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My Name is Asher Lev Unknown Binding

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Alfred A Knopf; 1St Edition edition (1972)
  • ASIN: B003HF1YS2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Chaim Potok's writing is beautiful and evocative, and his story is intricate and important.
I first read this book 30 years ago, when I was in my early twenties, and have always counted it as one of my all-time favorties.
Julia F. Hunt
Asher Lev tells us you can pursue art in its nakedness and its offensiveness and still believe in God.
Ronny Max

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 134 people found the following review helpful By "vaoy" on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am not an artist. Nor am I a gifted person in any respect. But, for a few moments, I had a notion of what it could be like to be blessed and cursed with a talent so rare, and so special. This feeling occured when I read and delved into the world of Asher Lev.
"My Name is Asher Lev" is Chaim Potok's best novel. It is complete, subtle and passionate; devastating to its core. It tells the poignant and difficult story of Asher Lev, a New York-born religious Jew who finds the gift of painting within him early on, yet is isolated from his community due to the philosophy that Judaism, modern art, and Christianity are distinctly seperate worlds.
In my favorite scene from the book, detailing the power of Potok's imagination, Asher Lev is a young boy, who looks at his mother one day and creates a rendition of her on paper. Because she is depressed at the time, and smoking, Potok has Lev use the leftover ash from her finished cigarettes as the drawing object; his mother is created in shades of gray. A story this original, this creative, and this imaginary deserves to be read.
Potok, a rabbi, has done an excellent job in detailing a Jewish community in the United States, as well as conveying the relationship it holds with the Christian majority. Besides being a good read on art, the novel offers a fascinating glimpse into the tensions that separate two religious worlds.
"My Name Is Asher Lev" is a wonderful read and I recommended it to all.
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93 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Ratmammy VINE VOICE on August 26, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A story about a young man's struggle between the secular world of an artist, and life as a Ladover Hasidic Jew, Chaim Potok's masterpiece MY NAME IS ASHER LEV is truly a classic.
Asher Lev is born to parents who are devoted to the life of the Ladover Hasidic Jew. As his mother supports and stands by the work Asher's father does, Aryeh Lev devotes his life to the causes closest to his people. Most of his life is dedicated to preserving the culture of this Jewish sect, and also to helping those who are being persecuted in other countries. He travels often, sometimes to countries as far away as The Soviet Union to help out his fellow Jew. He's rarely home, and young Asher is often angry and upset, wishing his father had more time for him.
From a very young age, Asher has a deep sense of art, and learns to express his innermost feelings through his creativity. As with any artistic genius, creating art is in Asher's blood and it soon gets in the way of his schooling and his religion and culture. His parents are not happy with the way things are going with Asher, but they tolerate his strange obsession, thinking this is just a passing phase. He will grow out of it, they think. His mother in particular does not dissuade Asher from drawing, if only to keep him happy, hoping that he would reward her with better grades in school. And with the help of local storeowner Yudel Krinsky, Asher obtains the necessary pencils and other art equipment to continue his fascination with drawing.
However, his obsession with art does not die, as his parents had hoped. The older he becomes, the more his passion with art drives a wedge between himself and his parents.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Hissrich on September 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
Having read "The Chosen" and "The Promise," I had to try "My Name is Asher Lev." Those first two were wonderful stories, but "Asher Lev" is such a powerful and (in the good sense) disturbing novel that it left me trembling.

I am not a Hasidic Jew -- in fact, I am a Roman Catholic priest. But Potok welcomes even the stranger into the Hasidic world so that a reader feels at home. Yet even more foreign to me is the world of the artist, for the Lord has given me absolutely no talent or vision in that area. Yet here, too, one learns to see with the artist's eye, or at least to understand.

Potok's writing becomes more and more terse as the tensions inside Asher Lev increase. He shifts themes within a single paragraph in a way that would earn a failing grade from any seventh grade English teacher, and yet he does so to very powerful effect, allowing the reader to be experience the difficulties that cause the protagonist such fear.

Asher Lev discovered that a gift of genius could be a true burden. Chaim Potok showed his own genius in allowing us a glimpse into this realm of creation.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By MelissaJane on December 20, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I would perhaps not have been inspired to write a review of this brilliant book had I not read Rachel Grey's review... In general, other reviewers have said all the things I would want to say about "My Name is Asher Lev;" its exquisite writing, its heartbreaking and beautiful portrayal of a developing artist trying to reconcile his need to create with the demands of his family and his religious community - these are well covered. But Miss Grey's review moved me to respond.
Dear girl - how closely did you read this book? It does not take place in the present time; it was published in 1972, and is set somewhat earlier. Asher's family in no way represents mainstream Judaism, which I would think any careful reader - even one ignorant of Jewish culture and practice - would have understood. The Levs are Hasids, members of a small, conservative, fundamentalist segment of the Jewish world. In that respect, your identification with Asher's experience as similar to that of growing up in a fundamentalist Christian household is entirely appropriate.
Potok is not by any means suggesting that all Jews would be dismayed to find Picasso growing up in the back bedroom. He is portraying a very specific world, and through that world exploring the conflicts that an artist - one who is powerfully, passionately driven to realize his unique vision - may encounter with his family, his community, and even his own spiritual nature as a result of that need to create.
Please do read this book again, and please don't condemn Judaism or Jews - or even Hasids - for the behavior of Asher's family that you find distasteful.
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