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.