Chapter 13 Summary

In Florence, Asher lives in cramped quarters, taking his meals with a woman recommended by his father. He becomes obsessed with two sculptures: the Pieta (which shows the Virgin Mary holding the crucified Jesus) and David. He begins to draw the Pieta on everything, even the tablecloths of cafes he visits.

A man approaches him one day and asks him to deliver a letter when he goes to Rome. The man is from the Ladover, and the message is for one of the other members. Asher is once again a carrier for the Rebbe. In Rome, he delivers the letter to a bearded man, who runs a yeshiva that was founded by Asher’s father. The two of them have a few conversations about the work of Mr. Lev before Asher leaves Rome.

Asher goes to Paris, where he takes a small room at a hotel. He is haunted once again by dreams of his mythic ancestor who served a noble gentleman in Russia. Asher receives a message to meet with Avraham Cutler, who is the head of the yeshiva in Paris. They discuss Asher’s paintings. Avraham asks him what the Rebbe says about his paintings, but Asher has never asked him what he thought. Asher receives a letter from his parents, who do not understand why he plans to stay longer in Europe. His mother misses him, but his father sends him his blessing. He receives a beret from Anna Schaeffer, but he puts it in a drawer and wears his old fishing cap.

Asher has problems painting. He is bothered still by dreams of his mythic ancestor. He thinks of his mother and her torment over her brother’s death and her worries about her husband’s travels. Asher decides he will paint her standing by the window, lashed by the arms to the blinds, with his father and him on either side of it. He knows it is odd that a Jew would paint a crucifixion scene, but he feels that Judaism has no image for that level of torment. Anna Schaeffer shows up at his apartment in Paris to see what he has been working on. He shows her the one of his mother, along with a similar painting he did but with which he was dissatisfied. Anna says that they are great paintings, and calls them Brooklyn Crucifixion I and Brooklyn Crucifixion II. He sends them after her to New York for his next exhibition. He then returns to New York in the middle of a snowstorm.