The funny thing about Herzog is that it's no longer contemporary fiction. In terms of language, operating philosophies, and identifiable character types, it's as far behind us as Moby Dick. That's part of the charm of reading Herzog-the discovery that 50 years ago is indeed a half century away. But, like Moby Dick, age doesn't make any difference to the power of Moses Herzog's story, the truths it depicts, or the awe Bellow can sometimes inspire. Herzog is a philosophical novel about a failed academic philosopher who can't help but search for the truth. Whether in love affairs, memories of his Jewish childhood, or the letters he obsessively writes, M. Herzog flings himself against hypocricy, alienation, and boredom. He never wins, but he never gives up, and somehow or another comes to accept his own soul. "The dream of man's heart, however much we may distrust or resent it, is that life may complete itself in significant pattern." Bellow creates that soul from his own, through long and brilliant analytical passages that turn philosophical propositions into intricate, heart-stopping interior monologues. These are interspersed with suggestive aphorisms ("God's veil over things makes them all riddles.") The real secret of Bellow's novel is the emotional pitch of spiritual imperitive and secular compromise so perfeclty rendered in his prose. Half a century later it still resonates.
war on typos: p.302, line 9: "hinding behind the tree trunk" instead of hiding.
p. 227, line 16: "the sinstrument of the soul" instead of instrument.