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Saul Bellow , (born June 10, 1915, Lachine , near Montreal, Quebec , Canada—died April 5, 2005, Brookline , Massachusetts , U.S.), American novelist whose characterizations of modern urban man, disaffected by society but not destroyed in spirit, earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976. Brought up in a Jewish household and fluent in Yiddish—which influenced his energetic English style—he was representative of the Jewish American writers whose works became central to American literature after World War II .

Bellow’s parents emigrated in 1913 from Russia to Montreal. When he was nine they moved to Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern University (B.S., 1937) and afterward combined writing with a teaching career at various universities, including the University of Minnesota , Princeton University , New York University , Bard College , the University of Chicago, and Boston University .

Bellow won a reputation among a small group of readers with his first two novels, Dangling Man (1944), a story in diary form of a man waiting to be inducted into the army, and The Victim (1947), a subtle study of the relationship between a Jew and a Gentile, each of whom becomes the other’s victim. The Adventures of Augie March (1953) brought wider acclaim and won a National Book Award (1954). It is a picaresque story of a poor Jewish youth from Chicago, his progress—sometimes highly comic—through the world of the 20th century, and his attempts to make sense of it. In this novel Bellow employed for the first time a loose, breezy style in conscious revolt against the preoccupation of writers of that time with perfection of form.

Henderson the Rain King

Henderson the Rain King (1959) continued the picaresque approach in its tale of an eccentric American millionaire on a quest in Africa. Seize the Day (1956), a novella , is a unique treatment of a failure in a society where the only success is success. He also wrote a volume of short stories, Mosby’s Memoirs (1968), and To Jerusalem and Back (1976) about a trip to Israel.

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In his later novels and novellas— Herzog (1964; National Book Award, 1965), Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970; National Book Award, 1971), Humboldt’s Gift (1975; Pulitzer Prize , 1976), The Dean’s December (1982), More Die of Heartbreak (1987), A Theft (1989), The Bellarosa Connection (1989), and The Actual (1997)—Bellow arrived at his most characteristic vein. The heroes of these works are often Jewish intellectuals whose interior monologues range from the sublime to the absurd. At the same time, their surrounding world, peopled by energetic and incorrigible realists, acts as a corrective to their intellectual speculations. It is this combination of cultural sophistication and the wisdom of the streets that constitutes Bellow’s greatest originality. In Ravelstein (2000) he presented a fictional version of the life of teacher and philosopher Allan Bloom . Five years after Bellow’s death, more than 700 of his letters, edited by Benjamin Taylor, were published in Saul Bellow: Letters (2010).

This article was most recently revised and updated by Kathleen Kuiper , Senior Editor.Learn More in these related Britannica articles:
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American literature: Realism and metafiction
> Saul Bellow tapped into the buoyant, manic energy and picaresque structure of black humour while proclaiming the necessity of “being human.” Though few contemporary writers saw the ugliness of urban life more clearly than Bellow, his central characters rejected the “Wasteland outlook” that he associated…
Humboldt's Gift
> Saul Bellow , published in 1975. The novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1976, is a self-described “comic book about death” whose title character is modeled on the self-destructive lyric poet Delmore Schwartz.…
> Saul Bellow , published in 1964. The work was awarded the National Book Award for fiction in 1965.…
newsletter icon History at your fingertips Thank you for subscribing!Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Britannica 1st Edition Saul BellowQuick FactsbornJune 10, 1915 Lachine , Canada diedApril 5, 2005 (aged 89) Brookline , Massachusetts notable works “Humboldt’s Gift” “Herzog” “Mr. Sammler’s Planet” “Henderson the Rain King” “Seize the Day” “The Adventures of Augie March” “The Victim” “Dangling Man” “Ravelstein” awards and honors Pulitzer Prize (1976) Nobel Prize (1976) National Book Award (1971) National Book Award (1965) National Book Award (1954)Saul BellowAdditional Information Amercian Society of Authors and Writers - Biography of Saul Bellow The Nobel Prize - Biography of Saul Bellow Jewish Virtual Library - Biography of Saul Bellow Britannica WebsitesArticles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Saul Bellow - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up) Load Next Article Inspire your inbox – Sign up for daily fun facts about this day in history, updates, and special offers. Thank you for subscribing!Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox.Stay Connected Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Pinterest Newsletters About Us & Legal Info California Explicit Notice Partner Program Contact Us Privacy Notice Terms of Use Your preference has been recorded Our best content from the original Encyclopaedia Britannica available when you subscribe! Britannica First Edition
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