishing Yeshivas Jewish educational institutions to preserve and grow the studying of the Torah by Jews Asher s grandfather worked for the Rebbe s father before being killed by a Russian peasant during Easter week back in Russia Sufficed to say there was an expectation that Asher would continue this relationship, studying the Torah and working for the greater benefit of Jews worldwide by assisting the Rebbe.But Asher is different, he is driven by a need to create art He is very religiously observant keeps kosher, prays three times a day, observes the Sabbath, etc He wants to be a good Jew and honor his parents, make them proud of him, but he is driven to create art which his father thinks is foolish.This book is about tension The tension between Asher s artistic aspirations and his father s desire that he study the Torah andserious matters The tension between his Jewish heritage and the goyish and pagan world of art The tension between his family s legacy going back many generations and an integral part of how Asher views his placein the world and the path he chooses for himself The tension between what people want Asher to be and what he is.Potok tells this story beautifully from Asher s limited perspective When Asher was a child the narrative is simple, as seen from a child s perspective As Asher grows, so too does the introspective nature of the narrative Asher becomesperceptive and aware of his world and his self As his study of art grows he begins to the see the world in terms of lines, contours, planes, and colors The artist s eye grows and becomes an integral part of his perception of the world He recognizes and is forced to comes to grip with the tensions and conflicts in his life More importantly, though, he also becomessympathetic to the struggles his mother and father endured As he travels Europe he sees all the good his frequently absent father brought to many Jewish communities As he reflects on his past he realizes the anguish and hardship his Mother endured trying to bridge the gap between himself and his father He embraces both of their humanities in the creation of his greatest and most dangerous works of art.As a reader I becameandemotionally invested with Asher I saw his triumphs, his struggles, the choices he had to make and the choices that were forced upon him He was told by a great artist who became his teacher that eventually his art would hurt people and the only way to atone for that was to become an even greater artist But when faced with this reality at one of his art shows he feels dread, apprehension, doubt He reacts as any human would when his essence directs him down a path that could alienate him from his family, his community, and his identity Like life the resolution of this book is messy and tragic view spoiler While the outcome seemed inevitable from some ways off there was a glimmer of hope that perhaps things would work out in the end That a reconciliation and a growth of mutual respect was possible It was that glimmer of hope getting snuffed out that made the conclusion that muchtraumatic and saddening hide spoiler This was a fantastic, if slow paced and introspective, book I found it to be emotionally resonating and sympathetic The characters were beautifully crafted and empathetic, the descriptions through an artist s eyes were evocative, and it ended as it should have without pulling any emotional punches.Further notes This book is populated by a wonderful variety of secondary characters that influence Asher a Russian Jew who spent several years in Siberia before fleeing to the west, Asher s aged art mentor, Asher s Uncle who supports his art work while Asher lived with him, even the few times we see the Rebbe and his influence was interesting So while the title of this book may be I am Asher Lev, it is also about all the other influences that made him the Asher Lev we see at the end of the book While Marc Chagall exists in this world, it is pretty clear he also served as a template for Asher Lev they were both Jewish artists that were some what anomalous among within their community If you are unfamiliar with Chagall I highly recommend a Google image search, he had some very excellent and thought provoking pieces such as The White Crucifixion While all of the above seems quite heavy and depressing there were plenty of moments of levity, such as when Asher has to paint his first nude, a task sprung on him by his blunt and crotchety and awesome art mentor There were many interesting passages about the nature of art and what it means to be an artist Truth, beauty, and self honesty were very fascinating themes throughout the middle and later parts of the book What I liked about this book was that there were no bad guys His Father was very devoted to his family and lived through some very terrible times for his people He believed that all Jews had a responsibility to help each other and bear the light of the Torah for the next generation He had a very compassionate view on humanity, seeing the death of even one Jew or non Jew as a great loss as there death deprived the world of future generations But at the same he lives with the memory that his father was killed by a drunk Russian peasant during Easter week This resulted in his aversion to Christian iconography especially the Jesus on the crucifix on top of the historic pogroms perpetuated against his people carried out under those symbols He is not a bad man, just a man who cannot understand his son and his son s dedication to a practice he sees as distinctly un Jewish view spoiler I was gladdened, at the end of the book, when he began to take pride in Asher s accomplishments and plaudits including the purchase of several of his paintings by Museums I still hold out hope that they can reconcile in the sequel hide spoiler