web site hit counter My Name Is Asher Lev - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

My Name Is Asher Lev

Availability: Ready to download

Asher Lev is a Ladover Hasid who keeps kosher, prays three times a day and believes in the Ribbono Shel Olom, the Master of the Universe. Asher Lev is an artist who is compulsively driven to render the world he sees and feels even when it leads him to blasphemy. In this stirring and often visionary novel, Chaim Potok traces Asher’s passage between these two identities, the Asher Lev is a Ladover Hasid who keeps kosher, prays three times a day and believes in the Ribbono Shel Olom, the Master of the Universe. Asher Lev is an artist who is compulsively driven to render the world he sees and feels even when it leads him to blasphemy. In this stirring and often visionary novel, Chaim Potok traces Asher’s passage between these two identities, the one consecrated to God, the other subject only to the imagination. Asher Lev grows up in a cloistered Hasidic community in postwar Brooklyn, a world suffused by ritual and revolving around a charismatic Rebbe. But in time his gift threatens to estrange him from that world and the parents he adores. As it follows his struggle, My Name Is Asher Lev becomes a luminous portrait of the artist, by turns heartbreaking and exultant, a modern classic.


Compare

Asher Lev is a Ladover Hasid who keeps kosher, prays three times a day and believes in the Ribbono Shel Olom, the Master of the Universe. Asher Lev is an artist who is compulsively driven to render the world he sees and feels even when it leads him to blasphemy. In this stirring and often visionary novel, Chaim Potok traces Asher’s passage between these two identities, the Asher Lev is a Ladover Hasid who keeps kosher, prays three times a day and believes in the Ribbono Shel Olom, the Master of the Universe. Asher Lev is an artist who is compulsively driven to render the world he sees and feels even when it leads him to blasphemy. In this stirring and often visionary novel, Chaim Potok traces Asher’s passage between these two identities, the one consecrated to God, the other subject only to the imagination. Asher Lev grows up in a cloistered Hasidic community in postwar Brooklyn, a world suffused by ritual and revolving around a charismatic Rebbe. But in time his gift threatens to estrange him from that world and the parents he adores. As it follows his struggle, My Name Is Asher Lev becomes a luminous portrait of the artist, by turns heartbreaking and exultant, a modern classic.

30 review for My Name Is Asher Lev

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    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. For more than 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.com The Brooklyn Crucifixion painting by the author who was also an artist, from pinterest.com The author, 1929-2002, from figtreebooks.net

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    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 finish...moving 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 finish...moving 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. Yeah...I 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 parents...that 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 about...his 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. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    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 even “washing for meals was a cosmic enterprise.” Postscript: Also see: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    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. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    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. 4 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    The Absence of Italics I 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 Italics I 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 created—more than 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 much more strongly. (view spoiler)[ Potok: The Brooklyn Crucifixion (hide spoiler)]

  7. 5 out of 5

    Annalisa

    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 to more traditionally 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 to more traditionally 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 parents more for 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. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    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 are more important 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

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Pogan

    Without question one of the finest pieces of literature I've ever read. Incredibly powerful. It is the story of a young prodigy artist who had, in my opinion, the great misfortune to be born into a very ultra orthodox Jewish family (but actually, I feel that way about any religions). He is driven, almost helplessly, to draw and paint against his fathers wishes who considers his efforts to come from the "other side". Definitely one of those books written so well that you hate to see it finally co Without question one of the finest pieces of literature I've ever read. Incredibly powerful. It is the story of a young prodigy artist who had, in my opinion, the great misfortune to be born into a very ultra orthodox Jewish family (but actually, I feel that way about any religions). He is driven, almost helplessly, to draw and paint against his fathers wishes who considers his efforts to come from the "other side". Definitely one of those books written so well that you hate to see it finally come to an end.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    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 and more serious 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 becomes more perceptive 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 becomes more sympathetic 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 became more and more emotionally 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 much more traumatic 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)]

