My sale Name Is wholesale Asher Lev online sale

My sale Name Is wholesale Asher Lev online sale

My sale Name Is wholesale Asher Lev online sale
My sale Name Is wholesale Asher Lev online sale__front

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Product Description

NATIONAL BESTSELLER In this modern classic from the National Book Award–nominated author of The Chosen, a young religious artist is compulsively driven to render the world he sees and feels, even when it leads him to blasphemy. 

“A novel of finely articulated tragic power .... Little short of a work of genius.”—The New York Times Book Review


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. He grows up in a cloistered Hasidic community in postwar Brooklyn, a world suffused by ritual and revolving around a charismatic Rebbe. He is torn between two identities, the one consecrated to God, the other devoted only to art and his imagination, and in time, his artistic 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, visionary portrait of the artist, by turns heartbreaking and exultant.

Review

“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

From the Inside Flap

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.

From the Back Cover

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.

About the Author

Chaim Potok was born in New York City in 1929. He graduated from Yeshiva University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, was ordained as a rabbi, and earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He also served as editor of the Jewish Publication Society of America. Potok’s first novel,  The Chosen, published in 1967, received the Edward Lewis Wallant Memorial Book Award and was nominated for the National Book Award. He is author of eight novels, including  In the Beginning and  My Name is Asher Lev, and  Wanderings, a history of the Jews. He died in 2002.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

One

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.

I am an observant Jew. Yes, of course, observant Jews do not paint crucifixions. As a matter of fact, observant Jews do not paint at all--in the way that I am painting. So strong words are being written and spoken about me, myths are being generated: I am a traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflicter of shame upon my family, my friends, my people; also, I am a mocker of ideas sacred to Christians, a blasphemous manipulator of modes and forms revered by Gentiles for two thousand years.

Well, I am none of those things. And yet, in all honesty, I confess that my accusers are not altogether wrong: I am indeed, in some way, all of those things.

The fact is that gossip, rumors, mythmaking, and news stories are not appropriate vehicles for the communication of nuances of truth, those subtle tonalities that are often the truly crucial elements in a causal chain. So it is time for the defense, for a long session in demythology. But I will not apologize. It is absurd to apologize for a mystery.

And that is what it has been all along--a mystery, of the sort theologians have in mind when they talk about concepts like wonder and awe. Certainly it began as a mystery, for nowhere in my family background was there any indication that I might have come into the world with a unique and disquieting gift. My father was able to trace his family line down through the centuries to the time of the Black Death in 1347, which destroyed about half the population of Europe. My father''s great-great-grandfather was in his early years the manager of the vast estates of a carousing Russian nobleman who when drunk sometimes killed serfs; once, in an act of wild drunkenness, he burned down a village and people died. You see how a goy behaves, I would be told by my father and mother. The people of the sitra achra behave this way. They are evil and from the Other Side. Jews do not behave this way. My father''s great-great-grandfather had transformed those estates into a source of immense wealth for his employer as well as himself. In his middle years, he began to travel. Why did he travel so much? I would ask. To do good deeds and bring the Master of the Universe into the world, my father would respond. To find people in need and to comfort and help them, my mother would say. I was told about him so often during my very early years that he began to appear quite frequently in my dreams: a man of mythic dimensions, tall, dark-bearded, powerful of mind and body; a brilliant entrepreneur; a beneficent supporter of academies of learning; a legendary traveler, and author of the Hebrew work Journeys to Distant Lands. That great man would come to me in my dreams and echo my father''s queries about the latest bare wall I had decorated and the sacred margins I had that day filled with drawings. It was no joy waking up after a dream about that man. He left a taste of thunder in my mouth.

My father''s father, the man whose name I bear, was a scholar and recluse in his early and middle years, a dweller in the study halls of synagogues and academies. He was never described to me, but I pictured him as slight of body and huge of head, with eyelids swollen from lack of sleep, face pale, lips dry, the veins showing blue along his cheeks and temples. In his youth, he earned the name "ilui," genius, a term not lightly bestowed by the Jews of Eastern Europe. And by the time he was twenty he had come to be known as the Genius of Mozyr, after the Russian town in which he lived. Shortly before his fiftieth birthday, he abruptly and mysteriously left Mozyr and, with his wife and children, journeyed to Ladov and became a member of the Russian Hasidic sect led by the Rebbe of Ladov. He began to travel throughout the Soviet Union as an emissary of the Rebbe. Why did he travel so much? I once asked. To bring the Master of the Universe into the world, my father replied. To find people who needed help, my mother said. While on his way home from the Rebbe''s synagogue late one Saturday night, he was killed by a drunken axe-wielding peasant. Somehow my grandfather had forgotten it was the night before Easter.

