Monday, March 11, 2013

My name is Asher Lev


I have only just begun to read My name is Asher Lev, and by page 20, I already know that this is one I will read slowly so as not to miss anything, in the writing and in the story.

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.

But he was also born with a gift? But?  Not and?

What an introduction to the narrator and his story. 

Asher's gift was drawing. His mother praised his early efforts but constantly pushed him to draw pretty things. His father, a serious Hassidic Jew who worked for the Rabbi, wanted him to outgrow his childish hobby.

When Asher was six, his mother turned very sick. Asher tried to cheer her up by showing her a picture, not one filled with black swirls and angry eyes that he had been drawing, but one with pretty birds and flowers he created for her. 

It backfired. That night, he had this conversation with his father:

"No one likes my drawings," I said through a fog of half sleep. "My drawings don't help."
My father said nothing. 
"I don't like to feel this way, Papa."
Gently, my father put his hand on my cheek.
"It's not a pretty world, Papa."
"I've noticed," my father said softly.

His mother finally made it out of bed to the living room, where she sat motionless and slept. Asher drew her. Then he noticed his father watching him.

I had no idea how long he had been standing in the doorway....There was fascination and perplexity on his face. He seemed awed and angry and confused and dejected, all at the same time.

That night, when his father once again said he wished Asher wouldn't spend all his time drawing, this is how Asher replied:

"I wanted to draw and light and the dark."

Somehow, this experience made him hopeful. Instead of lamenting that his drawings couldn't help, this is how he felt:

I would put all the world into light and shade, bring life to all the wide and tired world. It did not seem an impossible thing to do.

My heart starts to break.    

4 comments:

Laoch of Chicago said...

It sounds like a sorrowful novel.

Yat-Yee said...

It is. And I can't stop reading.

tanita davis said...

I think this one was a Senior English book in high school; I seem to remember Dr. Hardcastle teaching it.

I think I read a lot of rather depressing fare in those days, but - truly loved it.

Yat-Yee said...

I'm late to the party but I'm glad to have read it. I'm going to be haunted by it for a while.