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My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

My Name Is Asher Lev (1972)

by Chaim Potok

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Asher Lev (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,539672,212 (4.21)210
  1. 00
    Peace Shall Destroy Many by Rudy Wiebe (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Young men in conflict with their culture
  2. 01
    What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies (cf66)
    cf66: Entrambi romanzi sulla formazione artistica e spirituale d'un pittore.

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» See also 210 mentions

English (63)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  All languages (67)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Classic novel of NY Hassidic Jewish boy who wants to be an artist but it conflicts with his family values. I enjoyed all the religious detail and the struggle that was central to the story ( )
  starlight17 | Mar 19, 2019 |
There are so many good things to say about this book. Other reviewers have mentioned many of them. To paraphrase the author, "Someone once said that there are things about which one ought to write a great deal or nothing at all. About this book, I choose to write nothing at all." ( )
  quietman66 | Mar 6, 2019 |
A wonderful novel on so many levels. The writing is fine and vivid. You can feel what it is like living in that family, in that community. Every character has depth.

I learnt about Judaism, art and art criticism. I learnt about the problems art can create in such an environment. I understood better the power some art can have.

Even some of the finest art historians can struggle to describe for you the image they can see, but I saw all Asher Lev's paintings, even though he rarely offered up the colours.

This 320 pages are epic.

I am looking forward to the sequel landing on the mat.

A 5* book so early in the year! ( )
1 vote Caroline_McElwee | Jan 27, 2019 |
A novel of great power and dark truth. From a very young age, Asher Lev exhibits a gift for drawing, and it consumes him, even in the face of his parents' disdain and discouragement. Drawing is foolishness, a waste of time, his father feels. When Asher wakes up to find he has drawn a disturbing portrait on the wall beside his bed without remembering it, when he drifts off in class and then realizes he has again been drawing unconsciously (this time in a sacred text), the matter becomes terribly serious for his father, a prominent member of Brooklyn's Hasidic community, a representative of the Ladover Rebbe in the halls of the US government and around the world. This must not continue. Asher protests that he must draw, that he cannot help himself, which only confirms his father's belief that this "gift" is from the Other Side, not from the Master of the Universe. Only animals cannot control themselves. Asher loves his parents, he observes the rituals and offers the prayers, he tries to apply himself to his secular and religious studies. Yet as he gets older the gift gets stronger; his talent is undeniable; his study of great art leads him away from the cloistered existence of his insular community, and exposes him to centuries of Christian and "pagan" images. What reconciliation of the two worlds is possible? Can an artist be true to his vision without causing grief? Faulkner said, "The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. ... If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the Ode on a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies." That's all well and good from the distance of a couple hundred years, but delving into the life of a young man grappling with this awful dilemma makes one wonder a bit. In the context of this story, I came away feeling that Asher Lev might have fulfilled his artistic responsibility, and yet have found a way to be slightly less brutal to his parents. Yes, he had to crucify his mother on canvas. OK. But he did not have to let his parents come upon that image unwarned in a public manner. He considered it cowardly not to express his mother's anguish in precisely that way, but did not realize it was also cowardly to avoid the uncomfortable conversation that would have spared both parents the shock and horror of seeing the result, which they could only view as blasphemy and a betrayal? . Very often, when faced with a difficult question, Asher remains quiet, as if unable to speak when he knows his answer will be hurtful or unacceptable. In the end, his silence leads to what may be an irreparable rift. ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Jan 24, 2019 |
Asher Lev is obsessed with drawing from an early age, and his gift is obvious to all around him. But Asher’s gift is in conflict with the acceptable norms of his Hasidic Brooklyn community. Asher’s father is active in the Hasidic movement, traveling all over Europe to build schools and help Jewish people in need. Asher’s mother supports the family and pursues her own goals to help the community, but has also paid a high price in terms of her overall health and well-being. Asher’s commitment to his art is so strong that he feels compelled to stand up to his parents when they try to suppress it. Tensions are high in the Lev household, to say the least. The leader of their Hasidic community, known as the Rebbe, takes note of the family conflict and acts to mitigate the situation as best he can, providing Asher with a mentor, Jacob Kahn, who develops Asher’s talent as he grows up. He becomes quite successful, but the conflict -- especially with his father -- only worsens over time, leading to an intense climax and resolution.

This novel offered an interesting glimpse into the Hasidic community through its rich cast of characters. But after finishing this book, I am primarily left with some pretty powerful emotions. I wanted Asher to succeed, but also deeply felt his mother’s pain as she tried to navigate the ongoing conflict between her husband and son. I won’t soon forget Asher’s story. ( )
4 vote lauralkeet | Jan 9, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chaim Potokprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mendelsund, PeterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nijgh, LennaertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Art is a lie which makes us realize the truth." -Picasso
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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.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449911683, Paperback)

"Memorable...A book profound in its vision of humanity, of religion, and of art."
Here is the original, deeply moving story of Asher Lev, the religious boy with an overwhelming need to draw, to paint, to render the world he knows and the pain he feels, on canvas for everyone to see. A loner, Asher has an extroardinary God-given gift that possesses a spirit all its own. It is this force that must learn to master without shaming his people or relinquishing any part of his deeply felt Judaism. It will not be easy for him, but he knows, too, that even if it is impossible, it must be done....
"A novel of finely articulated tragic power...Little short of a work of genius."

From the Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:51 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Asher Lev, born into a devout Jewish family and community, struggles to reconcile his burning need to create art with the restrictions and expectations placed on him by his faith and his people.

» see all 5 descriptions

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Average: (4.21)
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140036423, 0141190566

Ediciones Encuentro

An edition of this book was published by Ediciones Encuentro.

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