Asher Lev, a young Hasidic Jew who becomes a famous artist. Asher Lev’s name is not unusual, but everything else about the protagonist of this book is. Asher begins his story as a defense of himself and his art, especially of his most notorious painting, Brooklyn Crucifixion. He wants to make it clear that he is not the traitor to his culture and religious beliefs that many, including his parents, have accused him of being. Asher explains the long and painful process that has led him from being a good boy in the ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish community of Brooklyn to the artist in exile that he is as a young man. From earliest childhood, Asher’s compulsion to draw and paint has set him against his father and his sect; art is not a suitable Hasidic profession. Although his family and community love him, they do not understand Asher, and he grows further and further away from them. When his talent is so great that even his own leaders must recognize it, his painting earns Asher no peace, only progressive estrangement from the world that he loves. The tone of Asher’s tale is largely that of pain and regret, but he makes it clear that he carries the knowledge that his path is the right one, that he is doing what he must do. An interesting component of Asher’s personality is his self-absorption, absolute immersion in his art that is so often a hallmark of greatness.
Aryeh Lev, Asher’s...
(The entire section is 583 words.)