Monday, November 19, 2012

Herzog [1964]

Rarely has art imitated life as brilliantly, memorably, or as tragically, as in Herzog, possibly the greatest masterpiece of Saul Bellow, Nobel laureate and one of the most decorated American authors. This epistolary, postmodernist novel was a disturbingly semi-autobiographical account of Moses E. Herzog, a twice divorced middle-aged Jewish professor, whose life is falling apart at an incredible pace. His second wife Madeleine, a vicious and beautiful lady he is still in love with, has not just left him with his best friend, but has shunned his very existence. Meanwhile, his once promising academic career is on a freefall, as the eccentric, self-destructive man has turned into a carefree vagabond, and spends his time writing letters – ranging from deeply passionate personal statements to esoteric critiques – to people from his life as well as famous personalities (Nietzsche, Freud, Martin Luther King, T.S. Eliot et al), both alive and dead. The narrative, which swung regularly from the present to flashbacks and back, tell us the bittersweet and ironic story of this fascinating protagonist whose life, on hindsight, is a series of tragicomic incidents beyond his ability to control – be it his troubled relation with his father or with his vindictive second wife. Though a sufferer and a comedian with pungent self-deprecatory humour, and forever at the receiving end of cosmic jokes, he’s also heartbreakingly an optimist with an inexplicable zest for life. Bellow’s intoxicating, stream-of-consciousness writing style, that frequently shifted from narrative to first-person monologues, imbued the book with searing wit, dark humour, erudite commentaries, pathos, poignancy, a deep sense of humanism, and unforgettable observations on life, love, people and everything under the sun. This was, therefore, as much a story of his or Herzog’s lives as it was the existentialist crisis of a generation. This towering work won the National Book Award for Fiction, and was justifiably named by TIME magazine as one 100 best novels in English language of 20th century.

Author: Saul Bellow
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Social Satire/Modernist Literature/Stream of Consciousness/Epistolary Novel/Existentialist Drama
Language: English
Country: US