  12. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    Books like this are wasted on the young. I’m so glad I was a lazy middle school student and didn’t read it because I would have missed most of the meaning and then passed over it now. Though it started slow for me, sputtering out of the gate with 3 stars, it soon picked up speed and crossed the finish line with 5 stars - not because the story was racing, but because my mind was. You will see religiously devout parents through the eyes of a child; you will see the Hasidic Jewish world through the Books like this are wasted on the young. I’m so glad I was a lazy middle school student and didn’t read it because I would have missed most of the meaning and then passed over it now. Though it started slow for me, sputtering out of the gate with 3 stars, it soon picked up speed and crossed the finish line with 5 stars - not because the story was racing, but because my mind was. You will see religiously devout parents through the eyes of a child; you will see the Hasidic Jewish world through the eyes of an artist, you will see Christianity through the eyes of Jew. And in the end you may see a little less black and white in your own world. What I enjoyed most was riding shotgun with a boy who begins as a prodigy and ends as an artist. You see his mom and dad, the conflicting worlds of art and his religion, and masterpieces like the David and the Pieta through his eyes and you hear his thoughts as he processes all this information to create great art himself. It’s fantastic. You won’t need a seatbelt but you will need your brain. Enjoy the ride.

  13. 5 out of 5

    D

    Interesting and well written fictional biography. The main character is born into the fictional "Ladover" Jewish movement. It is fairly obvious though that "Ladover" stands for the Chabad Orthodox Hasidic movement, today one of the largest Hasidic movements in the world. The main topic is the difficulty of realizing his dream to become an artist painter, without dropping his religious convictions. It is a "feel good" story that manages to avoid becoming too sentimental, and provides interesting Interesting and well written fictional biography. The main character is born into the fictional "Ladover" Jewish movement. It is fairly obvious though that "Ladover" stands for the Chabad Orthodox Hasidic movement, today one of the largest Hasidic movements in the world. The main topic is the difficulty of realizing his dream to become an artist painter, without dropping his religious convictions. It is a "feel good" story that manages to avoid becoming too sentimental, and provides interesting details about the Chabad way of life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Josh Caporale

    4.5 stars Chaim Potok's writing is quite remarkable! Being a rabbi, Potok's works would explore the lives of Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish subjects and their struggles, but often, these struggles took place internally or within their religious community as opposed to taking place in their exterior world. My Name Is Asher Lev is a prime example of the central character's very own struggle. Within a religion that is grounded, is filled with rules, and requires a lot from its followers, Asher sees a d 4.5 stars Chaim Potok's writing is quite remarkable! Being a rabbi, Potok's works would explore the lives of Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish subjects and their struggles, but often, these struggles took place internally or within their religious community as opposed to taking place in their exterior world. My Name Is Asher Lev is a prime example of the central character's very own struggle. Within a religion that is grounded, is filled with rules, and requires a lot from its followers, Asher sees a different sense of potential for himself and takes on a passion in art. The way that Potok writes, though, he does so in a way that any Jewish reader can find a sense of connection, while a non-Jewish reader does not only have the ability to connect in an emotional way, but it is written in a way that is accessible and in a way that they develop a greater understanding for Hasidism, their rituals, and how they go about serving their G-d. Asher Lev is a Hasid that was born in 1943 and grows up living with his parents, Aryeh (father) and Rivkeh (mother). Aryeh works serving the Rebbe and frequently travels, feeling that it is best to meet the people he is helping face to face. As Aryeh mentions: "To touch a person's heart, you must see a person's face. One cannot reach a soul through a telephone" (117). In a time and place where it is typical that people text and use their cell phone to the point that it is easier to reach them from a phone than in person, this line was a breath of fresh air and a reason that this can be deemed a modern classic. Aryeh picks up a position in Europe, which creates a great strain between he and his son, one that has already developed on the basis that Asher is an artist that paints what he sees in as honest a way as possible. Aryeh feels art to be pointless and frequently scolds and chides Asher for his actions. Asher's mother does her best to serve both of their needs, as she studies Russian affairs to assist her husband, while providing Asher with the support and material he needs in order to paint, though most of this Asher gets on his own. As time progresses, Asher begins to establish himself as a painter and comes under the wing of Jacob Kahn, which creates a sense of extremity that positions itself on the complete opposite of the spectrum in which his parents would wish. Asher, though, seems to fall in the middle, where he wants to paint things as he sees them, but at the same time eats kosher, prays three times a day, loves his parents, and cares for those within his Hasidic community. This was an aspect of the book that I really liked, for it made Asher a human being that came with complexities for both sides, but yet he certainly had something to offer to the art community. My Name Is Asher Lev is an accomplishment in how it addresses the bridge between religion and art and how it should be perceived and accepted. Being a reader that approaches this objectively as far as religion is concerned, I feel as if Asher is a very determined, but at the same time an individual that means well, even if it causes grief in his heavily religious parents. I like the nature and the fleshing out of each of the characters and how each meant well, despite being firm and passionate in their nature. I like the pacing of the piece, as it flows in a way that we get just enough of what we need to know about a particular event in Asher's life and highlights of other periods of time within. While there were moments in which I wish that information was not withheld (like when Asher Lev says that he has told someone something and yet we do not find out what it is), it was an overall very good piece. I am definitely inclined to read more by Chaim Potok, including the sequel to this novel, The Gift of Asher Lev.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Doug Bradshaw

