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Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Saul Bellow , Malcolm Bradbury
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 April 2001 Penguin Modern Classics

A masterful twist on the epistolary novel, Saul Bellow's Herzog is part confessional, part exorcism, and a wholly unique achievement in postmodern fiction. This Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction by Malcolm Bradbury in Penguin Modern Classics.

Is Moses Herzog losing his mind? His formidable wife Madeleine has left him for his best friend, and Herzog is left alone with his whirling thoughts - yet he still sees himself as a survivor, raging against private disasters and the myriad catastrophes of the modern age. In a crumbling house which he shares with rats, his head buzzing with ideas, he writes frantic, unsent letters to friends and enemies, colleagues and famous people, the living and the dead, revealing the spectacular workings of his labyrinthine mind and the innermost secrets of his troubled heart.

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was a Canadian-born American writer who enjoyed a dazzling career as a novelist, marked with numerous literary prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. His books include The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, More Die of Heartbreak, Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories, Mr. Sammler's Planet, Seize The Day and The Victim.

If you enjoyed Herzog, you might like Bellow's Seize the Day, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'Spectacular ... surely Bellow's greatest novel'

Malcolm Bradbury

'A masterpiece ... Herzog's voice, for all its wildness and strangeness and foolishness, is the voice of a civilization, our civilization'

The New York Times Book Review


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (26 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141184876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141184876
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

SAUL BELLOW's dazzling career as a novelist has been marked with numerous literary prizes, including the 1976 Nobel Prize, and the Gold Medal for the Novel. His other books include The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, More Die of Heartbreak, Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories, Mr. Sammler's Planet, Seize The Day and The Victim. Saul Bellow died in 2005.

Malcolm Bradbury was a novelist, critic, television dramatist and Emeritus Professor of American Studies at the University of East Anglia. He was author of many novels, among them: The History Man (1975), which won the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann Prize and was adapted as a famous television series; Rates of Exchange (1983), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Modern British Novel (1993) and Dangerous Pilgrimages (1995). Malcolm Bradbury was awarded the CBE in 1991 and died in 2000.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IF I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Moses Herzog is a Jewish academic living in New York in the early Sixties. Following the disastrous break-up of his second marriage, he begins writing letters - first, to practically everybody he has ever met, and then to a varity of public and cultural figures living and dead. It doesn't take the reader long to realise that Herzog is having something of a crisis: his behaviour is erratic and his mind distracted as he remembers in vivid detail key scenes in his life. Perhaps we can make allowances, though - he is trying to make sense of what it means to be alive in the Western world in the second half of the twentieth century, after all. The book is not exactly big on plot, but a certain suspense does build as to whether he's going to get through it with his mind and body intact. The novel is also very well written, and at times dazzlingly so. As a character, Herzog is brilliantly realised - unquestionably an intellectual, he is entirely believable as betrayed husband, doting father, rebellious son, hesitant lover and more besides. The book is a modern classic which captures its time, and still has a lot to say to us about our lives as part of a society too advanced for easy comprehension.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By CJ
Format:Paperback
This novel starts with a ferociously strong image, then moves us into the mind of Moses Herzog. Herzog is a failing professor with an unfaithful second wife, a treacherous best friend, unwritten books and theses which remind him of his failings. Also, in a bizarrely wonderful twist, we find that Herzog writes letters avidly, even compulsively. These are largely to dead people, either relatives or historical figures he has never met. Also mathematicians - he writes to Euclid and points out why his theories don't add up.

The novel also contains a profound and bitter sense of betrayal, Herzog's as his marriage fails and his child whisked from him, Bellow's as similar events in his life mirrored the plot.

This is Bellow's most autobiographical work, including his bizarre childhood and the way he sees an exiled, crushed class (and race) adjust to their new lives, while he with his fabulously realised child's eyes sees only the surface, but sees things an adult would consider sinister.

This book is either a masterpiece or so close it makes no difference. Check it out when you're prepared to be tantalised and confused.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cunning Words 25 Dec 2013
By Woolco
Format:Paperback
"This was the post-quixotic, post-Copernican USA, where a mind freely poised in space might discover relationships utterly unsuspected by a seventeenth-century man sealed in his smaller universe. There lay his twentieth-century advantage."

Well, yes, but doesn't that rather go without saying? After patiently appreciating the fluent and precise style of Bellow's writing: the elegant exposition of Herzog's thoughts, the gratifying attention to detail, the investment in minutai, ("The old dog, obese and bald, escaped in fear, claws rapping tiles - clickclick, clickclick"), the conjuring of a vile coterie of affected, self-serious, Jewish elite... After half a book of that, my patience tested, I have to say that my admiration palled a bit.

