Saul Bellow quotes

Saul Bellow photo
103   1

Saul Bellow

Birthdate: 10. June 1915
Date of death: 5. April 2005
Other names: სოლ ბელოუ, سال بلو

Saul Bellow was a Canadian-American writer. For his literary work, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts. He is the only writer to win the National Book Award for Fiction three times and he received the National Book Foundation's lifetime Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 1990.In the words of the Swedish Nobel Committee, his writing exhibited "the mixture of rich picaresque novel and subtle analysis of our culture, of entertaining adventure, drastic and tragic episodes in quick succession interspersed with philosophic conversation, all developed by a commentator with a witty tongue and penetrating insight into the outer and inner complications that drive us to act, or prevent us from acting, and that can be called the dilemma of our age." His best-known works include The Adventures of Augie March, Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, Mr. Sammler's Planet, Seize the Day, Humboldt's Gift and Ravelstein. Bellow was widely regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest authors.Bellow said that of all his characters, Eugene Henderson, of Henderson the Rain King, was the one most like himself. Bellow grew up as an immigrant from Quebec. As Christopher Hitchens describes it, Bellow's fiction and principal characters reflect his own yearning for transcendence, a battle "to overcome not just ghetto conditions but also ghetto psychoses." Bellow's protagonists, in one shape or another, all wrestle with what Albert Corde, the dean in The Dean's December, called "the big-scale insanities of the 20th century." This transcendence of the "unutterably dismal" is achieved, if it can be achieved at all, through a "ferocious assimilation of learning" and an emphasis on nobility. Wikipedia

Works

„There is no need to make an inventory of the times. It is demoralizing to describe ourselves to ourselves yet again.“

—  Saul Bellow

"Mozart: An Overture" (1992), pp. 13-14
It All Adds Up (1994)
Context: There is no need to make an inventory of the times. It is demoralizing to describe ourselves to ourselves yet again. It is especially hard on us since we believe (as we have been educated to believe) that history has formed us and that we are all mini-summaries of the present age.

„You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.“

—  Saul Bellow

As quoted in The #1 New York Times Bestseller (1992) by John Bear, p. 93
General sources

„Human beings can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.“

—  Saul Bellow, book Him with His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories

"Him with His Foot in His Mouth," from Him with His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories (1984) [Penguin Classics, 1998, ISBN 0-141-18023-4], p. 11
General sources

„This is what makes packaged opinion so attractive.“

—  Saul Bellow

"There Is Simply Too Much to Think About" (1992), pp. 173-174
It All Adds Up (1994)
Context: There is simply too much to think about. It is hopeless — too many kinds of special preparation are required. In electronics, in economics, in social analysis, in history, in psychology, in international politics, most of us are, given the oceanic proliferating complexity of things, paralyzed by the very suggestion that we assume responsibility for so much. This is what makes packaged opinion so attractive.

„Out of the struggle at the center has come an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are and what this life is for.“

—  Saul Bellow

Nobel Prize lecture http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1976/bellow-lecture.html (12 December 1976)
General sources
Context: Writers are greatly respected. The intelligent public is wonderfully patient with them, continues to read them, and endures disappointment after disappointment, waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, social theory, and what it cannot hear from pure science. Out of the struggle at the center has come an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are and what this life is for.

„A novel is balanced between a few true impressions and the multitude of false ones that make up most of what we call life.“

—  Saul Bellow

Nobel Prize lecture (12 December 1976)
General sources
Context: A novel is balanced between a few true impressions and the multitude of false ones that make up most of what we call life. It tells us that for every human being there is a diversity of existences, that the single existence is itself an illusion in part, that these many existences signify something, tend to something, fulfill something; it promises us meaning, harmony, and even justice.

„In the greatest confusion there is still an open channel to the soul.“

—  Saul Bellow

Foreword to The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (1987)
General sources
Context: In the greatest confusion there is still an open channel to the soul. It may be difficult to find because by midlife it is overgrown, and some of the wildest thickets that surround it grow out of what we describe as our education. But the channel is always there, and it is our business to keep it open, to have access to the deepest part of ourselves.

