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Ravelstein (2000)

by Saul Bellow

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,542149,402 (3.48)50
Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously-and much beyond his means. His close friend Chick has suggested that he put forth a book of his convictions about the ideas which sustain humankind, or kill it, and much to Ravelstein's own surprise, he does and becomes a millionaire. Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a memoir or a life of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, loves and friends, old and new, and vaudeville routines from the remote past. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the Midwest and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies. Deeply insightful and always moving, Saul Bellow's new novel is a journey through love and memory. It is brave, dark, and bleakly funny: an elegy to friendship and to lives well (or badly) lived.… (more)
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English (13)  Spanish (1)  All languages (14)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Well-written but a little too narrow. ( )
  Kate.Koeze | Apr 15, 2022 |
Initially I thought this was a book with a limited appeal, mainly concerned with intellectual ideas but it broadened out into a colourful picture of an individual (based on Allan Bloom) in the shadow of mortality. I admired aspects of The Closing of The American Mind so I was sympathetic to him but less admirable was his lavish lifestyle and vanity. But he was a complex man and Bellow shows him as a charismatic personality who drew acolytes aswell as enemies. Along with the heavy-hitting philosophy there's plenty of gossip and probably contentious views on figures like Radu Grielescu and his anti-Semitic past (based on Mircea Eliade). Based on this I'd read more Bellow. His mixture of the 'high and 'low' culture is appealing though initially it felt like he was throwing the 'common reader' a bone. ( )
  Kevinred | Oct 8, 2021 |
En la vida de Saul Bellow su relación con el filósofo Allan Bloom fue decisiva. Tanto que en esta novela Bloom se convierte en Abe Ravelstein, un brillante profesor universitario que, gracias al éxito de su revolucionario libro, se convierte en un intelectual millonario. Pasión y conocimiento se unen en esta deslumbrante narración.
En el Hotel Crillon de París, Abe Ravelstein y su amigo Chick celebran, entre lujos y excentricidades, el éxito del revolucionario libro del primero. Tras años como brillante profesor universitario, con un salario que no le permitía alcanzar la vida hedonista y fastuosa que tanto deseaba, Ravelstein se ha convertido por fin en un intelectual millonario. Así se inicia la travesía por las emociones y las ideas de estos dos fascinantes personajes, que recorren en sus valientes conversaciones temas como el amor, la historia, la política y el humor.
  ArchivoPietro | Oct 24, 2020 |
When it was published critics called it one of Bellow's "minor" books. I disagree. It's softer and subtler than Augie March or Henderson the Rain King, but the narrative exuberance here is unsurpassed even by Bellow himself in earlier decades. Because the book is at its heart the story of friendship between two men who loved one another, Bellow's inability to write about women except in a misogynistic way is a minor flaw in this particular book, one that barely registered for me here, even though the same flaw made Herzog impossible going for me. Ok, I can do without women flaunting their pudenda in their ex-husband's faces as a mean way of saying goodbye, a scene that happens in Ravelstein, and in at least one other Bellow book. Augie March, I think. But even so. While reading Ravelstein I could forgive these trespasses, because I was swept along by the life force of these two main characters, Chick and Ravelstein. I was captivated by the depth of their friendship, and I was moved by this clear-headed, thoughtful, beautiful exploration of their own mortality as it played out in these pages. Only Henderson the Rain King came close for me to Ravelstein's moving and deep a portrayal of friendship and mortality. ( )
1 vote poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
I’m not entirely convinced that the roman à clef is a worthy vehicle for a great writer. And there is little doubt that Saul Bellow is a great writer. Nor is there much doubt that numerous characters in his novels have been modelled directly on people he knew intimately, friend and foe. However, only a few of his novels so explicitly take up this correspondence with the non-fictional that they typically get labelled in this manner. Ravelstein, Bellow’s last novel, is one of these. In it, he sketches the larger-than-life character of a professor by the name of Ravelstein, who is a thinly disguised stand-in for Bellow’s friend, Allan Bloom. These are Ravelstein’s last days. He is HIV-positive, subject to numerous rare and unrelenting infections, but determined to see his way out of the world in much the way that he lived in it: unapologetic, highly opinionated, self-centred (in every sense), and fiercely devoted to his close friends. It took Bellow some eight years after the death of Bloom to pen this fictionalized memoir. In the interim he himself came perilously close to death. And so the book as a whole became as much a meditation on death as it is a depiction of one particular death.

At least part of the novel holds up well. In particular, the first section, which was published as a standalone in The New Yorker, is tightly written and full of the flamboyance that ever after gets associated with Ravelstein (and now Bloom). Thereafter the novel begins to unravel. Arguments and anecdotes re-emerge almost without change from their first mention. It begins to seem like Bellow is circling his subject but can’t quite lock it down. He meanders. He is subject to only periodic lucidity. He falters under the weight of the burden that his friend has laid upon him in requesting that he take up this biographical task. Maybe it’s all a brilliant representation of decline. Or, less charitably, it might simply be a less than fully edited effort. At some point, at any rate, I began to lose interest both in the subject, i.e. death, and in the subject, i.e. Ravelstein.

Any writer who lasts as long as Bellow will produce works of varying quality. Fortunately there are many other titles in his oeuvre that will capture, challenge, and delight the reader even if this is not one of them. ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | Mar 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
American English departments have proven themselves unworthy stewards of what is noble in human nature, in the great public.
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Saul Bellowprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jonkers, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
A la bella donna della mia mente.
To Janis,
The Star without whom I could not navigate.
And to the real Rosie.
First words
Odd that mankind's benefactors should be amusing people.
Quotations
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Presto la vita sarebbe tornata, e io avrei preso posto sul treno della vita. La morte si sarebbe rincantucciata dov'era prima, ai bordi del paesaggio. Il desiderio del paziente è di tornare - strisciando, zoppicando o arrangiandosi in tutti i modi - alla vita che precedeva la malattia, e di trincerarsi e fortificarsi nella vecchia posizione.
Ravelstein era un educatore. Non si presentava mai come un filosofo: i professori di filosofia non sono dei filosofi. Aveva una preparazione filosofica e aveva imparato come la vita dovrebbe essere vissuta. Di questo si occupava la filosofia, e questo era il motivo per cui si leggeva Platone. Se avesse dovuto scegliere tra Atene e Gerusalemme, le due fonti principali di vita superiore, avrebbe scelto Atene, pur con tutto il rispetto per Gerusalemme. Ma negli ultimi giorni era degli ebrei che voleva parlare, non dei greci.
Ho sempre avuto un debole per le note a piè di pagina. Più di un testo , secondo me, è stato riscattato da un 'intelligente o perfida nota a piè di pagine.
Per avvicinarsi a un uomo come Ravelstein il metodo migliore forse è farlo a spizzichi.
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Pre-publication/working title: Case of Love
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously-and much beyond his means. His close friend Chick has suggested that he put forth a book of his convictions about the ideas which sustain humankind, or kill it, and much to Ravelstein's own surprise, he does and becomes a millionaire. Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a memoir or a life of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, loves and friends, old and new, and vaudeville routines from the remote past. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the Midwest and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies. Deeply insightful and always moving, Saul Bellow's new novel is a journey through love and memory. It is brave, dark, and bleakly funny: an elegy to friendship and to lives well (or badly) lived.

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