Saul Bellow was an American novelist and The Nobel Prize in Literature winner, widely regarded as one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. He was born on June 10, 1915, in Lachine, Quebec, Canada, to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents.
Bellow’s family moved to Chicago when he was a child, and he grew up in the city’s ethnically diverse West Side. He attended the University of Chicago, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in anthropology and sociology in 1937, and later received his master’s degree in anthropology in 1939. During this time, he began writing fiction and published his first story, “Two Morning Monologues,” in Partisan Review in 1941.
Bellow’s literary career took off in the 1950s, with the publication of his first major novel, The Adventures of Augie March, in 1953. The novel tells the story of a young man’s coming of age in Depression-era Chicago and was a critical and commercial success. Bellow went on to write several more acclaimed novels, including Henderson the Rain King (1959), Herzog (1964), and Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970), which won the National Book Award.
In OVID’s opinion, Herzog is Bellow’s finest achivement. In this literary masterpiece, Bellolw explores the complexities of the human experience. Through the story of Moses Herzog, a man struggling to come to terms with his life and the world around him, Bellow delves into the themes of reason versus emotion and the search for meaning in life. Rich in language and memorable characters, Herzog is a novel that grapples with the big questions of existence, while also immersing the readers in a compelling and entertaining story.
Bellow’s writing is known for its intellectual depth, philosophical musings, and vivid characters, often drawing on his own experiences as a Jewish-American and his interest in existentialism. His work also explores themes of identity, morality, and the human condition, and is often set against the backdrop of mid-20th century America.
In addition to his novels, Bellow was a prolific essayist and wrote on a wide range of topics, including literature, politics, and culture. His essays were collected in several volumes, including It All Adds Up (1994) and To Jerusalem and Back (1976), which chronicles his journey to Israel in 1975.
Bellow was awarded numerous honors throughout his career, and the major ones are:
- Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1976) – Bellow won this award for his novel “Humboldt’s Gift.”
- National Book Award for Fiction (1954, 1965, and 1971) – Bellow won this award three times, for his novels “The Adventures of Augie March,” “Herzog,” and “Mr. Sammler’s Planet.”
- National Medal of Arts (1988) – Bellow received this award from President Ronald Reagan in recognition of his contributions to American literature.
- American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Fiction (1979) – Bellow was awarded this medal in recognition of his distinguished career as a writer.
- Nobel Prize in Literature (1976) – Bellow was awarded the Nobel for his “human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture.”
Bellow also received many other awards and honors throughout his career, including the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (1990) and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (1993). He was also a two-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
Bellow died on April 5, 2005, at the age of 89, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is remembered as one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century.
Bellow’s books OVID recommends:
Saul Bellow was married five times. His first wife was Anita Goshkin, whom he married in 1937 and divorced in 1951. They had three children together.
His second wife was Alexandra Ionescu Tulcea, whom he married in 1956 and divorced in 1961. They had one child together.
Bellow’s third wife was Susan Glassman, whom he married in 1961 and divorced in 1971. They had one child together.
In 1974, Bellow married Alexandra Bagdasar Ionescu Tulcea again, but they divorced a second time in 1985.
Bellow’s fifth and final marriage was to Janis Freedman, whom he married in 1989. They remained married until Bellow’s death in 2005.
Bellow’s Literary Friendships
Philip Roth: Bellow and Roth were both major figures in American literature and mutual admirers of each other’s work. They often discussed their writing and shared ideas and feedback with each other.
John Cheever: Bellow and Cheever were close friends and corresponded frequently. They often exchanged ideas about writing and shared stories about their personal lives.
Bernard Malamud: Bellow and Malamud were both Jewish-American writers who explored similar themes in their work. They often discussed their writing and shared feedback with each other.
Ralph Ellison: Bellow and Ellison were both influential African-American writers who explored the experiences of racial and ethnic minorities in their work. They corresponded frequently and shared ideas and feedback with each other.
Allan Bloom: Bellow and Bloom were close friends and intellectual collaborators. They often discussed philosophy and literature and shared ideas and feedback on their writing.