Perhaps it's the point, but the self-indulgent, egotistic ramblings of a successful, privileged academic between romances, hard done, admittedly, by a viscous ex-wife, struck me as a hollow study in pomposity and insipidity. If that is the point then it's hard won, because for me, the novel can't help but suffer from the unctuous and flattering treatment of Herzog, it becomes guilty by association.

Maybe that isn't the point. Maybe Bellow is, against the odds, pleading sympathy and redemption for his 'innocent' - his big baby. Stuff that. The novel is a rendering of a rarefied breed of inhumane, self-serving creatures, outwardly and invertedly representing the summit of civilisation. They are what success looks like, the novel seems to suggest. And it conspires with them, in its empty intellect and rhetoric, attempting, odiously, to outwit any objections with cunning.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real grower! 7 Jun 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The inner-workings of the mind of an aged American intellectual? Possibly not the most enticing prospect for an enjoyable read, but Bellow's skill in capturing *humanity* in all its variations pulls this off magnificently. Herzog is reminiscent of one of those displaced characters Nabokov created - trapped in an age that doesn't quite accept him, or vice versa. This relationship is even more interesting against the backdrop of the brief fetish of intellectualism in the Kennedy era. However, the real attraction of this book is Bellow's superlative ability to capture the essence of Herzog's increasingly fractured mind, taking the reader on a ride into his own personal world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Stunning novel about a middle aged academic almost driven insane by various personal and ideological crises, but who eventually manages to find some peace after experiencing events that finally seem to connect him with reality. I absolutely adored the quality of style and character, and although the plot is incredibly thin, you don't care because it is constructed so brilliantly to allow all those fascinating, perfectly described reminiscences. Definitely I was generally having that feeling of sickening jealousy for the sheer ability demonstrated, albieit in quite a showy way. There are many incredible lines, either simply involving profound observations on life, or via the wonderful eye for character details that Bellow has. The use of letters as a kind of stream of consciousness device works fantastically. Herzog's character is one of the most stunningly rich and real I've ever come across in literature, and the peripheral characters also feel very real and vivid. This novel seems incredibly autobiographical, in fact, and many of the details probably were taken from Bellow's life. The only slight criticism I have is that in one or two places it felt a little contrived. Ramona is obviously set up as the "healthy" choice and feels slightly thin for it. And why oh why would Herzog keep his gun in his pocket when visiting his daughter? This to me seemed totally unbelievable, and merely a silly device. But these tiny quibbles aside, this is definitely one of the best American novels I've ever read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars bellow
bellow is widely accepted as one of the great writers of the 20th century, i found this good but easy to put down
Published 11 days ago by Jim..
4.0 out of 5 stars A great character...but a gruelling read
Some beautiful writing and a compelling protagonist. But definitely not a page turner (unless like me you skip the confusingly cerebral parts).
Published 7 months ago by RME
3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as i remember
read it 30 years ago and thought it was a great work - now - found it a bit tedious
Published 8 months ago by H N Fletcher
2.0 out of 5 stars Dated, of its time, historical interest only
I read this because it is reckoned to be the best novel of one of the greatest US novelists of the 20th century and I am trying to fill that gap in my reading and understand the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by jd
5.0 out of 5 stars great way to buy a book. Excellent literature
This is a major piece of American writing in the 20th C
The book was delivered very efficiently and quickly after I ordered it
I arrived in as-new condition.. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Dunse Man
4.0 out of 5 stars Sanity might be over-rated
When I read this, I was living in the Berkshires not far from Herzog--or at least, not far from Norman Mailer in the summers. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Paying Guest
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good read.
great book. You need to persevere to understand it, but its well worth it.I could relate to how the world works for and against that guy.
Published 14 months ago by B. F. Wallis
3.0 out of 5 stars A x-ray of betrayal
I can't say I enjoyed reading this book. I found it tedious to the bone and not particularly enlightening in any way. Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2012 by Clara Luna
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite
Hertzog is a highly educated man that has reached middle age and is on the edge of a mental breakdown. Read more
Published on 29 Nov 2011 by J. Willis
3.0 out of 5 stars Herzog
This book was recommended to me by several different people on a thread I once started about intelligent writers. Read more
Published on 14 May 2011 by Blackbeard
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