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The Chosen (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 5 Nov 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141040777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141040776
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 119,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Born in 1929, Chaim Potok grew up and was educated in New York. After being ordained as a rabbi, he took a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and worked as a chaplain with the US Forces in Korea from 1955-57. His novels The Chosen, The Promise, In the Beginning, The Book of Lights, My Name is Asher Lev, The Gift of Asher Lev and I am The Clay, have all been published by Penguin. He is also the author of Wanderings, a history of the Jews; of a children's book, The Tree of Here; and of three plays, Out of the Depths, Sins of the Father and The Play of Lights. He died in 2002.

Shalom Auslander is the author of the memoir, The Foreskin's Lament (Picador 2007) and Beware of God, a collection of short stories about growing up Jewish (Picador 2006). His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and theGuardian, among others, and he is regular contributor to Public Radio International's "This American Life." He lives in New York.

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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. S. Stanier on 16 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback
In this tale of two New York Jewish boys growing up in the 40s, Chaim Potok weaves a whole analysis of the path of Judaism in the 20th Century.
The first chapter describes a schoolboy baseball game, which is disarmingly gripping. (I've rarely been more eager to find out who won.) It quickly moves on to deeper things, though, as the game sets the protagonist, Reuven, off on a journey as he gets to befriend a Hasidic contemporary of his: he has to try to understand an even stricter interpretation of Judaism than his own.
Potok does not just tell a beautiful story. He also manages to get the reader to empathise with something as potentially alienating as Hasidism. As a Christian, I for one feel as if I now understand my Jewish friends a little better, both those who choose to follow their faith strictly and those who prefer a more liberal approach. The chapters in which the boys tussle with the Talmud are brilliantly vivid and really make one feel something of what it is like to give oneself over to this sacred text.
Being set in the 1940s, he also has much to say about the creation of the state of Israel and why that hit home so sharply in New York then.
This era is as beautifully recreated as the friendship between Reuven and Danny. Fascinatingly, women hardly feature in this book. The key relationships are between the boys and their fathers, and their relationship with each other: a kind of minor David and Jonathan.
A lovely, vivid, enlightening read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. P. Jay on 18 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
A book group including both Jews and Christians discussed this lyrical book this autumn.

The title indicates the main theme: are we chosen or are we able to make choices? Being chosen has both positive and negative consequences; unpleasant obligations and rewarding privileges.

The novel is set between the final years of World War II and the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. It tells the story of two Jewish teenage boys in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Reuven Malter is the son of a Talmudic scholar and Danny Saunders is the son of a hassidic rebbe, destined to succeed his father. Reuven's father says that a mind like Danny's is seen only once in a generation. Yet, despite his destiny as a tzadik, Danny wants to roam free, to explore everything there is to learn in the world, yet he believes that he carries the burden of his people on his shoulders.

These are not typical teenagers. They're not into girlfriends, movies, music or cars. They experience very little from outside their tight-knit family, school, and religious life and are devoted to studies, their religion, their fathers, and traditional values. There is also an absence of women in the book.

Sight and insight is a key theme: Reuven's eye is damaged by Danny in a baseball match. How do we pursue truth in a grey world? The early vision problems foreshadow the horrific vision that will occur later when the atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The unimaginable takes place and scorches the characters' visions forever. The end of the war sees new information. What once remained partially hidden, the details of the Shoah, comes to public view, intensifying the vision changes the characters undergo.

Another theme is silence.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 22 Jun. 2000
Format: Paperback
Two young people emboding the two opposite polar instances of judaism meet in Brooklyn during the second world war in the course of a baseball game that soon turns into an holy battle.
Reuven, the son of a talmudic scholar, is perceived by Danny, a radical chassidim, as an apicoros, an heretic that dares profaning the holy language by letting himself being schooled in hebrew rather than in yiddish.
The wound that Danny inflicts upon Reuven in the game is a symbolic mutilation, the sign of the tension between moderation and radicalism, the distancing culture of doubt and the deeply involving practise of mystical belief.
The book traces a tale of an exchange of identities, whereby the two characters embark in a dense intellectual and emotional friendship that finally enables them to exchange their personalities: Reuven's scholarship turns from science to a rabbinic drive. Whereas Danny, the rabbi to be, chooses, as a final challange to his previously received mysticism, to further his interest for freudian theories with a secular college education.
Potok's narrative operates,rather than true words, via successive waves of silence. The culture of silence enforced by one of the fathers promts the characters (and with them the community of readers) to dig inside themselves in search of their sometimes submerged humanity. Silence, the tension of the countless silent pauses, links biologically fathers and sons to the extent that, in spite of the dogmatism of their surrounding enviroments, the two characters carve up a space to listen to their own true vocation.
Chaim's work stands out also as an appraisal of scholarhsip, of the fine quality of the character's skills in focusing on the quality,rather than the quantity, of their knowledge and read a line one thousand times so that, through an aleph, through a single letter or a combination of chabbalistic devices, we may see the universe.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Dec. 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Set towards the end of the Second World War from 1944 on, Reuven tells the story of his growing up, and of his friend, Danny. The story opens when the boys are fifteen years old, and tells of their first encounter at a baseball when Danny strikes a ball which hits Reuven in the eye. Reuven is hospitalised, and eventually Danny visits him. Initially in his anger Reuven rejects Danny's approach, but then on the advice of his father he listens to Danny; the two soon become close friends.

As the story develops we get to know the two Jewish boys and their respective fathers very well. Danny has a brilliant mind; Reuven too is an outstanding student. Danny's father, Reb Saunders is an Hasidic Jew and the tzaddik, the leader of his congregation; Reuven's father, David Malter, is an Orthodox Jew and a Rabbi. There are naturally conflicts in this relationship, but Reb Saunders gives it his blessing as he believes it will benefit his son. Reb's behaviour and his unusual relationship with his son takes some understanding, but by the conclusion of the story we have a better insight. The boys become very close, they are enthusiastic students and study together, and even the long enforced silence between them, when Reb Saunders excommunicates Reuven over the issue of the establishment of the Jewish State, does nothing to weaken their relationship.

Much of the story involves issues of Jewish faith and politics, but such is the quality of the writing and our involvement with the boys that even to an outsider these passages are of interest, at times even gripping. Danny is a delightful and compassionate boy; he is devoted to his father and loyal friend to Danny.
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