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My Name Is Asher Lev (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – April 25, 1991
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"A novel of finely articulated tragic power. . . . Little short of a work of genius." "--The New York Times Book Review" "Memorable. . . . Profound in its vision of humanity, of religion, and of art.""--The Wall Street Journal" "Such a feeling of freshness, of something brand-new. . . . Attention-holding and ultimately moving." "--The New York Times" "Engrossing and illuminating." "--Miami Herald"
About the Author
Born in 1929, Chaim Potok grew up and was educated in New York. After being ordained as a rabbi, he took a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a chaplain with the US Forces in Korea from 1955-1957. He died in 2002. His novels The Chosen, The Promise, In the Beginning, The Book of Lights, My Name is Asher Lev, The Gift of Asher Lev and I am The Clay, have all been published by Penguin. He is also the author of Wanderings, a history of the Jews; of a children's book, The Tree of Here; and of three plays, Out of the Depths, Sins of the Father and The Play of Lights.
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The book educates the reader on the Jewish traditions as well as the artist's tools and journey and the tortured decisions he feels compelled to make for the sake of his muse.
Deep, complex and intense characters and wonderfully descriptive writing with a sometimes slow pace provides a rich and rewarding experience. I'll definitely read the sequel and other books by Chaim Potok.
This book addresses the the conflict when powers of culture and religion are set up against individual needs and passions.
My name is Asher Lev is a painfully real look at the development of a great artist, one who is also an observant Hasidic Jew, belonging to a prominent family. There are no huge events here, no tragedies or shocking revelations; there is simply the real and sometimes dark portrayal of a development, a battle between two worlds. His talent, perhaps even his need, to draw, to paint, to portray -- conflicts on a deep and serious level with his heritage, and his father's expectations.
This is not another "rebel without a cause" book. Asher does his best not to rebel -- and when he does, if he does, it is compelling, complex, and painful to him most of all.
Potok writes calmly and seriously with no sense of high drama. His ability to keep the events realistic and still let them speak with their own peculiar power is an excellent, is slightly unsettling, talent. His ability to simply paint complex characters is brilliant. This book is quietly disturbing, calmly passionate. Definitely worth reading.
A page from the novel:
"Inside my room, I lay on my bed with my eyes closed and thought about the man from Russia. I saw his face clearly: the nervous eyes, the beaked nose, the pinched features. That face had lived eleven yars in a land of ice and darkness. I could not imagine what it was like to live in ice and darkness. I put my hands over my eyes. There was his face, very clearly; not truly his face, but the way I felt about his face. I drew his face inside my head. I went to my desk and on a piece of blank white paper drew how I felt about his face. I drew the kaskett. I did not use any colors. The face stared up at me from the paper. I went back to the bed and lay on it with my eyes closed. Now there was ice and darkness inside me. I could feel the cold darkness moving slowly inside me. I could feel our darkness. It seemed to me then that we were brothers, he and I, that we both knew lands of ice and darkness. His had been in the past; mine was in the present. His had been outside himself; mine was within me. Yes, we were brothers, he and I, and I felt closer to him at that moment than to any other human being in all the world."
If you'd like to discuss this book with me, e-mail me at email@example.com. but be nice.