Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Chosen

"The Chosen" is a book written by American Jewish Rabbi Chaim Potok.  Since the writer is a rabbi, the book deals extensively with Jewish culture, and one would come across a lot of words particular to this religion.  But what makes this book great is the captivating story that it unfolds.

The story has got 2 protagonists, Reuven Malters, who is also the narrator, an orthodox Jew and Danny Saunders, a Hasidic Jew (Hasidic sect are very very conservative).  Reuven's father, David Malter is a teacher, religious scholar with a scientific and secular outlook, whereas Danny's father Reb. Isaac Saunders is the head of Hasidic sect and comes across as a religious fanatic who is quite angry with David Malter for propagating his secular and scientific outlook as well as later for actively supporting  Zionism.

This is the story of friendship that develops between Reuven and Danny despite their basic differences over several issues.  Reuven is an extrovert, who is brilliant in mathematics and is a good student of Talmud, whereas Danny is an introvert, who takes a lot of time to open up and possesses photographic memory and is very much ahead of Reuven as far as Talmud learning is concerned.

The story is full of conflicts.  There is this conflict of ideas between David Malter (Reuven's father) and Reb. Isaac Saunders (Danny's father).  There is also this conflict between Judaism and the secular American world as both Orthodox and Hasidic Jews are immigrants trying to fit into liberal and secular American culture.  There is conflict between Danny and his father as Danny does not want to occupy the position of patriarch of Hasidic sect, which usually the eldest son of the leader inherits, instead he wants to study psychoanalysis and do research on it.  There is conflict of ideas between Reuven and Danny due to their difference in upbringing.

In spite of carrying so much contrast and conflict, this also is a beautiful story of friendship between 2 boys, and later 2 young men (as the boys grow up), also this is a story of 2 fathers who love their sons in entirely different ways.

This book gave me an insight into Judaism as well as a peak into Jewish mind in the aftermath of World war II and the Holocaust and is certainly the best book that I have read in 2011 and will certainly count it as one among my favorites.

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