My mother came from a family of leading Sadegerer Hasidim, pious Jews who had been followers of the great Eastern European Hasidic dynasty established by Israel of Rizhin. On her father''s side, my mother could trace her family back to the Rebbe of Berdichev, one of the saintliest of Hasidic leaders. On her mother''s side, the family line consisted of great scholars down to the Chmelnitzki massacres in seventeenth-century Poland, where it vanished in blood and death.

So, little Asher Lev--born in 1943 to Rivkeh and Aryeh Lev, in the section of Brooklyn known as Crown Heights--little Asher Lev was the juncture point of two significant family lines, the apex, as it were, of a triangle seminal with Jewish potentiality and freighted with Jewish responsibility. But he was also born with a gift.

I have no recollection of when I began to use that gift. But I can remember, at the age of four, holding my pencil in the firm fist grip of a child and transferring the world around me to pieces of paper, margins of books, bare expanses of wall. I remember drawing the contours of that world: my narrow room, with the bed, the paint-it-yourself bureau and desk and chair, the window overlooking the cemented back yard; our apartment, with its white walls and rug-covered floors and the large framed picture of the Rebbe near the living-room window; the wide street that was Brooklyn Parkway, eight lanes of traffic, the red brick and white stone of the apartment houses, the neat cement squares of the sidewalks, the occasional potholes in the asphalt; the people of the street, bearded men, old women gossiping on the benches beneath the trees, little boys in skullcaps and sidecurls, young wives in long-sleeved dresses and fancy wigs--all the married women of our group concealed their natural hair beneath wigs for reasons of modesty. I grew up encrusted with lead and spectrumed with crayons. My dearest companions were Eberhard and Crayola. Washing for meals was a cosmic enterprise.

I remember drawing my mother. Born and raised in Crown Heights, her family high in the ranks of the Ladover aristocracy, she had gone through the Ladover school system for girls, and had married my father one week after her graduation from high school. She was nineteen when I was born and seemed more a sister to me than a mother.

I remember my first drawings of my mother''s face--longish straight nose, clear brown eyes, high-boned cheeks. She was small and slight; her arms were thin and smooth-skinned, her fingers long and thin and delicately boned. Her face was smooth and smelled of soap. I loved her face next to mine when she listened to me recite the Krias Shema before I closed my eyes to go to sleep.

I remember those early years of my life, those first years of my efforts with pens and pencils and crayons. They were very happy years; laughter came easily both to me and to my mother. We played. We took long walks. She was a gentle big sister.

I drew her walking with me along Brooklyn Parkway, her coat collar up around her chin, her cheeks flushed in a high autumn wind--two roundish spots of bright pink against the smooth fair skin of her face. In the winter, I drew her tossing snowballs at the trees that lined the wide parkway, her arm motions like those of a little girl. Often we ran through the drifts together, kicking up the snow with our galoshes, and I drew that, too.

"Oh, how pretty," she said to me once, looking at a drawing of herself jumping over a snowbank. "Oh, I like this one, Asher. You made the snow very pretty. And so high. What a jump! Did I jump like that? I''m almost flying."

In the spring, we sometimes went rowing in Prospect Park, not far from where we lived. She was an awkward rower, and she would laugh nervously whenever she fell backward off her seat from a skimming pull at the oars. But we went anyway, and often I took my crayons and pad with me and drew her as she rowed, and drew, too, the look of the water beneath the sky and the surface movements stirred up by her erratic oars.

"Asher, it isn''t nice to draw your mama like this."

"But it was the time you fell in the boat, Mama."

"It isn''t nice. It isn''t respectful. But the shore is very pretty. How did you do that?"

"I used sand from the beach, Mama. Can you see the sand?"

