Friday, April 11, 2008

Part 2 of Asher Lev

Asher was so troubled throughout the story and he found his expression of pain through the image of the crucifix. I enjoyed the descriptions of Asher's reactions to the great works of art that he studied in France and Italy. Jacob Kahn warned him that his whole life would be different if he exposes himself to the world outside of the community and his prediction came true. I did not feel Asher was lost to his religion though. He still prays before saying goodbye to his parents and the Rebbe sends him to a Yeshiva in Paris where people will not know of his paintings. My feeling is that Asher will be able to find peace with his religion and art in time. The author, Chaim Potok, became a conservative Jew instead of an orthodox Jew and maintained his commitment to writing and Judaism. However, Jacob Kahn is a man who never did reconcile the two. We learn that he went through two pogroms in Russia by the time he was twenty five and it is the Rebbe who helped him out of Paris before the Nazis occupied it. Jacob Kahn tells Asher that it is good that he has not abandoned things that are meaningful to him. He says all he has is his " doubts, fears and art." He is a very conflicted character. He is prone to serious bouts of depression and stays in bed for weeks at a time. I think his sculpture of the two heads together, one his and one Asher's, is his way of saying that his culture is still part of him. The quotes from "The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri, the book given to Asher by his mother, were very revealing of the path Asher would take. He says, "Every great artist is a man who has freed himself from his family, his nation, his race." While I don't agree with this idea, it certainly furthers the drama of Asher's story. Without the Rebbe, his mother and Jacob Kahn, Asher may not have become the great artist of his destiny. While rejecting his image of the crucifix as too much, the Rebbe sends him off with his blessings. I would like to read " The Gift of Asher Lev" to see how the story continues.

9 comments:

Lisa Mac said...

I agree that at the end I do want to know what happens to Asher - especially more about the young lady; I wish we could all go ahead and read it.

I, too, think that Asher's religion is still very much a part of him. Despite the pain he feels, I believe that his reconcilation of his religion and his art saves him from the severe depressions that Jacob undergoes.

mountaingirl said...

I think Asher had to leave his community and family in order to deal with his conflict. I agree that Asher will most likely be able to reconcile his gift and his faith. I think the blessing of the Rebbe is so important to the continuation of the story. The Rebbe never stops demonstrating his wisdom and Asher will draw from that wisdom that has followed him so far in his life.

Carolyn said...

When you talk about the sculpture of the two heads symbolizing Kahn's culture still being a part of him, I considered this as well as it representing connecting with his culture through his attachment to Asher and how Asher walked out his faith. And I was moved that despite it all, the Rebbe gave Asher his blessing. The Rebbe displayed a grace that is amazing, even after he encouraged Asher to pursue art and mentorship under Kahn and things turned out as they did, the Rebbe was still gracious.

Cari's Blog said...

I had forgotten about the Henri book that Asher's mother gave him. I recall him asking her if she had read it once he reads those quotes and she said she flipped through it. I have to wonder if she hadn't read a little further? Perhaps she was prepared for his distance from she and his father?

Amy H. said...

I agree that Asher will eventually find piece in his art and in his religion; however, I think he will need to understand that he must find it on his own without worrying about parents, peers, etc. I think Asher will find piece his own way and perhaps how he views his religion and his place within it will be different than it was for him growing up.

Kelly Hall said...

I have thought a lot about your words, and I think I agree with the Robert Henri quote. I don't think we have to let go of our family or nation or race, and we certainly need not denounce them, but in order to be truly free, we must stand as individuals. I believe that many of my attitudes and values are shaped by my family and my Catholic upbringing, but the more I mature, the more I am able to distinguish which beliefs are truly my own and which few have been repeated to me so often that I didn't always think for myself. I can relate to Asher's anguish in choosing a path that was not the path his parents would have chosen for him. Aryeh constantly says that Asher can choose something else, that he is not an animal, but these words only alienate Asher further. His masterpiece, his greatest expression, comes when he frees himself from the restraints of his religion and his parents. He related to the realness of the wounds when he studied the paintings of the crucifixion of Jesus. It makes sense to me that he would later see that ass he mold for expressing his mother's anguish.

AnneR said...

I'm not sure any of Asher's hardships caused him to question his faith, so much as the actions and words of those that practiced his faith. In no way does he turn away from the practices and rituals. His use of the crucifixion, while angering fellow practicioners, isn't contradictory to his faith. As Kahn explained it, the crucifixion was a artistic format of sorts and it seemed that is exactly what Asher used it for because the function fit the relationship between his mother and father and himself. I really don't see how he betrayed or turned his back on his faith. Moreso, he practiced in a different way.

spechtster said...

Phyllis, I encourage you to keep reading Asher's story in "The Gift of Asher Lev" (guess I should have included the sequel in this class)! So many books, so little time...
Thank you for making important connections between the book and your experiences (and your son's). Fascinating!

eli korthanke said...

I love Jacob Kahn. I am also very sad for him, however. He really has a hard time emotionally, and sinks into his depression throughout periods of the second half of the book. I think he still badly wants to reconcile his art and his faith together, but finds it somewhat impossible.