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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable portrait of a troubled man who thinks too much
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...
Published on 2 Aug 2001 by harry.derbyshire@kcl.ac.uk

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cunning Words
"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...
Published 12 months ago by Woolco


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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable portrait of a troubled man who thinks too much, 2 Aug 2001
This review is from: Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, gripping study of value, intellect and breakdown, 10 Jun 2008
This review is from: Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics) (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative US novel about an academic's touch with madness, 27 Sep 2008
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Daniel Bor (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cunning Words, 25 Dec 2013
This review is from: Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics) (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 vicious 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
This review is from: HERZOG (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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A x-ray of betrayal, 16 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I can't say I enjoyed reading this book. I found it tedious to the bone and not particularly enlightening in any way. I was expecting to find some original interpretation of modern philosophers, like Nietzsche, for example, but the book seemed just an exercise in name dropping to show us what an intellectual Herzog was.

However, there was one element to the book that I found quite interesting and for which I have to give it some credit. The book is a heartfelt, detailed description of how a middle aged man deals with betrayal and disappointment in life and in relationships.

As we approach middle age, many of us realise that most of the people that are part of our psychological landscape have betrayed us or disappointed us in some way. It's hard to come to terms with this and Herzog does it his way.

His relationship with his child, I think, is what offers the book a more optimistic outlook on life. His love and care for her are clear from the start.

I think Herzog is just the author himself with some elements of fictionalisation. Like Herzog, I'm sure he must have been a right pain in the backside, but you can't deny him his humanity for this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I want a jacket like that, 24 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Herzog (MP3 CD)
I listened to this on the brilliance audio version. Not sure I could have stuck it in print form.
The lead character is a whining arrogant self apologist whose better than average physical appearance and meager academic talents have allowed him to love and receive praise and reward.
Saul Below has captured the soul of the narcissistic neurotic, all intelligent people will find a parallel with themselves to some degree.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Of its time, 3 Nov 2014
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I am sure the narcissistic angst of Herzog was a major inspiration for Woody Allen. However I am fed up with the dated introspection that this book exemplifies. It is of course very well written and probably a modern classic. It won't last as long as Frankenstein though. Already it seems dated and one soon tires of Herzog's impotency and conflicts.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent piece of classic American literature., 5 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: HERZOG (Paperback)
Of all the contemporary American authors, Saul Bellow ranks as one of the best. He has a wonderful control of the English language and a fine sense of humour. "Herzog" is one of his funniest, most touching books. It is abounding with energy and character. Meet Moses E. Herzog, a man who, at middle age, is looking back on his life by writing letters that are not to be sent, to his two ex wives, friends and collegues. Out of all Saul Bellow's books, this one ranks as my favorite so, if you're looking for a book that will both move you and make you smile, look no further than "Herzog".
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great character...but a gruelling read, 11 Dec 2013
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Some beautiful writing and a compelling protagonist. But definitely not a page turner (unless like me you skip the confusingly cerebral parts).
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Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics)
Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics) by Saul Bellow (Paperback - 26 April 2001)
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