And in the summer I drew her in her light long-sleeved blouses, with the tiny beads of perspiration on her upper lip and brow. Her dresses and blouses were always long-sleeved, for out of modesty the women of our group never wore short-sleeved garments--and she perspired a great deal in the heat, especially on our walks together.

"What is that on my face?" she asked, looking at one of my summer drawings of us walking through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

"Those are the spots, Mama."

"What spots, Asher?"

"The wet spots, Mama. When it''s hot, there are the wet spots."

After a moment she said, "But why didn''t you draw the pretty birds, Asher? And the flowers, Asher, why didn''t you draw the flowers?"

In the very early years, before my mother became ill, my father traveled a great deal.

I asked him once during breakfast, "Is my papa going away again today?"

"To Ottawa," he said, not looking up from his New York Times.

"Where is Ottawa?"

"Ottawa is a very important city in Canada." He spoke with a faint Russian accent.

"Canada is a country next to America," my mother explained.

"Why is my papa going to Ottawa?"

"To meet with people in the government," my mother said proudly.

"Why?"

My father looked up from the newspaper. "The Rebbe asked me to go."

He had been brought to America at the age of fourteen, together with his mother and older brother, and had been twenty-five when I was born. He was a graduate of the Ladover yeshiva in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He had earned a bachelor''s degree in political science from Brooklyn College and a master''s degree in the same subject from New York University. He had earned those degrees at the request of the Rebbe.

He was tall and thick-shouldered. His eyes were sharp, direct, and dark. His untrimmed beard was red, as was the hair on his head. He kept his sidecurls tucked behind his ears. It was from him that I inherited my red hair and dark eyes. My slight features and thinness of build I inherited from my mother.

I came into the kitchen one morning and found him preparing the orange juice. He had his own way of making our orange juice: each of us received the juice of one orange, half a glass of cold water, and a teaspoonful of sugar. It was a refreshing drink to wake up to every morning. Sometimes I was able to determine from the way he prepared the orange juice whether or not he would be traveling that day.

He was in a hurry that morning, so I knew he would be traveling.

"Good morning," I said. "Is my papa traveling again today for the Rebbe?"

"Good morning, Asher. Did you say Modeh Ani?"

"Yes, Papa."

"Sit down. I''ll make you your orange juice."

I sat down. My mother was putting dry cereal on the table.

"Your papa is going to Washington today," my mother said.

"What is Washington?"

"The city where the government of America is."

"My papa is traveling to Washington for the Rebbe?"

"Yes," my mother said. She took great pride in my father''s missions for the Rebbe.

"Why does my papa travel for the Rebbe?"

My father poured orange juice into my glass. "My father traveled for the Rebbe''s father, may they both rest in peace. I travel for the Rebbe. It is a great honor to be able to travel for the Rebbe."

"What does my papa do when he travels for the Rebbe?"

"So many questions," my father said. "Drink your juice, Asher. The vitamins will go away if you let it stay too long."

Sometimes he left after supper. Most of the time, he left after breakfast. My mother and I would go with him to the door.

"Have a safe journey," my mother would say. And she would add, in Yiddish, "Go in health and return in health."

They would not embrace. They never embraced in my presence.

My father would kiss me, take his black leather bag and his attache case, and leave. Sometimes I would go to the living-room window and see him come out of our apartment house and hail a cab, or watch him walk toward the building that was the international headquarters of the Ladover movement a block and a half away. I would watch him walking quickly beneath the trees along Brooklyn Parkway, the black leather bag and attache case in his hands, a copy of the New York Times under his arm--a tall, broad-shouldered, red-bearded, neatly dressed man in a dark suit and coat and narrow-brimmed hat, walking with the very faintest of limps from the polio he had been stricken with as a child in Soviet Russia.

I drew him often during those very early years. I drew him as he sat evenings with my mother, reading or talking. I drew him drinking coffee with my mother at the kitchen table. Sometimes I would wake in the night and hear them in the kitchen. Often they sat at that table late into the night, drinking coffee and talking. And I would lie in my bed, wondering what they were saying.

