From the age of 49, when the publication of Herzog in 1964 made him rich as well as famous, Saul Bellow was the most acclaimed novelist in America, the winner of three National Book Awards, the Pulitzer prize, the Formentor prize, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters gold medal for fiction. He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1976 and was made Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French. For Philip Roth, Bellow stands with William Faulkner as “the sturdy backbone of 20th-century American literature”, with a prose style “as rich and roiling as Melville’s”. James Wood has called him “the greatest of American prose stylists in the 20th century”, a view he characterises as “relatively uncontroversial”. Ten years after his death, all of Bellow’s books are in print and his reputation remains undiminished. In addition to Herzog, chief among his critical and commercial successes are The Adventures of Augie March (1953), Seize the Day (1956), Henderson the Rain King (1959), Mr Sammler’s Planet (1970), Humboldt’s Gift (1975) and Ravelstein (2000), published when he was 85. When asked which of Bellow’s works to start with, however, I… Read full this story
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