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Herzog by Saul Bellow

Herzog (1964)

by Saul Bellow

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,875461,329 (3.72)152
  1. 30
    The Trial by Franz Kafka (SanctiSpiritus)
  2. 20
    Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (roby72)
  3. 10
    Seize the Day by Saul Bellow (SanctiSpiritus)
  4. 21
    Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (SanctiSpiritus)
  5. 00
    Fury by Salman Rushdie (thorold)
    thorold: Rushdie's Fury is an ironic 21st century take on the professor-as-victim theme, with a whole string of references back to Herzog.
  6. 00
    Zeno's Conscience by Italo Svevo (roby72)

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» See also 152 mentions

English (40)  Italian (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All (46)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Within a page or two of opening Saul Bellow’s masterpiece Herzog, I began to wonder how I might write about it. It has an authoritative introduction by Phillip Roth, it’s a classic of American literature, it’s by a famous Nobel Laureate (i.e. distinct from the obscure ones we’ve never heard of) and it’s listed in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. What could I possibly say about it that hasn’t been said before?

So I’ve decided not to write in my usual format. If you want to know what the book is about, visit Goodreads or Wikipedia. And here is an excerpt from 1001 Books as well:

The novel that made Saul Bellow’s name as a literary best-seller is a comedy of manners and ideas, loss and partial redemption. The cuckolded academic Moses Herzog is neurotically restless, a pathological condition that notably manifests itself in his habit of composing unsent letters to the great and good of past and present times.


We follow Herzog’s musings on the events that have brought him to this state, most notably his amatory betrayal at the hands of his former friend Valentine Gersbach, and we follow him physically as he heads into Chicago for an abortive attempt at bloody revenge. (p.565)

On the back of this centenary edition, there’s a quotation from Dave Eggars, and what he says there is true: there is something to make a reader stop and think on almost every page. So I’m just going to share my thoughts about pages 102-3, which stopped me in my tracks…

What Bellow is on about on these two pages is the burden of selfhood and self-development.

Herzog was first published in 1964, and it was not long after Hannah Arendt had published her ground-breaking book The Human Condition (1958) and even more relevant to the preoccupations of this novel, her report called Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). The website Brain Pickings summarises her point that while acts of evil can mushroom into monumental tragedies, the individual human perpetrators of those acts are often marked not with the grandiosity of the demonic but with absolute mundanity. And whether or not Arendt’s thinking is misunderstood, it seems to have triggered a great deal of post-Holocaust soul-searching about the possibilities of evil in all of us. In Herzog, Herzog the character is constantly reflecting on his own nature and moral qualities – and in this part of the novel the reader finds him not only exhausted by the struggle to interrogate his own being but also resentful of the quest.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/08/26/herzog-by-saul-bellow/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Aug 25, 2017 |
Never throw out your unread books. You’ll come back to them! I remember an unsuccessful attempt on this book about twenty five years ago, but a recent recommendation put it back in my mind. I completed it last September and found it a truly excellent read. Perhaps it’s my age and I was ready for it. The author of this autobiographical fiction was three years younger than me when he wrote it and picked up the Nobel Prize for Literature for his efforts.

A very modern novel, with little or no plot, the narrative takes place in the mind of Herzog, who I understand is a fairly fair depiction of Bellow and a rather pathetic fellow really. I decided I had nothing to say about this complicated and interesting novel until I had the good fortune to hear, this week, a 90-minute podcast by Robert Adams concerning the book. This is such a really fine testament to the book that I decided I’d write it up just to link to it.

Read the book and, only then, listen to the lecture. Thank heavens for really fine writers. ( )
  tchelyzt | Jul 15, 2017 |
The slow unwinding of a complex character of a midlife academic with a chaotic personal history. ( )
  kale.dyer | Jun 19, 2017 |
Pochi fatti e tante riflessioni sulla vita, sui rapporti, sulla mote. ( )
  cloentrelibros | Aug 23, 2016 |
The letters drag, but the scenes at the cabin make it all worthwhile. ( )
  benjaminsiegel | Jul 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Anybody who has gotten some distance from a heartbreak’s wickedest throes, and wants to understand it, and wants to feel again the vibrancy of mind that made love possible in the first place, should read... Herzog.
A masterpiece... Herzog's voice... for all its wildness and strangeness and foolishness is the voice of a civilization, our civilization... The book is new and classic, and its publicaiton now... suggests that things are looking up for America and its civilization.
added by GYKM | editThe New York Times Book Review, Julian Moynahan
With this new work, his sixth novel, Saul Bellow emerges not only as the most intelligent novelist of his generation but also as the most consistently interesting in the point of growth and development. To my mind, too, he is the finest stylist at present writing fiction in America.
added by GYKM | editBook Week, Philip Rahv
A novel that is certain to be talked about and written about for a long time to come, Herzog reinforces my conviction that Bellow is the leading figure in American fiction today.
added by GYKM | editSaturday Review, Granville Hicks
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
To Pat Covici, a great editor and, better yet, a generous friend, this book is affectionately dedicated
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If I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.
"Why to get laid is actually socially constructive and useful, an act of citizenship."
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Herzog is a massive accomplishment that has repeatedly been likened to Joyce’s Ulysses. It remains Bellow’s “biggest” book and was on the New York Times best-seller list for the entire year. At its heart is Bellow’s profound shock at discovering, a year after his separation from Sondra, (Alexandra Tschacbasov, his second wife) her affair with their mutual friend, Jack Ludwig. The last of their circle to know he had been deceived, Bellow lapsed into deep depression and produced an intensely self-justifying hero who was tearful, cuckolded, and utterly humiliated. Moses Herzog, a Jewish intellectual is essentially precipitated into intellectual and spiritual crisis by the failure of his marriage. The plot of the novel is slender. Herzog leaves his home and marriage, fails in the classroom, abandons his academic project, and undertakes a massive spiritual and intellectual housekeeping via the production of dozens of letters to God, the long dead, the recent, dead, and the living. At the end of it he seems to have regained his sense of Jewish identity, purged himself of violent anger, abandoned his latest mistresses, and his repented of his dandyism. He has had a profound education in the realities of human nature, and rediscovered the value of nature and solitude on his Ludeyville estate. No longer the Graf Potocki of the Berkshires, both he and the estate seem to be reverting to some less pretentious earlier natural condition. After being in constant motion physically and mentally for the most part of the novel, he is finally seen at rest in a hammock, contemplating the night sky.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142437298, Paperback)

A novel complex, compelling, absurd and realistic, Herzog became a classic almost as soon as it was published in 1964. In it Saul Bellow tells the tale of Moses E. Herzog, a tragically confused intellectual who suffers from the breakup of his second marriage, the general failure of his life and the specter of growing up Jewish in the middle part of the 20th century. He responds to his personal crisis by sending out a series of letters to all kinds of people. The letters in total constitute a thoughtful examination of his own life and that which has occurred around him. What emerges is not always pretty, but serves as gritty foundation for this absorbing novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:34 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A suffering and persecuted intellectual, Moses E. Herzog passively accepts the disasters of his private and public affairs in an effort to survive modern civilization.

» see all 7 descriptions

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