I drew my memory of my father and me walking together to our synagogue. He was so tall and I was so short, and he would incline his head toward me as we walked. I drew him as he prayed at home in his prayer shawl and tefillin on those weekday mornings when for some reason he could not go to the synagogue. He would stand at our living-room window, his head covered with the prayer shawl, swaying faintly back and forth, with only the edge of his red beard protruding from the white black-striped shawl.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
839 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Michael C Davies
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
“Asher Lev – Prodigy, Genius, Heretic”
Reviewed in the United States on October 22, 2018
I first read “My Name is Asher Lev” 30 years ago in secondary school as part of a nominated text for study. Reading it a second time, it is amazing to what degree the phrases, characterisations and vivid scenes remain with me. You don’t read “My Name is Asher Lev”, you live... See more
I first read “My Name is Asher Lev” 30 years ago in secondary school as part of a nominated text for study. Reading it a second time, it is amazing to what degree the phrases, characterisations and vivid scenes remain with me. You don’t read “My Name is Asher Lev”, you live it. Although it is set in the orthodox world of the Hasidic Jew, this is of secondary importance and functions merely as a plot device in creating tension. For it is not a novel about religion but about the human condition; we share the journey of Asher Lev and his birth as an artist. From his early years as a child to his young manhood, we play witnesses to eyes which take in this world and the hands which paint it. The novel is full of beautiful language and imagery. Much like an enthusiastic song on Shabbos, the novel repeats and layers images, dialogue and emotional themes which resonate and convey a strong sense of both plot and metaphor. The birth of an artist is never easy, and as Asher experiences, he is challenged as much by his growth as a painter as he is by the conflict it brings it with his religion and family. The book is filled with memorable characters who you quickly grow to know intimately, from Asher’s childhood friend Yudel Krinksy to his painting teacher Jacob Kahn, to the all knowing and wise Rabbi. Potok draws the reader in, providing a fascinating insight into the Hasidic world which Asher lives in with its rituals, its restraints and joys. It is a book deep on characterisation and imagery, driven by Asher’s powerful imagination and his struggle to distil the world around him into meaningful art. Whether it is his dreams about his mythic ancestor, watching rain fall on the Parkway outside of his apartment, or the anguish he sees on his mother’s face over the constant travelling of her husband, Asher’s artistic eye and his need to transmute his inner life onto canvass captures it all. It is a beautifully written book, which as this reader has found, transcends time and remains not only in the mind, but the soul for many a year, an inspiring echo which the master of the universe would surely appreciate.
18 people found this helpful
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Katie
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A gift.
Reviewed in the United States on March 12, 2021
There are authors who make you hurt because their story reminds you of your pain. Then there are authors who create pain you have never known and make you carry it, feel it, live it and grieve it when that pain that has now defined your own heart in a way you never knew you... See more
There are authors who make you hurt because their story reminds you of your pain. Then there are authors who create pain you have never known and make you carry it, feel it, live it and grieve it when that pain that has now defined your own heart in a way you never knew you needed, is over. I grieve while reading it because of the pain of truth, then when I finish this man’s books, I grieve again, because I know nothing will hurt me this way again.
4 people found this helpful
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Larissa
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Truly Excellent Book
Reviewed in the United States on March 1, 2017
I loved this book. It was raw, full of emotion, and explored a culture that''s rarely in fiction. As a Reform Jew, Asher''s Hasidic Judaism was both familiar and unfamiliar to me, and I really enjoyed learning about it. I also learned an awful lot about art and Russian-Jewish... See more
I loved this book. It was raw, full of emotion, and explored a culture that''s rarely in fiction. As a Reform Jew, Asher''s Hasidic Judaism was both familiar and unfamiliar to me, and I really enjoyed learning about it. I also learned an awful lot about art and Russian-Jewish culture. It''s a novel without a definite "resolution", but a "happy ending" would feel inauthentic to this novel, which is so true to life while providing elements of the fantastical in Asher''s mind and art. Overall, this is not a light read by any means, but one that is very much worthwhile.
13 people found this helpful
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LYNN W
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A gifted artist trapped in the confines of his faith
Reviewed in the United States on March 4, 2020
This book was the February read for a book club I am in. It was an interesting read. If you can make it to about half way in the book then you don''t want to put it down. It was the Yiddish that required looking up definitions for that make it hard. However there is... See more
