At the early age of ten he showed talent in drawing and painting but was dissuaded by his father and Talmudic teachers from pursuing this interest. Instead, he undertook a serious religious and secular education, first at the Orthodox Yeshiva University, New York, where he received a BA in English summa cum laude in ; then at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, where he received his rabbinic ordination in ; and finally at the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained a PhD in Potok served as a chaplain in the United States Army with front-line units in Korea from to
At the early age of ten he showed talent in drawing and painting but was dissuaded by his father and Talmudic teachers from pursuing this interest.
Instead, he undertook a serious religious and secular education, first at the Orthodox Yeshiva University, New York, where he received a BA in English summa cum laude in ; then at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, where he received his rabbinic ordination in ; and finally at the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained a PhD in Potok served as a chaplain in the United States Army with front-line units in Korea from to During that time, he made a number of trips to Japan, which turned out to be a crucial experience since it forced him to rethink his religious and cultural position.
In an interview Potok has said that all of his books came about 'as a result of that moment in time when I stood in Hiroshima, trying to figure out where I was and what I was doing there, and what it all really meant to me'. He then began a distinguished teaching and publication career in Jewish studies; he became editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society of America and collaborated on the new authorized translation of the Hebrew Bible, which was finally completed in Meanwhile Potok had started writing, first in diary form, on his experiences in Korea.
This work appeared in strongly revised form as I Am The Clay more than thirty-five years later; it was followed by the first draft of what was to become his best-known novel, The Chosen, written in Jerusalem during the fall and winter ofand published after major revisions in Basically dealing with the interplay of the Jewish tradition and Western secular humanism, it had an extraordinary world-wide success.
The novel was turned into a major film in It was followed two years later by The Promise a sequel that continues to examine in fictional form the complicated relationship between Orthodox and Conservative Judaism.
In My Name Is Asher Lev appeared, a novel about a Hasidic painter as a young man in conflict with his family and his religious community. This further established Potok's literary reputation. From to Potok went to live with his wife and three young children in Jerusalem.
In he returned to America and settled with his family in Merion, a distinguished suburb north of Philadelphia, where he now lives in a lovely Tudor house, with a large painting studio on the second floor. Potok is a self-taught painter, who since the late sixties has produced a considerable number of idiosyncratic paintings.
In Potok published a non-fiction work, calledWanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews which is a highly personal and imaginative account of what Judaism is, what it borrowed from surrounding cultures and what it gave back to the world. It was followed in by The Book of Lights, which centers on the apparent contrast between the constructive 'light' of Jewish cabalistic mysticism and the destructive 'light' of the atomic bomb, co-developed by Jewish physicists.
Published inThe Gift of Asher Lev takes up the further developments of his earlier eponymous fictional hero, who now appears to be in a personal as well as artistic mid-life crisis that is ultimately resolved by an uneasy compromise between the demands of his family and the Jewish community on the one hand and those of his artistic calling on the other.
With I Am The Clay, which he had started writing before The Chosen but subsequently strongly revised and rewrote during the period of the Gulf War, Potok entered a new phase in his literary career. Although the Holocaust and the themes of suffering and survival have been thematically present in all his work, they become central in his latest fictions, The Trope Teacher and The Canal Both works show the devastating after-effects of the Holocaust on the respective main characters, neither of whom is an observant Jew any more.
These novellas have still to appear in America, but they have already been published in Dutch translation. They show a remarkable change in style and tone; there is a greater spareness of language, a more flexible narrative technique, and above all a much more pessimistic outlook on the world than in Potok's earlier work.
As he stated in a recent interview, 'we must learn to live with the possibility that there are no answers any more, at least no Answers with capital letters'. It may be more than accidental that his most recent publications include two children's books, The Tree of Here and The Sky of Nowillustrated by the Pennsylvania artist Tony Auth.
At present Potok is working on several projects, including a non-fiction work, that traces the tribulations of a Jewish family through several generations in modern Russia. He also continues to teach contemporary literature and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and creative writing at Johns Hopkins University.
I should like to record my gratitude to Chaim Potok for the hospitality with which I was received in his Merion home, for allowing me to see his paintings, and for the many conversations we had both in America and in The Netherlands.
I am also grateful to Professor Lillian Kremer of Kansas State University, whose several articles on Potok have been of great value to me.
Critical Essay Most of Potok's novels can be seen as the fictional sites of cultural confrontation and how that confrontation affects the people involved in them. The cultural confrontation is that between a minority immigrant Jewish subculture and the 'umbrella' culture as the author himself calls it of Western secular humanism; the problem for his characters is how to fuse what he terms 'core-to-core' or fundamental elements of both cultures without losing the essential nature of their own identity.
Out of this 'culture shock' the typical Potokian 'Zwischenmensch' 'between-person' is born, one who rejects neither his original culture nor the contemporary culture surrounding him.
Inevitably such a dialectical, transgressive personality will be under constant pressure from either side; at best he will achieve a precarious equilibrium between old loyalties and new ideas, as is the case in the early novels, from The Chosen to Davita's Harp.
However, from the companion novels My Name Is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev which appeared eighteen years later it becomes painfully clear that the tenuous balance is no more than provisional and cannot last.
Although it is true that the theme of cultural confrontation has been dealt with by other American Jewish writers like Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and many others, it is equally true that none of them has situated this problem in terms of a cultural conflict between orthodox and ultra-orthodox Judaism - comprising Jewish theology including Talmudic studies and the mystical writings of the Cabalaliturgy, history, and scholarship - on the one hand, versus Western on the other, a humanism represented by modern literature, Freudian psychology, 'scientific' or 'higher' Bible criticism, nuclear physics, Marxism, and modern art.
It is Potok's particular gift as a novelist and storyteller to have subjected these rather abstract areas of cultural expression to novelistic treatment and to have made them available to the common reader. He writes about these modern achievements with great enthusiasm and succeeds remarkably well in making them exciting for us, however complex they actually are.s: Anti-Semitism was widespread in the Western.
world in spite of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews. s: The consciousness-raising of Americans during the Civil Rights movement helped fuel positive feelings among all ethnic groups, including Jews.
In the Beginning by Chaim Potok This historical novel takes place in ’s Bronx, New York. It is a story of a young Jewish boy, David Lurie, and /5.
Find helpful customer reviews and review ratings for WANDERINGS -2 at vetconnexx.com Read honest and unbiased product reviews from our users. by Marius Buning Free University Amsterdam, The Netherlands Post-war Literatures in English March Groningan: Nyhoff. Biography.
Chaim Potok was born in the Bronx, New York, on 17 February , to Polish Jewish immigrants, and was educated in Jewish parochial schools. Biography. Chaim Potok was born in the Bronx, New York, on 17 February , to Polish Jewish immigrants, and was educated in Jewish parochial schools.
The Chosen, by Chaim Potok The Author Herman Harold Potok was born in The Bronx in He was the oldest of four children, all of .