Mr. Sammler's Planet

( 6 )


“An enduring testament and prophecy.” –Chicago Sun-Times

Mr. Artur Sammler, Holocaust survivor, intellectual, and occasional lecturer at Columbia University in 1960s New York City, is a “registrar of madness,” a refined and civilized being caught among people crazy with the promises of the future (moon landings, endless possibilities).  His Cyclopean gaze reflects on the degradations of city life while looking deep into the sufferings of the human soul.  “Sorry for all...

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“An enduring testament and prophecy.” –Chicago Sun-Times

Mr. Artur Sammler, Holocaust survivor, intellectual, and occasional lecturer at Columbia University in 1960s New York City, is a “registrar of madness,” a refined and civilized being caught among people crazy with the promises of the future (moon landings, endless possibilities).  His Cyclopean gaze reflects on the degradations of city life while looking deep into the sufferings of the human soul.  “Sorry for all and sore at heart,” he observes how greater luxury and leisure have only led to more human suffering. To Mr. Sammler—who by the end of this ferociously unsentimental novel has found the compassionate consciousness necessary to bridge the gap between himself and his fellow beings—a good life is one in which a person does what is “required of him.” To know and to meet the “terms of the contract” was as true a life as one could live.  At its heart, this novel is quintessential Bellow: moral, urbane, sublimely humane.

This Penguin Classics edition features an introduction by Stanley Crouch.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The most important writer in English in the second half of the twentieth century…Bellow’s oeuvre is both timeless and ruthlessly contemporary.” –Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times (London)
Anatole Broyard
In this book, Bellow has succeeded in doing something he never quite managed before--or at least not quite so successfully. He has created a character who embodies his ideas, who serves, in fact, as his spokesman, yet remains convincing in his own right. Sammler is more than the sum of Bellow's parts. Where Augie March, Henderson and Herzog were brilliant, Sammler is brilliantly human.
— The New York Times, 1970
Bryan Appleyard
The most important writer in the second half of the twentieth century...Bellow's oevre is both timeless and ruthlessly contemporary. -- Sunday Times of London
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142437834
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/6/2004
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 378,795
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow is the author of twelve novels and numerous novellas and stories. He has received three National Book Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Book Award Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American letters.

Stanley Crouch's books include Notes of a Hanging Judge, The All-American Skin Game (Nominated for the National Book Award), and a novel, Don't the Moon Look Lonesome. He has received the Whiting Writer's Award and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award.


Praised for his vision, his ear for detail, his humor, and the masterful artistry of his prose, Saul Bellow was born of Russian Jewish parents in Lachine, Quebec in 1915, and was raised in Chicago. He received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, and did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin. During the Second World War he served in the Merchant Marines.

His first two novels, Dangling Man (1944) and The Victim (1947) are penetrating, Kafka-like psychological studies. In 1948 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent two years in Paris and traveling in Europe, where he began his picaresque novel The Adventures of Augie March, which went on to win the National Book Award for fiction in 1954. His later books of fiction include Seize the Day (1956); Henderson the Rain King (1959); Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories (1968); Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970); Humboldt's Gift (1975), which won the Pulitzer Prize; The Dean's December (1982); More Die of Heartbreak (1987);Theft (1988); The Bellarosa Connection (1989); The Actual (1996); and, most recently, Ravelstein (2000). Bellow has also produced a prolific amount of non-fiction, collected in To Jerusalem and Back, a personal and literary record of his sojourn in Israel during several months in 1975, and It All Adds Up, a collection of memoirs and essays.

Bellow's many awards included the International Literary Prize for Herzog, for which he became the first American to receive the prize; the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, the highest literary distinction awarded by France to non-citizens; the B'nai B'rith Jewish Heritage Award for "excellence in Jewish Literature"; and America's Democratic Legacy Award of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the first time this award has been made to a literary personage. In 1976 Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work."

Bellow passed away on April 5, 2005 at the age of 89.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Solomon Bellow (real name)
      Saul Bellow
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 10, 1915
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lachine, Quebec, Canada
    1. Date of Death:
      April 5, 2005
    2. Place of Death:
      Brookline, Massachusetts

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 3, 2011

    Highly recommended

    Seeing the world through the eyes of Mr Sammler. a 70 year old Jew living in New York City, opens the reader's eyes to see his experience of the world in which he lives. Mr Sammler's interpretation of his world, from Holocaust in Germany to multi-cultural America, challenges the reader to examine cultural norms. As Mr. Sammler seeks his meaning and place in the world the reader is invited to consider the same. Do we accept only what we see, or consider there may be more that we do not see? What is the nature of the planet we live on?

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  • Posted March 26, 2009

    Wolfram Kandinsky, your mother is calling

    I may go back and read the book, but the audio version was insufferable. The reader's style fairly dripped with smug self-importance that overlaid the whole book. What a smart aleck! Yet the book, too, was jammed with page after page of endless lists and intellectual confetti that didn't so much build the characters as fluff Bellow's ego. On and on he went, ricocheting like a rabid dog, throwing in every thought he'd ever had on every subject under the sun. Next to him, Henry Miller wrote haiku.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2005

    His own epitaph

    I read this book when I had to - it was assigned as a text in a American intellectual history class I took in college in 1974 - but it moved me, nevertheless. I have gone back to it since and, if anything, it reads even better now. The anti-1960's topical crankiness has a different context now, and you can appreciate the intelligence and the characters more. Most important, though, I challenge anyone to read the last page and not have their breathing stop for just a moment. It is, to me, the most heart-felt comment on the human condition I have read in American literature. And now that Bellow is gone, it reads to me poignantly as if it were his own commentary on a life well-lived

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2003

    Saul Bellow's Planet

    Having enjoyed Humboldt's Gift I imagined Mr. Sammler's Planet would be half as enjoyable at least. Instead I was amazed. The book, in short, deals with the end of the 20th century, survival, New York, The Holocaust, man's obligation to one another and obligation to family. There's plenty of comic mishaps and eccentric, intellectuals but I was impressed with the heart of the story. The heart belongs, of course, to Mr. Sammler. Seeing a modern, mixed-up New York through the eyes of a Polish Holocaust survivor was truly enlightening. I was surprised by how much heart the book truly had. A wonderful read for anyone who enjoys great prose, great ideas and a heightened way of looking at the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2003

    Not the best Bellow

    This is Bellow's most grumpy book. Its whole tone and feeling is of disenchantment with life, and anger with the mess of a civilization we live in. West Side New York is shown at its Needle Park worst. As it is Bellow however it also filled with profound reflections and much ironic humor. It is certainly worth reading, but it is far from his best. For that you must go to 'Seize the Day' ' Herzog 'and various parts of many of his other works.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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