This book was the February read for a book club I am in. It was an interesting read. If you can make it to about half way in the book then you don''t want to put it down. It was the Yiddish that required looking up definitions for that
make it hard. However there is a google app specifically for the Asher Lev Yiddish used. At book club we had more discussion on this book than most that we read.
4 people found this helpful
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Michele S. Patterson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Facinating book in many respects
Reviewed in the United States on June 25, 2014
I loved this book that I read years ago in my youth. This is the classic story coming of age story, also of the child of an immigrant being more American in ways and view point but so much more. The description in first person of not only a gift for art but an... See more
I loved this book that I read years ago in my youth. This is the classic story coming of age story, also of the child of an immigrant being more American in ways and view point but so much more. The description in first person of not only a gift for art but an irresistible drive and compulsion was amazing to read. Then there was the opportunity for the reader to become immersed in the Hasidic orthodox Jewish culture to truly understand what life there is like. Also the development of an artist through training with a master. Easy to read and so compelling. I can''t wait to read the sequel that I just learned about and may go back and reread his most famous book The Chosen that I read long ago in my youth. I selected this book after seeing the play of the same name recently in Hollywood. The gut-wrenching conflict among this small family and the application to the larger society was so profound, I wanted to reread the book which I could not remember. As usual with books in comparison to movies or play, they are so much richer and have the space to tell the story fully fleshed out. I loved this book and highly recommend it.
5 people found this helpful
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K Family Reviewers
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A picture of an un-beautiful world
Reviewed in the United States on October 9, 2000
Asher Lev, like his creator Chaim Potok, is more interested in portraying what is true in the world than in portraying something nice, or beautiful. Of course, this wins him acclaim from strangers and scorn from those who know him. My name is Asher Lev is a painfully... See more
Asher Lev, like his creator Chaim Potok, is more interested in portraying what is true in the world than in portraying something nice, or beautiful. Of course, this wins him acclaim from strangers and scorn from those who know him.
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 williekrischke@hotmail.com. but be nice.
7 people found this helpful
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Stilt35
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A timeless and fascinating book
Reviewed in the United States on May 2, 2021
Written in 1972 it is a classic. The story is, in part, an autobiography told in a very personal piece of writing. There is history, insight into Hasidic Judaism. Most of all, it is a powerful and realistic look into the thought processes and emotions of a dedicated... See more
Written in 1972 it is a classic. The story is, in part, an autobiography told in a very personal piece of writing. There is history, insight into Hasidic Judaism. Most of all, it is a powerful and realistic look into the thought processes and emotions of a dedicated artist.
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Larry D. Peltz
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Portrait of an Artist as a young Brooklyn born Jewish Soul
Reviewed in the United States on January 23, 2016
Superlative prose poem- a heartfelt and soulful exploration of a young artist''s long journey from instinctual artist to mature and uncompromising artist. A rare and engrossing anatomy of aesthetics as something discovered by the young protagonist- a Hassidic born Brooklyn... See more
Superlative prose poem- a heartfelt and soulful exploration of a young artist''s long journey from instinctual artist to mature and uncompromising artist. A rare and engrossing anatomy of aesthetics as something discovered by the young protagonist- a Hassidic born Brooklyn jew of the 1950s. We feel his agonizing as he must rebel against his deeply orthodox father and the comfort and security of his tightly knit community of devout Hassidic American Jews in order to, in a sense, give rebirth to himself as an artist and adult man.
Thank you Chaim Potok, of blessed memory, for this literary gem.
2 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Antenna
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An outstanding novel which must not be forgotten
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 18, 2021
Growing up in the New York of the nineteen fifties and sixties, Asher Lev belongs to a strict, tight-knit Jewish Hasidic community presided over by the benevolent dictatorship of the Rebbe, whose interpretation of the Master of the Universe’s wishes is not to be questioned....See more