    This book reached me on many levels and gave me a lot to think about. Here are a few of them: 1. As parents, we push our children to do well in school, some of us want our kids to excel in sports, others want their kids to be leaders and to have a lot of friends and to be popular. Here we have a prodigy son who at a young age is a Mozart of art, and yet because of his parent's religious background and beliefs, he is made to believe his gift is bad and useless and that he should conform to their n This book reached me on many levels and gave me a lot to think about. Here are a few of them: 1. As parents, we push our children to do well in school, some of us want our kids to excel in sports, others want their kids to be leaders and to have a lot of friends and to be popular. Here we have a prodigy son who at a young age is a Mozart of art, and yet because of his parent's religious background and beliefs, he is made to believe his gift is bad and useless and that he should conform to their narrow and religious beliefs and forget about the gift. And yet a loving mother and a wise leader give him just enough space that he is able to become a master at a young age. It is painful that the parents are never able to understand the world of art and their son's gift. There seemed to be two statements to me here: Don't be this kind of myopic and selfish parent and make sure you understand your child's talents and needs. Quit trying so hard to mold him into a mini version of yourself. Luckily, Asher's mother was more understanding a loving than his father. 2. It seems like there was a lot to say about the whole mission of this particular branch of the Jewish Religion. In today's world as we hear about the extremists of each of the branches of various religions, there's not much to like. Extreme Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, Buddhists and others are remarkably similar in their lack of tolerance for behavior outside of their prescribed narrow box. The book does an excellent job of showing how religious beliefs are forced into the children. Asher is one of the few who is able to fight that pressure at a very young age. 3. Throughout the book, the art of art is described very well and in great detail. Anyone interested at all in the world of art will enjoy the evolution of the child prodigy into a budding successful artist and the influence of his outstanding and likable teacher. 4. I was disappointed that Asher didn't have any friends except for older mentors. No girlfriends or buddies. I don't believe that this is the case with most hugely talented artists, but perhaps in part, it is because of his Jewish religion and his strict way of life. These are merely some of the main topics that I could think of quickly. The book is full of many metaphors and excellent psychology. The relationship Asher has with each of the adults in the book is very realistically described. It almost seems that it must be autobiographical.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Doug Cannon