„The soul has to find and hold its ground against hostile forces, sometimes embodied in ideas which frequently deny its very existence, and which indeed often seem to be trying to annul it altogether.“

—  Saul Bellow

Source: Introduction to The Closing of the American Mind (1988), pp. 16-17
Context: In the greatest confusion there is still an open channel to the soul. It may be difficult to find because by midlife it is overgrown, and some of the wildest thickets that surround it grow out of what we describe as our education. But the channel is always there, and it is our business to keep it open, to have access to the deepest part of ourselves—to that part of us which is conscious. … The independence of this consciousness, which has the strength to be immune to the noise of history and the distractions of our immediate surroundings, is what the life struggle is all about. The soul has to find and hold its ground against hostile forces, sometimes embodied in ideas which frequently deny its very existence, and which indeed often seem to be trying to annul it altogether.

Help us translate English quotes

Discover interesting quotes and translate them.

Start translating

„In an age of enormities, the emotions are naturally weakened.“

—  Saul Bellow

"The Distracted Public" (1990), p. 156
It All Adds Up (1994)
Context: In an age of enormities, the emotions are naturally weakened. We are continually called upon to have feelings — about genocide, for instance, or about famine or the blowing up of passenger planes — and we are all aware that we are incapable of reacting appropriately. A guilty consciousness of emotional inadequacy or impotence makes people doubt their own human weight.

„We do not make up history and culture. We simply appear, not by our own choice.“

—  Saul Bellow

Great Jewish Short Stories, introduction to the Dell paperback edition (1963)
General sources
Context: We are all such accidents. We do not make up history and culture. We simply appear, not by our own choice. We make what we can of our condition with the means available. We must accept the mixture as we find it — the impurity of it, the tragedy of it, the hope of it.

„The sounds of junk culture are heard over a ground bass of extremism. Our entertainments swarm with specters of world crisis. Nothing moderate can have any claim to our attention.“

—  Saul Bellow

"A Second Half Life" (1991), p. 326
It All Adds Up (1994)
Context: Much of junk culture has a core of crisis — shoot-outs, conflagrations, bodies weltering in blood, naked embracers or rapist-stranglers. The sounds of junk culture are heard over a ground bass of extremism. Our entertainments swarm with specters of world crisis. Nothing moderate can have any claim to our attention.

„The principles of Western liberalism seem no longer to lend themselves to effective action. Deprived of the expressive power, we are awed by it, have a hunger for it, and are afraid of it.“

—  Saul Bellow

"Literary Notes on Khrushchev" (1961), p. 36
It All Adds Up (1994)
Context: The principles of Western liberalism seem no longer to lend themselves to effective action. Deprived of the expressive power, we are awed by it, have a hunger for it, and are afraid of it. Thus we praise the gray dignity of our soft-spoken leaders, but in our hearts we are suckers for passionate outbursts, even when those passionate outbursts are hypocritical and falsely motivated.

„There's something that remains barbarous in educated people, and lately I've more and more had the feeling that we are nonwondering primitives.“

—  Saul Bellow

"A Half Life" (1990), pp. 302-303
It All Adds Up (1994)
Context: There's something that remains barbarous in educated people, and lately I've more and more had the feeling that we are nonwondering primitives. And why is it that we no longer marvel at these technological miracles? They've become the external facts of every life. We've all been to the university, we've had introductory courses in everything, and therefore we have persuaded ourselves that if we had the time to apply ourselves to these scientific marvels, we would understand them. But of course that's an illusion. It couldn't happen. Even among people who have had careers in science. They know no more about how it all works than we do. So we are in the position of savage men who, however, have been educated into believing that they are capable of understanding everything. Not that we actually do understand, but that we have the capacity.

