BELLOW, SAUL


BELLOW, SAUL
BELLOW, SAUL (1915–2005), U.S. novelist. Author of 11 novels and numerous novellas and stories, Pulitzer Prize winner for Humboldt's Gift (1975), Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1976, and the only novelist to win three National Book Awards, for The Adventures of Augie March (1953), Herzog (1964), and Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970), Bellow brilliantly captured the Jewish-American experience and voice of the mid-20th century. Born Solomon Bellow, the youngest of four children of Abraham (Abram) and Liza (Lescha) Belo, Russian Jewish immigrants to Canada, Bellow changed his name as the Bellows assimilated, from Shloimke to Solomon to Sol to Saul. He was born in Lachine, Quebec, two years after his family immigrated to Canada, and was raised in Montreal and Chicago, Illinois. He spoke fluent Yiddish, French, and English as a child, and studied Hebrew. Bellow's trilingual childhood is evident in Bellow's vivid stylistic mix of high and low registers, of classical English and the uniquely Jewish dialect of his Chicago childhood. The Bellows, owing to poverty and Abram's troubles with the law as a result of his bootlegging, moved to Chicago when Saul was nine. Bellow later in life had a nostalgic love for the Chicago of his youth, and he explored Chicago's history, diverse ethnic cultures, unique American dialect, and Jewish immigrant society in much of his literature. In his later works he contrasted his nostalgia for the Chicago of his youth with his mounting anxiety concerning what he saw as the city's rapid urban decay. This concern may help account for his growing conservatism, which was a dominant theme of such later books as Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970), in which Bellow brought together, through the Holocaust survivor Sammler, the Shoah and his dark satirical rejection of 1960s radicalism. His conservatism can also be seen in The Dean's December (1982), Bellow's depiction of contemporary Chicago as a violent, barbaric dystopia. Bellow's religious childhood had a profound impact on his works, for Jewish American issues and culture permeate his novels. His religiously observant mother had hopes that he would become a rabbi or talmudic scholar; at four he could recite whole passages from the Torah in Hebrew or Yiddish. Bellow used both vernacular Yiddish and Yiddish cadences and syntax throughout his works. In early works such as The Adventures of Augie March and later works such as "Cousins" from his short story collection Him with His Foot in His Mouth (1984), Bellow also depicted Jewish immigrant family life with vividness and affection. In his use of Jewish irony and humor and in his introspective, morally focused protagonists, Bellow is recognizably a Jewish writer. He referred to his Jewish upbringing as a literary "gift, a piece of good fortune with which one doesn't quarrel." Nevertheless, he rejected the label "Jewish American author," preferring to say that he was "an American, a Jew, a writer by trade," perhaps due to a fear that being identified as too Jewish would relegate him to a literary ghetto. Bellow was not religiously observant as an adult. Nonetheless, he never denied his Jewishness, and he spoke out in support of oppressed Jews in the Soviet Union and against antisemitism everywhere, spoke often to Jewish groups, and visited Israel often, including going to Israel in 1967 to report on the imminent war. Bellow went to Israel again in 1970 and in 1976, eventually writing about his experiences there and about the global political problems facing Israel in his well-reviewed nonfiction book To Jerusalem and Back (1976). Jewish themes are central to many of Bellow's major works, as are autobiographical elements. For example, Bellow's Kafkaesque The Victim (1947) is an original treatment of the theme of antisemitism and the first of his attempts to confront the meaning of the Holocaust, with the secular Jewish protagonist Asa Leventhal confronted by the antisemitic Kirby Allbee; his award-winning The Adventures of Augie March (1953) is a picaresque novel about the adventures of a Jewish boy from Chicago during the Depression of the 1930s. In his powerful novella The Bellarosa Connection (1990), Bellow told the story of a Holocaust survivor while at the same time delved into Jewish issues of memory and the ethical and psychological problems faced by American Jews living safe lives while their European brothers suffered and died. Bellow's final novel Ravelstein (2000), a moving fictionalized treatment of his friendship with the conservative Jewish intellectual, Allan bloom , author of the controversial The Closing of the American Mind, is also arguably Bellow's most overtly Jewish novel, with discussions concerning the Holocaust, Jewish history and identity, Israel, and the fate of the Jewish people. While his father and brothers were business-minded, Bellow was always more interested in books and culture, and this conflict between pragmatism and idealism, the real world and the inner or ideal world, is central to much of his fiction. Bellow was introspective and death-obsessed from an early age, partly due to childhood illnesses including six months spent in the tuberculosis ward at Royal Victoria Hospital when he was eight, where he saw many die and came near death himself. He later described his mother's early death when he was 18 as the greatest loss in his life; fears of death and loss thus dominate much of Bellow's canon. His early loss of his mother may also help to explain his problematic relationship to women, including his five marriages and four unpleasant divorces, themes that reoccur throughout his novels. Bellow entered the University of Chicago in 1934, but transferred the following year to Northwestern, where he studied anthropology with Melville Herskovits. Upon graduation in 1937, Bellow entered the University of Wisconsin to pursue a graduate degree in sociology and anthropology, but soon left to marry his first wife, Anita Goshkin, and then left for New York to become a writer. The Bellows quickly returned   to Chicago. In 1940 he and his wife traveled to Mexico with the hopes of meeting his boyhood hero, Leon Trotsky, only to discover that Trotsky had been killed the day before they arrived. Bellow's early attempts at writing novels proved frustrating. He abandoned an early novel set in Mexico and threw away the manuscript for The Very Dark Trees, a novel about a Southern white man turning black, after the publisher for the book canceled its publication for the duration of the war. Bellow wrote his first published novel, the semi-autobiographical Dangling Man (1944), while waiting to enter the army. During this period Bellow's first marriage began to collapse while he waited to be conscripted (he finally joined the merchant marines toward the end of the war) and worked at various jobs, including three years (1943–46) on the editorial staff of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In Dangling Man, the Kafka-inspired protagonist, Joseph, a young Jewish would-be writer, waits to be drafted as he experiences Romantic isolation, studies classic writers, has an affair, and suffers from death anxieties and emotional turmoil. In this way Bellow set the pattern for many of his major works, works focused on semi-autobiographical, introspective, intellectual, Jewish protagonists searching for meaning in a savage, irrational universe. Bellow followed Dangling Man with The Victim (1947) and with The Adventures of Augie March (1953), which Salman Rushdie referred to as the best candidate there was for the Great American Novel. Bellow then published Seize the Day (1956), a study of loneliness, failure, and the onset of middle age, and Henderson the Rain King (1959), an excursion into the fantastic about a wealthy American's search for ultimate reality among primitive African tribesmen. Bellow's most widely acclaimed work was Herzog (1964), an international best seller that gained Bellow fame and numerous awards. Its protagonist, Moses Herzog, is a ruminating, near-mad Jewish professor who writes letters to everyone, including dead relatives, Jung, Nietzsche, and God. Herzog struggles comically but futilely to relate with humanistic values to a dehumanized modern world; like all Bellow's protagonists, he is doomed to live out the contradiction between an inner world of romantic aspiration and an outer one of less than romantic fact. Bellow was a prolific writer throughout his life, publishing his first play, The Last Analysis, in 1964; a volume of short stories, Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories (1968); Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970); Humboldt's Gift (1975), after which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for 1976; To Jerusalem and Back (1976); The Dean's December (1982); a short story collection, Him with His Foot in His Mouth (1984); More Die of Heartbreak (1987); a collection of three novellas, Something to Remember Me By (1991); an essay collection, It All Adds Up (1994); The Actual (1997); and Ravelstein (2000). He also edited Great Jewish Short Stories (1963). Bellow led a largely itinerant life, moving from university to university as he moved from marriage to marriage; however, he did remain married to his final wife Janis for the last 16 years of his life, and was a professor for the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago from 1962 to 1993. He also maintained close friendships with a large number of Jewish friends from Tuley High School in Chicago and with such eminent writers as Ralph Ellison, John Berryman, Allan Bloom, John Cheever, philip roth , and the Jewish poet delmore schwartz , the model for Von Humboldt Fleisher of Humboldt's Gift. Widely considered one of mid-century America's leading novelists, Bellow died leaving behind a powerful canon of literature. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Atlas, Bellow: A Biography (2000); J.J. Clayton, Saul Bellow: In Defense of Man (1968); I. Malin (ed.), Saul Bellow and the Critics (1967); idem, Saul Bellow's Fiction (1969); K.M. Opdahl, The Novels of Saul Bellow: An Introduction (1967); E. Rovit (ed.), Saul Bellow: A Collection of Critical Essays (1975). (Craig Svonkin (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bellow, Saul — born June 10, 1915, Lachine, near Montreal, Que., Can. died April 5, 2005, Brookline, Mass., U.S. Canadian born U.S. novelist. Born to an immigrant Russian Jewish family, he was fluent in Yiddish from childhood. His family moved to Chicago when… …   Universalium

