arcana imperii :: the book of j


saul bellow, prince of words, dead aged 89

american novelist saul bellow né samuel belows near montréal, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976, has died in massachusetts. from the beeb's obituary:

with an awareness of death and the miracle of life at the foundation of his work, saul bellow's novels brought him huge success, and both the nobel and pulitzer prize. he is cited by many contemporary authors as a critical creative influence.

bellow's message was one of hope and affirmation. he said,
"in the greatest confusion, there is still an open channel to the soul."

many of his novels were set in chicago where his poor russian-jewish parents moved when he was a child. he later reported, "i saw mayhem all around me. by the age of eight, i knew what sickness and death were."
additional quotations:

«i do believe that i have something of importance to transmit.. i think of myself as speaking to an inviolate part of other people, around which there is a sort of nearly sacred perimeter, a significant space...a place where the human being really has removed to, with all his most important spiritual possessions»

a long time ago i asked a bookseller in cambridge, massachusetts what herzog was about and he said: this brilliant novel, and one of the author's most admired basically tells the story of a man who obsessively writes letters (most of them unsent) to the people in his life as well as the occasional world leader or celebrity. why?, asked young young j... his soul must speak, answered the bookseller. i began wondering why not merely unsent but also unwritten ones (i am always composing letters which remain unwritten and have done so since childhood) and also what circumstance ked him to it, beyond a means to examine his life and so i bought the book, but could not finish reading it. it was the first time this had happened. i would put the book down, pick it up again later, but i coulod just not read on. i later learned that this only happens to me when «i'm not ready for the book». i was ready for it alright just about two, three years ago and it was brilliant. just like the bookseller had promised.

in mr bellow's words: «herzog... i think of him as a man who, in the agony of suffering, finds himself to be his own most penetrating critic. and he reexamines his life...by reenacting all the roles he took seriously. and when he has gone through all the reenactments, he's back at the original point....the professor, the son, the brother, the lover, the father, the husband, the avenger, the intellectual--all of it. it's an attempt really to divest himself of the personae....and when he has dismissed these personae, there comes a pause..[grace]..it's better than his trying to invent everything for himself, or accepting human inventions, the collective errors, by which he's lived. he's decided to go through a process of jettisoning or lightening.»