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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rare literary experience of a Nobel Laureate, 2 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Ravelstein (Hardcover)
'Ravelstein' is a rare literary experience shared with us by a Nobel Laureate. The main protagonist in this novel, Abe Ravelstein is a university teacher. "He was not one of those conservatives who idolize the free market. He had views of his own on political and moral matters." He has also written a best seller which has made him very rich, at least materially. "He attracted gifted students. His classes were always full up." Despite all these achievements, finally, the death reaches him. He died of AIDS.
Evidently, 'Ravelstein' is based on Allan Bloom who wrote in the late 80s the controversial 'The Closing of the American Mind'. "We live in a thought-world, and the thinking has gone very bad indeed.'' Wrote Saul Bellow, in his foreword to Allan Bloom's controversial book some 13 years ago.
It appears that 'Ravelstein' is rather fragmented frames of Bellow's memory of Alan Bloom. Some readers may find it difficult to understand the meaning of this book. I'm sure the Gay community will label it as an anti-gay novel. I am not sure whether that was Bellow's intention. Does he want us to get deeper insights into the darkness of human nature?
One of the most important question about Bellow's 'Ravelstein' is the role of a writer and his ability to pass or not to pass judgements on moral issues or the question of mortality. In this novel Bellow passes a judgement about Ravelstein's "sex habits" in fact, as he calls "reckless sex habits" which I'm sure will not be acceptable to the gay community around the world.
In the novel, Ravelstein questions, "With what, in this modern day democracy, will you meet the demands of your soul?" This is indeed a difficult question to answer. I believe the same may applies to the message Bellow wants his readers to get out of this important novel about an important theme.
In the novel Bellow writes: "It means that writers are supposed to make you laugh and cry. That's what mankind is looking for." This is what exactly Bellow has achieved in 'Ravelstein'.
It is worth reading a great American writer's new novel which is sad and also a witty portrait of an American academic who has been fighting against the vulgarity that has engulfed American life.
"There are things that people should know if they are to read books at all..." wrote Bellow in concluding his introduction to Allan Bloom's 'The Closing of the American Mind'. In my view, 'Ravelstein' is nothing but what Bellow wants his readers to know about some, perhaps dark aspect of American life.
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