    Over the years, my Dad and I would occasionally have a conversation about this book. It would invariably go something like this: My dad asks, "You have never read My Name is Asher Lev?" and I would reply, "No, I haven't" "You are so lucky! Now you still have the joy of looking forward to reading the book." "We've had this conversation before, Dad." "Then why haven't you read it yet?" "Because as soon as I read it, you won't say I'm so lucky anymore." I think the risk was worth it to be "less lucky" an Over the years, my Dad and I would occasionally have a conversation about this book. It would invariably go something like this: My dad asks, "You have never read My Name is Asher Lev?" and I would reply, "No, I haven't" "You are so lucky! Now you still have the joy of looking forward to reading the book." "We've had this conversation before, Dad." "Then why haven't you read it yet?" "Because as soon as I read it, you won't say I'm so lucky anymore." I think the risk was worth it to be "less lucky" and I finally read the Asher Lev book. My reasoning is that I still have "The Promise" and "The gift of Asher Lev" that remain unread. I've already read "The Chosen" (twice), and "The Book of Lights". Asher Lev is a practicing Hasidic Jew from brooklyn family that is very prominent and well known among his people, not only in Brooklyn, but in Europe, Russia, and many other places. He discovers early that art and drawing is very important to him, which is generally shunned in his culture. He once has a very pointed discussion with his father where he tells him to never call his drawing foolishness again. Asher becomes a world famous artist despite his father's wishes, and his masterpiece is an incredible piece. The whole description of the time when his parents see the painting is very moving. Asher is painfully aware that his painting will hurt the people he loves, especially his parents. The ending of the book was very powerful. Powerful enough, that I'll read the sequel, The Gift of Asher Lev. Being a little less lucky isn't so bad after all. The beginning of my review is all the funnier to me, because I had already written that part (in my mind) but before writing it here, my brother wrote the comment you can see below. Apparently, it runs in the family to be jealous of those who can still look forward to unread Chaim Potok novels.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Reese

    You're a Hasidic Jew. Is that your identity? You're an artist, a "prodigy." Is that your identity? You're being pulled by opposing forces, urges, needs: You're Chaim Potok's Asher Lev; you're also Rivkeh Lev, Asher's mother. Or perhaps you're a nameless illustration of the human condition. If, however, your name is Asher Lev, then, unlike ordinary dual creatures, you come to realize that "paint" begins with pain and ends with the letter that looks like a cross. And the pain that is yours is not You're a Hasidic Jew. Is that your identity? You're an artist, a "prodigy." Is that your identity? You're being pulled by opposing forces, urges, needs: You're Chaim Potok's Asher Lev; you're also Rivkeh Lev, Asher's mother. Or perhaps you're a nameless illustration of the human condition. If, however, your name is Asher Lev, then, unlike ordinary dual creatures, you come to realize that "paint" begins with pain and ends with the letter that looks like a cross. And the pain that is yours is not only yours.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Wiltzen