Growing up in the New York of the nineteen fifties and sixties, Asher Lev belongs to a strict, tight-knit Jewish Hasidic community presided over by the benevolent dictatorship of the Rebbe, whose interpretation of the Master of the Universe’s wishes is not to be questioned. From an early age, Asher is obsessed with drawing every detail observed in his small world. While his gentle mother urges him to draw “pretty pictures”, and is in due course sufficiently sympathetic to buy him paints and accompany him to art galleries, until driven away by the shock of seeing “forbidden” Christian art, his serious-minded father impatiently dismisses a fad he hopes will soon pass. Frequently absent on trips to Europe where he sets up Jewish schools and helps Jews escape from Russia, he is angered by Asher’s poor grades at school and bemused by the Rebbe’s pragmatic decision to allow Asher to be taught by an eminent artist, completely secular despite being Jewish. The parents’ dawning admiration when some of Asher’s art is acquired by a major museum is outweighed by their refusal to attend any exhibition displaying his portraits of nudes. As the novel builds to a tense climax bewildering and shocking or sadly comprehensible according to one’s viewpoint, some may find it too slow-paced. Yet the repetition reflects the narrow world in which Asher feels trapped and the often minute detail gives a profound understanding of his development as an artist and a fascinating psychological study of the main characters. It also conveys a strong sense of place, convincing dialogue, and many moments of wry humour amidst the angst. I am not sure how a deeply orthodox Jewish reader would respond to this novel, and the author himself was intriguingly both a rabbi, inspired to become a writer by reading “Brideshead Revisited” as a teenager, and an artist. However, for an atheist reader like me, it portrays very vividly the tension between religion, ritual and duty on one hand contrasted with and tending to stifle or drive to extremes creativity and personal freedom on the other. In its perceptiveness, it shows how achievement as an artist may require a single-minded dedication which at times appears utter selfishness and self-absorption. There is also the ironic contradiction that art is often exploited for financial gain, the value of an artwork may be artificially inflated and it may be purchased as an investment or trophy by someone who cares nothing for art. The novel draws on Potok’s own experience in that he was also a painter, like Asher producing Chagall-like portraits of dreamlike Jewish ritual scenes and animals. So Potok’s painting career somewhat paralleled the journey of Asher Lev: a young man, very creative and very religious, who did not fit with his community. “I began to paint when I was about nine or ten years old,” Potok once said in an interview. “It really became a problem in my family, especially with my father, who detested it.” Potok even painted a Brooklyn Crucifixion of his own, resembling the painting in his novel. This reminded me of “A Tale of Love and Darkness”, the autobiography of the early life of Amos Oz, yet despite being a portrayal of fictional characters, Potok’s novel feels more authentic and and in some ways more insightful, perhaps because it is in fact an exploration and development of his own situation, than a simple account of it.
One person found this helpful
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Peter Compton
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A journey through art - and religion?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 7, 2004
My Name is Asher Lev is one of those books that you come across once in a lifetime - if you are lucky. The book charts Asher Lev growing up in a very strict Hassidic community, endowed with a God given artistic talent that is entirely at odds with the beliefs of his family...See more
My Name is Asher Lev is one of those books that you come across once in a lifetime - if you are lucky. The book charts Asher Lev growing up in a very strict Hassidic community, endowed with a God given artistic talent that is entirely at odds with the beliefs of his family and his people.The conundrum that Lev faces is that he is at all times a devout and scholastically outstanding Hassid, and yet at the same time a brilliant artist, who intially tries to deny his talent before growing to embrace it. The quality of this book is that it shows equal sympathy for, on the one hand, Lev''s artistic journey and on the other hand, his religious struggle. Just as importantly, Potok brilliantly depicts the context of the community and family. In particular, as with other Potok books, the father-son relationship is lovingly drawn, showing both the pride and pain that arises here. This is a book to treasure, to read and to re-read, and which will shed new insight each time.
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Embla
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 12, 2019
I read this book for the first time more than 20 years ago, and have since then re-read it several times, and I keep giving it away to friends as a gift. I won''t go into what the book is about because many other reviews here do that very nicely, but will say that it has...See more
I read this book for the first time more than 20 years ago, and have since then re-read it several times, and I keep giving it away to friends as a gift. I won''t go into what the book is about because many other reviews here do that very nicely, but will say that it has been and continues to be a treasure for me.
One person found this helpful
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Waterlogged
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Wonderful, well written and great detail
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 14, 2019
A well written sensitive book with so many levels. Opened a new world of Hasid Jews to me.
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jean neal
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Brilliant story
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 14, 2021
I have only recently discovered Chaim Potak and I loved this book, thought provoking, interesting, well written and I didn’t want it to end. You are drawn into Asher’s life. Loved it.
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