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The Dean's December Paperback – 26 May 1983

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (26 May 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140062521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140062526
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

THE DEAN'S DECEMBER
by Saul Bellow, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1976
The Vesuvian eloquence of Saul Bellow is one of the glories of modern literature.
-Jonathan Raban Sunday Times

A novel that will raise its readers to fever pitch of the kind of passionate excitement and involvement that only real art can inspire.
-Salman Rushdie New Statesman

A wittily meditative book, an intensely serious enterprise from a writer we can see we are right to acknowledge as of world class.
-Malcolm Bradbury Books and Bookmen

A brilliant piece of work...different in many ways from much of his earlier work, it is one of his best.
-David Holloway Sunday Telegraph

There is in The Dean's December enough thought and matter for ten other contemporary novels.
-Melvyn Bragg Punch

A serious, sane, thought-provoking novel of a kind rare these days, a worthy addition to the canon of a writer of genius.
-Paul Bailey Standard

In Saul Bellow the American novelist has come of age.
-Geoffrey Moore Financial Times

An overall mastery of form...and at times a sublime intensity.
-Lewis Jones Spectator

Bellow has at last created a plausible and likeable woman and has done so with wonderful economy.
-Gabriel Josipovici Times Literary Supplement

The shape of Saul Bellow's new novel is satisfyingly simple.
-Ian McEwan Observer

Near the end of Saul Bellow's admirable new novel, the dean is accused of "abyssifying and catastrophising".
-Thomas Hinde Sunday Telegraph

By any standards, a marvellous novel, rich, provocative, illuminating...buy it and read it: more than once.
-Alan Massie Scotsman
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Saul Bellow’s dazzling career has been marked with numerous literary prizes, including the 1976 Nobel Prize, and the Gold Medal for the Novel. His work includes Herzog, More Die of Heartbreak, Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories, Mr Sammler's Planet, Seize The Day and the essay To Jerusalem and Back. He died in 2005. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Format: Paperback
The Dean's December revolves an architypal Bellow protagonist; a high-brow, an academic, whose philosphical preoccupations both blind him to the truth and form the observational perspective of the novel. Lambasted for a magazine article written on urban degradation and crime in his native Chicago, Albert Corde finds diversion but not solace in the old Soviet regime of Romania where he and his wife are attending to his dying mother-in-law. The book swings between grief and the austerity of communist Bucharest in the present, and the situation simmering back in Chicago, which finds the narrator having to justify a highly literary analysis of Chicago that attempts to 'recover the world that is buried under the debris of false decription or nonexperience'. A former journalist of repute who is accused of giving up his profession to accept a University tenure, he is also implicated in the trial and conviction of a young black criminal, in which his motives and values are put under scrutiny.

Bellow is a master of style, whether it is evoking the bleak tenements and cast-iron bureaucracy or Bucharest or the rotting slums of Chicago. However, The Dean's December typifies many of the author's often-criticised characteristics. Albert Corde is less of a tangible human being than a manifestation of the author's philosophical preoccupations. A kind of giant question mark mired in extensive self-evaluation. Arguably this is Bellow's intention: a man capable of enormous philosophical objectivity but at the same time unable to control events happening around him. But Corde is a hard man to empathise with; coldly analytical, an unsympathetic portrayal. Because we are so closely bound to his perspective, it is hard to feel moved by the death of Valeria, his mother-in-law, in the principal story.
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Format: Paperback
This is an uneventful novel. The Dean of the title, a holder of an academic post in Chicago, visits Romania with his wife for the death and funeral of her mother. The Dean meanwhile reflects on recent events in Chicago - a couple of articles on the place he has written, pointing up its iniquities, which have caused a stir, his efforts to bring to justice the murderers of one of the students at his university - and some more distant recollections of his childhood.

The book is strong on the iniquities of Romania, experienced first hand by the Dean and his wife, and also gives large excepts from the Chicago experience of the Dean that has fuelled his articles and that form the background to the murder. Mankind does not come out well from these reflections.

I found the book held me throughout. The philosophical issues the book tackles about the meaning of life are addressed very directly - not, as in his previous novel Humbolt's Gift, at one remove through reflection on theosophy (or in the one before that, Mr Sammler's planet, through reflection on HG Wells and on Meister Eckhardt). And once you are hooked on Bellow's prose, it is hard ever to feel you have had enough of it.
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Format: Paperback
Although Dean's December cannot compete with Bellow's masterpiece, Herzog, it will be appreciated by his fans nonetheless. Bellow's work is simply mezmerizing in its descriptions, despite a the characters tendency to lose himself in philosphical thought. What the fan will learn from this book is that excessive flight into philosophy can blind the deep thinker from the truths of reality.
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