    This book made me cry. I read it during a difficult moment in my life after a friend who recommended it had passed away and it really resonated. It’s a beautiful book about a boy wanting to be an artist in the face of others discouraging his passion as a waste of time. It’s about family expectations placed on a child to conform. It’s about coming of age and finding yourself disappointing those who love you for wanting to be different. It’s about the mix of loneliness and opportunities that can re This book made me cry. I read it during a difficult moment in my life after a friend who recommended it had passed away and it really resonated. It’s a beautiful book about a boy wanting to be an artist in the face of others discouraging his passion as a waste of time. It’s about family expectations placed on a child to conform. It’s about coming of age and finding yourself disappointing those who love you for wanting to be different. It’s about the mix of loneliness and opportunities that can result from being yourself. If you have ever felt like a square peg in a round hole, had a passion you kept hidden because it doesn’t fit family expectations, or had experienced moments of rejection, you should read this book. The story can apply to so many communities and individuals who don’t conform to the majority view. A young boy Asher grows up in a deeply religious community that sees art as either a barely tolerated waste of time at best or an insult to the community at worst. When the young Asher expresses genuine interest and talent in art, he is strongly discouraged. His mother, a profoundly anxious woman, loves her son but suffers deeply from the conflict. His father, a proud man who has devoted his career to his religious community, feels immense self-worth supporting others but does not understand how his son could be so different. When the community calls the father to Europe, the mother and son remain, giving Asher room to breathe, and he begins to visit museums to seek inspiration. His talent grows. When his father returns for a visit, the father finds his drawings and is furious, forbidding Asher from studying art. But once the father leaves, the boy cannot resist and soon gains a famous secular artist as a mentor who demands the boy express himself. When the mother eventually moves to Europe to be with her husband, Asher remains in Brooklyn with his uncle and continues his art apprenticeship. After years apart, his parents attend Asher's art show, the culmination of his early career, and the issue of acceptance over conformity that has gripped and haunted this family comes to a head. Each family member then grapples with the consequences of their beliefs, and the results are profound. Check it out.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    This is a book I picked up in Marlborough, NH, at a little used bookstore, also while on my New England vacation. I'd heard many people say how much they loved this book, so when I found it waiting for me on a step stool, I figured I'd take it with me. I guess it was a coincidence that "Any Bitter Thing" had so many Catholic themes while "My Name is Asher Lev" portrays the life of a Hasidic Jew who loves to paint. So, with that little sidenote, let me tell you what I thought of the book. I have to This is a book I picked up in Marlborough, NH, at a little used bookstore, also while on my New England vacation. I'd heard many people say how much they loved this book, so when I found it waiting for me on a step stool, I figured I'd take it with me. I guess it was a coincidence that "Any Bitter Thing" had so many Catholic themes while "My Name is Asher Lev" portrays the life of a Hasidic Jew who loves to paint. So, with that little sidenote, let me tell you what I thought of the book. I have to say that while I was charmed Chaim Potok's writing style, where everyone who's jewish seems to repeat what is said by another Jew, the message of the book is one I find hard to identify with. I found myself more aligned to Aryeh, Asher's father, than to Asher himself. Asher had this urge, I guess you could say, to paint, to study art, to learn about the artistic world that was very different from the world of Hasidism. He could not control it, and in the process he created magnificent art that unintentionally, but knowingly shocked and offended and hurt many of the people he loved. Now that is something I have a hard time understanding, so I'm a bit torn as to how to identify with the author's message. Asher had the chance to avoid causing this anguish, and you wonder if remaining uncompromising to what you think is necessary really justifies your actions. What I loved about the book was the explanation of artists' motives and personality, some of the history of art, the spirituality of Hasidic Jews, the devotion to the Torah of the Lev family, the author's imagery and use of emotion. The climax of the book is a tense, tense read, my friends. Not unlike the well-known train wreck you know is going to happen, but can't avoid watching. The last chapter of the book is fantastic.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eric Boot

