Saul Bellow was born as Solomon Bellows on June 10, 1915–or so it seems. His exact birthdate is inconclusive because it is unclear whether June 10th was his Hebrew birthday, or his birth date according to the Gregorian calendar. His Jewish education began at a young age, and it is said that he began to learn Hebrew at 4 years old. At age 9, Bellow and his family moved to Chicago (the family had been living in Quebec, Canada).
Bellow attended Tuley High School in Chicago where he befriended Issac Rosenfeld, who eventually became the inspiration for the character of King Dahfu in Bellow’s novel Henderson the Rain King. Bellow spent some time at the University of Chicago before transferring to Northwestern University where he planned to major in English but was put off by the department’s anti-semitism. Instead, he completed a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and sociology.
His first novel, Dangling Man, was published in 1944 and loosely based on his time in the military. He continued to write and teach for many years at various institutions including the University of Minnesota, Yale University, New York University, and many others.
Bellow won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1976 and is the only author to have won the National Book Award three times. More of Bellow’s accolades include the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from France, the B’nai B’rith Jewish Heritage Award, and the National Medal of Arts from the U.S congress.
The novelist was married five times and had three sons. Bellow died on April 5th, 2005, at age 89. He is buried at a Jewish cemetery in Vermont.
The Adventures of Augie March, published in 1954, follows Augie March, a young Jewish man in Chicago. The book is a bit episodic and jumps around at times. However, this allows us to see all of Augie’s adventures such as assisting a thief, getting jobs, and having multiple love affairs. The novel won the National Book Award of 1954 and was named one of the 100 best novels in the English language by TIME magazine.
This novel follows Moses E. Herzog, a middle-aged Jewish professor who has a mid-life crisis amidst his second divorce. The novel is written in epistolary style, meaning it is comprised of different letters that Moses writes. Like many of his characters, there are many similarities between Herzog and Bellow himself. Herzog was awarded the National Book Award for fiction in 1965.
This novel is about the changing relationship of art and power and is told through contrasting the careers of two different artists Von Humboldt Fleisher and his protégé Charlie Citrine. After Humboldt passes away, Citrine must decide whose advice he will take: Humboldt, who taught him to be freely creative, or the part of society that believes everything should be done to get money. Humboldt’s Gift won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
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