  • Bellow, Saul — (b. 1915)    US novelist. Bellow was born in Montreal, Canada and as a child spoke English, French and Yiddish. He studied anthropology before becoming a writer. His first novel, Dangling Man, was published in 1944. He taught creative writing for …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Bellow, Saul — ► (1915 2005) Novelista estadounidense. Fue premio Nobel de Literatura en 1976. Su origen ruso y judío le hizo tomar conciencia de sus particularidades raciales y le sensibilizó ante los problemas étnicos en E.U.A. Destacan: La víctima (1947),… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bellow,Saul — Bel·low (bĕlʹō), Saul. Born 1915. Canadian born American writer whose novels, including The Dangling Man (1944) and Humboldt s Gift (1975), often concern an alienated individual within an indifferent society. He won the 1976 Nobel Prize for… …   Universalium

  • Bellow, Saul — (b. 1915)    American novelist. Born in Quebec, he lived in Montreal and Chicago. Many of his novels deal with Jewish life. The Victim (1947) is a treatment of anti Semitism. The Adventures of Augie March (1953) deals with the experience of a… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Bellow, Saul —    см. Беллоу, Сол …   Писатели США. Краткие творческие биографии

  • Bellow — Bellow, Saul …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Saul Bellow — et Keith Botsford Activités romancier Naissance 10 juillet …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bellow — (Saul) (né en 1915) romancier américain qui peint le déracinement de l homme dans les villes. P. Nobel 1976 …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Bellow — Bellow, Saul (1915 ) a US writer, born in Canada, who won the ↑Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976. His novels include Humbolt s Gift and Herzog …   Dictionary of contemporary English


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