    WHAT THE FUDGE I knew you didn't expect me to ever say this (didn't expect it myself) but this is the first school book I absolutely LOVED. Like, loved-adored-wanttomarry. I gave it 5 stars at first, then decided to lower that to 4.5 stars because I had some minor (really minor) issues with it. I literally expected this to be pure crap, the worst smelly dung so to call it (most schoolbooks kind of are, especially the books our English teachers give us) (except this year, apparently we have better b WHAT THE FUDGE I knew you didn't expect me to ever say this (didn't expect it myself) but this is the first school book I absolutely LOVED. Like, loved-adored-wanttomarry. I gave it 5 stars at first, then decided to lower that to 4.5 stars because I had some minor (really minor) issues with it. I literally expected this to be pure crap, the worst smelly dung so to call it (most schoolbooks kind of are, especially the books our English teachers give us) (except this year, apparently we have better books to read now). But from the first page on, I was hooked, which really surprised me because (apart from the schoolbook-thing), I rarely reach for this genre (religious-themed books). The book is about a boy named Asher Lev, who is a Hasidic Jew living in NYC. Hasidic Jews are one of the strictest kind of Jews and Asher's parents (mostly his father) is super orthodox. He works for a man named the Rebbe, who is kind of the leader of the worldwide community of Hasidics. The book starts when Asher is like five or six years old and focusses on his biggest passion: drawing. Only prob: the Hasidic community considers drawing to be really bad and from the 'Other Side', meaning the non-Hasidic world. Ashers drawing causes conflict between him and his parents and the community. I realize my description is pretty crappy: this book isn't. The writing is absolutely beautiful and very touching at times. The character development is so realistic and I have the feeling I learned so many things about Jews and their entire world of rules and habits and about art in general. The main point of the book is whether Asher choses between his upbringing (the Hasidic faith) or his passion: drawing and painting. And this struggle is so real and honest and understandable, that it will make you shout and cry and do whatever at the same time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Where I got the book: purchased on Amazon. Asher Lev is born into a strictly orthodox Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn in the 1950s. His powerful gifts as an artist become apparent when he is a small boy, and he soon learns that his artistic vision is at odds with a worldview which fears and despises art and puts duty to the family and community as the highest calling. This novel is sufficiently deep that I could spend a long time discussing its themes (sacrifice and atonement being two of the Where I got the book: purchased on Amazon. Asher Lev is born into a strictly orthodox Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn in the 1950s. His powerful gifts as an artist become apparent when he is a small boy, and he soon learns that his artistic vision is at odds with a worldview which fears and despises art and puts duty to the family and community as the highest calling. This novel is sufficiently deep that I could spend a long time discussing its themes (sacrifice and atonement being two of the major topics) and its characters (none of whom I liked 100 percent). But let's start with the pronouncement that seems to center the book for me: "An artist is responsible to his art. Anything else is propaganda." Yep, it doesn't end well. By the time you've seen Asher grow from an isolated boy to a successful artist, you're pretty sure that Something Terrible is bearing down upon him. And wow, I couldn't have imagined a worse way for him to express his artistic vision if I'd sat down and thought it out with both hands. I can't say I LIKED this book. It wasn't a pretty picture, by any means. As Asher says as a small boy who refuses to make nice drawings of flowers, "it's not a pretty world". But the writing was quite brilliant, deceptively simple with a wonderful musicality when Asher is inside the Hasidic community where Yiddish is frequently the medium of communication, and then blindingly technical when he is with artists. What I took away from this novel is that art is necessarily selfish, and the greater the art, the more selfish it becomes. And that there are other kinds of selfishness in the world beyond art, so should we be surprised at art's self-centeredness? And there was a whole lot more. I'll have to re-read this one a few times.

