Saul Bellow was born in 1915 in the Montreal suburb of Lachine, Quebec. As a child, his family moved to Chicago, which would become the setting of many of his books. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1937. He became an American citizen in 1941 and served in the Merchant Marines during World War II.
He published his first novel, Dangling Man, in 1944, and his second, The Victim, in 1947. He established his reputation with his third novel, The Adventures of Augie March, which won the National Book Award in 1954, an honor later bestowed on Bellow's novels Herzog (1964) and Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970). He is the only writer to have won this award three times (he was nominated six times, also a singular distinction)...Show More »
Herzog, Bellow's first best seller, also won the International Literary Prize, making Bellow the first American to receive the award. His 1975 novel Humboldt's Gift won the Pulitzer Prize. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1976. Other books include Seize the Day (1956), Henderson the Rain King (1959), Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories (1968), To Jerusalem and Back: A Personal Account (1976), Him with His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories (1984), More Die of Heartbreak (1987), The Bellarosa Connection (1989), A Theft (1989), Something to Remember Me By (1992), The Actual (1997), and Ravelstein (2000). In 2001, an edition of Bellow's Collected Stories came out. Bellow was also the recipient of the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, the highest literary distinction awarded by France to non-citizens, in 1968, and that same year Bellow won the B'nai B'rith Jewish Heritage Award for "excellence in Jewish literature". In 1977, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Bellow for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities.
Bellow, the son of Russian emigrants, grew up in a highly religious Jewish household, and Jewish life and identity, as well as the immigrant experience in America, was a major theme in his work. Another literary preoccupation was alienation and the struggle for awareness in an increasingly frenetic modern existence. A left-leaning radical in his younger days, as Bellow aged he became identified with cultural conservatism through remarks, editorials, and attitudes present in his work.
Bellow was also a playwright and critic as well as a teacher at colleges including Bard, Princeton, University of Minnesota, and Boston University. Bellow was married five times and had four children. He died in 2005 in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Photo © Beena Kamlani
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