„Writers, poets, painters, musicians, philosophers, political thinkers, to name only a few of the categories affected, must woo their readers, viewers, listeners, from distraction.“

—  Saul Bellow

"The Distracted Public" (1990), p. 167
It All Adds Up (1994)
Context: Writers, poets, painters, musicians, philosophers, political thinkers, to name only a few of the categories affected, must woo their readers, viewers, listeners, from distraction. To this we must add, for simple realism demands it, that these same writers, painters, etc., are themselves the children of distraction. As such, they are peculiarly qualified to approach the distracted multitudes. They will have experienced the seductions as well as the destructiveness of the forces we have been considering here. This is the destructive element in which we do not need to be summoned to immerse ourselves, for we were born to it.

„It is risky in a book of ideas to speak in one’s own voice, but it reminds us that the sources of the truest truths are inevitably profoundly personal.“

—  Saul Bellow

Source: Introduction to The Closing of the American Mind (1988), p. 12
Context: As a scholar [Allan Bloom] intends to enlighten us, and as a writer he has learned from Aristophanes and other models that enlightenment should also be enjoyable. To me, this is not the book of a professor, but that of a thinker who is willing to take the risks more frequently taken by writers. It is risky in a book of ideas to speak in one’s own voice, but it reminds us that the sources of the truest truths are inevitably profoundly personal. … Academics, even those describing themselves as existentialists, very seldom offer themselves publicly and frankly as individuals, as persons.

„So we are in the position of savage men who, however, have been educated into believing that they are capable of understanding everything. Not that we actually do understand, but that we have the capacity.“

—  Saul Bellow

"A Half Life" (1990), pp. 302-303
It All Adds Up (1994)
Context: There's something that remains barbarous in educated people, and lately I've more and more had the feeling that we are nonwondering primitives. And why is it that we no longer marvel at these technological miracles? They've become the external facts of every life. We've all been to the university, we've had introductory courses in everything, and therefore we have persuaded ourselves that if we had the time to apply ourselves to these scientific marvels, we would understand them. But of course that's an illusion. It couldn't happen. Even among people who have had careers in science. They know no more about how it all works than we do. So we are in the position of savage men who, however, have been educated into believing that they are capable of understanding everything. Not that we actually do understand, but that we have the capacity.

„A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.“

—  Saul Bellow

Compare: It’s a point so blindingly obvious that only an extraordinarily clever and sophisticated person could fail to grasp it.
John Bercow, 2016.
General sources
Variant: There is no limit to the amount of intelligence invested in ignorance when the need for illusion runs deep.
Source: To Jerusalem and Back: A Personal Account (1976), p. 127

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

Similar authors

Alice Munro photo
Alice Munro38
Canadian novelist
William Faulkner photo
William Faulkner214
American writer
Pearl S.  Buck photo
Pearl S. Buck95
American writer
Isaac Bashevis Singer photo
Isaac Bashevis Singer39
Polish-born Jewish-American author
John Steinbeck photo
John Steinbeck367
American writer
Joseph E. Stiglitz photo
Joseph E. Stiglitz39
American economist and professor, born 1943.
Selma Lagerlöf photo
Selma Lagerlöf3
Swedish female writer
Elias Canetti photo
Elias Canetti43
Bulgarian-born Swiss and British jewish modernist novelist,…
Hermann Hesse photo
Hermann Hesse166
German writer
Naguib Mahfouz photo
Naguib Mahfouz7
Egyptian writer
Today anniversaries
Rollo May photo
Rollo May130
US psychiatrist 1909 - 1994
Timothy Leary photo
Timothy Leary54
American psychologist 1920 - 1996
Franz Liszt photo
Franz Liszt5
Hungarian romantic composer and virtuoso pianist 1811 - 1886
Louis Riel photo
Louis Riel28
Canadian politician 1844 - 1885
Another 71 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Alice Munro photo
Alice Munro38
Canadian novelist
William Faulkner photo
William Faulkner214
American writer
Pearl S.  Buck photo
Pearl S. Buck95
American writer
Isaac Bashevis Singer photo
Isaac Bashevis Singer39
Polish-born Jewish-American author
John Steinbeck photo
John Steinbeck367
American writer