Saturday, May 05, 2007


The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

Mar 1, 07 My mother first introduced me to Chaim Potok twenty years ago when I read "My Name is Asher Lev." My suggestion is to read it first before reading "The Gift." I wish I had read it more recently so those events would have been fresher in my mind. I had forgotten quite a bit. But you should definitely read both books. Potok writes beautifully.
Asher Lev is a gifted artist who is banished from his Ladover Jewish sect because of his controversial paintings. This book takes places twenty year later when Asher returns to Brooklyn with his wife and two children to attend the funeral of his uncle and stays for four months. The visit creates a whole chain of events. Just as Asher's painting are very symbolic, much of this story is as well. Neither are happy books, but very arresting with incredible characters.
I marked so many beautiful passages that I just picked four at random to illustrate:
"A boy went past me, ten or eleven years old, red hair, dangling earlocks, thin pale features, a dark velvet skullcap on his head, hurrying along, bent slightly forward--and the years all seemed to turn to glass, all their blurring opacity miraculously gone, and I could see through them with shocking clarity, and I had to restrain myself from asking him if he had been born with a gift for drawing pictures."
"Each painting was encased in the sort of gilded decorative frame accorded vaunted classics. Each glowed beneath the lights; each appeared to be sending forth waves of light from the pigments on the surface of the canvas. The tiny color planes in the Cezanne, like the pieces of a riddle, exquisitely explored, investigated, probed, resolved, each daub of color another piece of his answer to the greatest riddle of all, how we see and think the world."
"My father once said to me on the verse in Genesis: 'And He saw all that He did and behold it was good'--my father once said that the seeing of God is not like the seeing of man. Man sees only between the blinks of his eyes. He does not know what the world is like during the blinks. He sees the world in pieces, in fragments. But the Master of the Universe sees the world whole, unbroken. That world is good."
"Asher Lev, our teachers tell us that this harmony is the special creation of individuals who engage in certain deeds for the sake of the deeds themselves. Such deeds rise as a song, as the greatest of art, to all the spheres. And when the heavenly beings hear this song, they take upon themselves gladly the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, and they exclaim in unison, Holy! Holy! Holy!--and there is peace in all of creation, and peace to all of Israel, and the beginning of an end to the exile."
Rating: 4.5

Posted by Framed at 6:48 PM

Cassie said...
I didn't know there was a sequel. I have "My Name is Asher Lev" on my list to read. It will probably be a while before I get to that but maybe I'll check out this book soon after.

8:58 AM
booklogged said...
I didn't know there was a sequel either. Love the quotes, especially the one about the blinks.

1:32 PM
Framed said...
I remember 'My Name is Asher Lev" as depressing. Now I see the beauty and rhythm of the way Potok writes. There's something comforting about it.

6:34 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
I loved "My Name is Asher Lev." I will definitely be getting ahold of this one -- thanks for recommending it.

4:14 PM
Sugar Mouse In The Rain said...
I read both novels, and Davita's Harp too. Chaim Potok is a master, and his works are so beautiful. The passages make me want to grab another Chaim Potok and dive in it.

1:33 PM

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