  22. 5 out of 5

    I. Merey

    'I had once thought that there was power in a drawing, that the lines and shapes came through my hand through the Master of the Universe, that a drawing could better the world...' I read this book first almost ten years ago. It shook my world. I reread it for the first time since then, and was ecstatic to see it was every bit, no even more poignant, as I remembered. One thing that had not aged well for me: the concept of 'whoring' or being a 'whore' as the ultimate disgrace as an artist and a per 'I had once thought that there was power in a drawing, that the lines and shapes came through my hand through the Master of the Universe, that a drawing could better the world...' I read this book first almost ten years ago. It shook my world. I reread it for the first time since then, and was ecstatic to see it was every bit, no even more poignant, as I remembered. One thing that had not aged well for me: the concept of 'whoring' or being a 'whore' as the ultimate disgrace as an artist and a person true to themselves. I understand that Potok, as an observant Jew, was simply writing from his own moral perspective, still---seeing as the entire book is based upon the concept of an individual trying to free themselves from social and moral binds that are to a too-large extent, arbitrarily dividing, it seemed more than a little ironic that consensual sex/money exchange was made the ABSOLUTE symbol of losing yourself. There are artists who have the financial freedom to depict whatever they want and there are 'whores' who have the financial freedom to see only clients whose company they honestly enjoy. ...and then there is everyone else, who must make a working wage and yes, sometimes that means doing things you do not like, with individuals you do not care for. Artists, softwear engineers, and sex workers all alike, 'sell themselves' (if that means doing something you don't organically believe in.) ANYWAY. Moving on. This remains an incredibly powerful moving story about staying true to yourself, and make no mistake, it is not romanticized. In the struggle to paint how he wants and what he wants, to become 'good' by a metric outside of what is allowed within his own religious and cultural boundaries, Asher Lev will lose everything. his mother, his father, his community, his peace of mind. His health. His soul. Or does he keep his soul, and lose everything else, precisely because to 'sell out' would mean to lose his soul? The beauty of this book is that it doesn't sugar coat being true to yourself. It shows you that more often than not, being true to yourself means not even being sure if you HAVE retained your soul, because at some point, the point of your struggle becomes lost. You have 'yourself' and 'what you stand for' but you have lost everything else. And you can no longer determine if that was a worthwhile exchange, but it completed your journey, the Obsession, to be You.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeana

    "A gift," is what Jacob Kahn told Asher Florence, Italy was. I thought this book was a gift too. I really can't say exactly why I liked this book so much but I was completely absorbed in it. First off, I found it interesting to see how a child handles his artistic "gift" when his family and others around him tell him it's foolishness. I found the family dynamic heart-breaking and real. I found the end when Asher had to choose between being true to himself/his art and his religion and what his fa "A gift," is what Jacob Kahn told Asher Florence, Italy was. I thought this book was a gift too. I really can't say exactly why I liked this book so much but I was completely absorbed in it. First off, I found it interesting to see how a child handles his artistic "gift" when his family and others around him tell him it's foolishness. I found the family dynamic heart-breaking and real. I found the end when Asher had to choose between being true to himself/his art and his religion and what his family would approve of heartbreaking. And although it says on the back of the book that his "extraordinary talent leads him away from his family and his faith," I'm not completely convinced that he was turning his back on his faith. I think he did what he did to be true to his art and to himself with what tools he had. It may have looked like he had to the Jewish community, I think he was stuck in the middle. Just as his mother had been stuck between Asher and his father. The image of the crucifix painting at the end made me weep. I'm not sure why, but it was so extremely powerful. It was sad to see the parents going along and loving their child all the way through his challenge and loving him at the end too, because that's what parents do. I'm glad I read this one.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    PREFACE: I was believed I was first introduced to Chiam Potok my first year of college. I never had to read the The Promise of The Chosen in high school. However after starting on my Potok journey, I realized that the first works I read of Potok's were The History the Jews. His biographical, geographical, historical account of the Jewish race and through travel through time. I read this book before going to Isreal. My all time favorite Potok book is My Name is Asher Lev, this book began my journe PREFACE: I was believed I was first introduced to Chiam Potok my first year of college. I never had to read the The Promise of The Chosen in high school. However after starting on my Potok journey, I realized that the first works I read of Potok's were The History the Jews. His biographical, geographical, historical account of the Jewish race and through travel through time. I read this book before going to Isreal. My all time favorite Potok book is My Name is Asher Lev, this book began my journey into exploring the modern philosophy of art and its place in religion as well as my life. The beautiful story of a young boy given a gift by God to be an artist. There is such intentifying delimma in the fact that while the gift is from God, it has become a source of strain, contempt, and isolation from his family. After reading this book I found myself going through college trying to absorb all that i could of what my philosophy in life was and how it relates to my work and 'calling' to be a landscape architect. This book is without a doubt one of the most influential books i have ever read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kolbie

