The New York Times, 1970
Mr. Sammler's Planetby Saul Bellow
Mr. Artur Sammler is, above all, a man who has lasted, from the civilized pleasures of English life in the 1920s and 30s through the war and death camps in Poland. Moving now through the chaotic and dangerous streets of New York's Upper West Side, Mr. Sammler is attentive to everything, appalled by nothing. He brings the same dispassionate curiosity to the
Mr. Artur Sammler is, above all, a man who has lasted, from the civilized pleasures of English life in the 1920s and 30s through the war and death camps in Poland. Moving now through the chaotic and dangerous streets of New York's Upper West Side, Mr. Sammler is attentive to everything, appalled by nothing. He brings the same dispassionate curiosity to the activities of a black pickpocket on an uptown bus, the details of his niece Angela's sex life, and his daughter's lunacy as he does to the extraordinary theories of one Dr. V. Govinda Lal on the use we are to make of the moon now that we have reached it.
The New York Times, 1970
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Meet the Author
Saul Bellow was praised for his vision, his ear for detail, his humor, and the masterful artistry of his prose. Born of Russian Jewish parents in Lachine, Quebec in 1915, he 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); Ravelstein (2000); and, most recently, Collected Stories(2001). 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 include 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."
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.
- Date of Birth:
- June 10, 1915
- Date of Death:
- April 5, 2005
- Place of Birth:
- Lachine, Quebec, Canada
- Place of Death:
- Brookline, Massachusetts
- University of Chicago, 1933-35; B.S., Northwestern University, 1937
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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?
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.
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
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.
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.