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23 - Saul Bellow

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2012

Timothy Parrish
Affiliation:
Florida State University
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Summary

When Saul Bellow’s (1915–2005) Artur Sammler, Holocaust survivor, transplanted “refugee in Manhattan,” wonders, “Is our species crazy?” he can only reply, with the absolute conviction born of experience and observation: “Plenty of evidence.” Artur Sammler, the protagonist of Bellow’s novel Mr. Sammler’s Planet, published serially in 1969 in the Atlantic Monthly and in book form in 1970, is a man betrayed by history. He is a Jew who barely escaped the Holocaust with only one good eye, the other “struck … by a gun butt and blinded” (SP 137). He is a man who, condemned to die, “clawed his way out” of the mass grave that he was forced to dig, emerging while his wife and others “had been buried alive” (SP 273). Having dug his way, “inside death,” Sammler inexplicably resurfaces, literally scrambling from the grave that was not yet to be his (SP 273). And then, with the eventuality of inexorable oddity, by way of a displaced persons (DP) camp in Salzburg, the bewildered Sammler, resurrected from the grave, finds himself reassigned to America, “advertised throughout the universe as the most desirable, most exemplary of all nations” (SP 14). It is here in America that, far from the European nightmare of Sammler’s ever-receding past, the unimaginable might finally be imagined. Having thus survived, Sammler finds himself in America in the midst of a century that has seen, in Bellow’s own words, “a crime so vast that it brings all Being into Judgment.” And Sammler, “separated from the rest of his species, if not in some fashion severed,” must come to grips with his reconstructed life, must attempt to reinvent himself by negotiating “the charm, the ebullient glamour, the almost unbearable agitation that came from being able to describe oneself as a twentieth-century American” (SP 43, 73).

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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References

Aarons, Victoria. “Saul Bellow.” Critical Insights, ed. Chavkin, Allan, Pasadena, Calif., Salem Press, 2011.Google Scholar
“A Half Life: An Autobiography of Ideas,” Bostonia/1990, November/December 1990, 37–47.
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Bach, Gerhard (ed.), Saul Bellow at Seventy-Five: A Collection of Critical Essays, Tubingen, Gunter Narr, 1991.
Bellow, Saul, “Interview with Myself,” New Review 2.18 (1975): 53–6.Google Scholar
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Goldman, L. H., Cronin, Gloria L., and Aharoni, Ada (eds.), Saul Bellow: A Mosaic, Twentieth-Century American Jewish Writers 3, ed. Daniel Walden, New York, Peter Lang, 1992.
“Introduction.” Great Jewish Short Stories, ed. Bellow, Saul, New York, Dell, 1963.
Kremer, S. Lillian, “Saul Bellow.” Holocaust Literature: An Encyclopedia of Writers and Their Work, Vol. 1, ed. Lillian Kremer, S., New York, Routledge, 2003, pp. 124–34.Google Scholar
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  • Saul Bellow
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.024
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  • Saul Bellow
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.024
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Saul Bellow
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.024
Available formats
×