    The first time I read this book--for my 11th grade English class--I read it in one afternoon, and I can honestly say that it changed my life. The second time around was just as powerful for me. Like many others have commented, the genius in Chaim Potok's writing is his remarkable ability to drive a book forward with virtually no plot. Asher Lev doesn't do a lot of things aside from paint and worship for years, but the real story is his internal struggle and his battle with his feelings--it's pre The first time I read this book--for my 11th grade English class--I read it in one afternoon, and I can honestly say that it changed my life. The second time around was just as powerful for me. Like many others have commented, the genius in Chaim Potok's writing is his remarkable ability to drive a book forward with virtually no plot. Asher Lev doesn't do a lot of things aside from paint and worship for years, but the real story is his internal struggle and his battle with his feelings--it's pretty impressive to write 300 pages of feelings and internal dialogue and turn it into a page-turner. My Name is Asher Lev changed my life because it helped me understand how important it is to discover yourself. It helped me see the world in a brand new way, where passion and duty can sometimes horribly collide. And this is the very first book I read where I applied these principles to my own life and discovered the power that lies in literature not only to provide an escape from reality but also to provide guidance and light as I work to confront it and thrive.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Appeal: I cannot find the words to explain the appeal of this book. I find it terribly ironic that I finished it today, on Easter, the holiest day of the year for me as a fervent Christian. Comments: This book is buzzing around in my head; it feels too fresh for me to write any clear thoughts about why it was so powerful. All I can say is to read this book for yourself. But be careful if you do; it is not a book to be read lightly.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    Wow. This book was so good I am speechless. Asher, his Hasidic Jewish family and life, his art, his youth, his sadness. The characters, the pacing. I thought it was a perfect book. I know I read this in Jr. High or High School, and I know it meant nothing to me then. It's amazing how one can read and comprehend the words, and regurgitate ideas to pass a test - but not understand any of it. Re-reading it as an adult who has lived life, raised children, studied art - it's amazing to feel it instead Wow. This book was so good I am speechless. Asher, his Hasidic Jewish family and life, his art, his youth, his sadness. The characters, the pacing. I thought it was a perfect book. I know I read this in Jr. High or High School, and I know it meant nothing to me then. It's amazing how one can read and comprehend the words, and regurgitate ideas to pass a test - but not understand any of it. Re-reading it as an adult who has lived life, raised children, studied art - it's amazing to feel it instead of just read it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ophelia.Desdemona

    This book. I don't have the words. This is a book I will ALWAYS carry within me. I finished it yesterday and now there is a huge emptiness in me, because I'm no longer in Asher's world.

  29. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Ramsey

    This book broke my heart. And in the crevices, courage flowed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Skylar Burris

    My Name is Asher Lev is about, at its heart, "the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other's throats." It depicts that unspeakable mystery in all its painful humanity, and as a consequence the book is moving and disturbing. Asher Lev is a Hasidic Jew who has a gift for painting, a "foolishness" his father cannot understand. Potok could have turned Asher's father into a villain; instead he makes him human and sympathetic. My Name is Asher Lev is about, at its heart, "the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other's throats." It depicts that unspeakable mystery in all its painful humanity, and as a consequence the book is moving and disturbing. Asher Lev is a Hasidic Jew who has a gift for painting, a "foolishness" his father cannot understand. Potok could have turned Asher's father into a villain; instead he makes him human and sympathetic. Asher ends up painting crucifixions "because there was no aesthetic mold in his own religious tradition into which he could pour a painting of ultimate anguish and torment." It's a book about what it means to be an artist, what it means not to betray yourself, and what it means to be a part of the Master of the Universe's "suffering world," which we "do not comprehend." There are so many rich themes packed into this book, that they form layers upon layers. It was a very powerful book, although there were slow moments; there were times when I felt like saying, "I get the picture. He can't stop himself from painting. His father doesn't understand. I get it already." There was quite a bit of thematic redundancy, which was at times literary and necessary, but at times tedious. Overall, however, it was an excellent book, and I intend to read The Gift of Asher Lev in the future.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.