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Humboldt's Gift [Paperback]

Saul Bellow , Jeffrey Eugenides
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 28 2008 0143105477 978-0143105473 Revised
“I think it A Work of genius, I think it The Work of a Genius, I think it brilliant, splendid, etc. If there is literature (and this proves there is) this is where it’s at.” –John Cheever

Saul Bellow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel explores the long friendship between Charlie Citrine, a young man with an intense passion for literature, and the great poet Von Humboldt Dleisher. At the time of Humboldt’s death, Charlie’s life is falling apart: his career is at a standstill, and he’s enmeshed in an acrimonious divorce, infatuated with a highly unsuitable young woman, and involved with a neurotic Mafioso. And then Humboldt acts from beyond the grave, bestowing upon Charlie an unexpected legacy that may just help him turn his life around.

This Penguin Classics edition features an introduction by Jeffrey Eugenides.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Frequently Bought Together

Humboldt's Gift + The Adventures of Augie March + Herzog
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About the Author

Saul Bellow's dazzling career as a novelist has been marked with numerous literary prizes, including the 1976 Nobel Prize, and the Gold Medal for the Novel. His other books include Dangling Man, The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, More Die of Heartbreak, Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories, Mr Sammler's Planet, Seize The Day and The Victim. Saul Bellow died in 2005. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

Bellow's best-seller is the story of the relationship between Charles Citrine, a best-selling author, and his friend Von Humboldt Fleisher, a failed poet. It is not one of Bellow's greatest efforts, but was well-received when published almost twenty years ago. This production is exceedingly well-narrated by Christopher Hurt, whose narrator's voice conveys the various moods of the main character, Charles Citrine, an aging Lothario, battling the aging process and his writer's block. Some production flaws mar the presentation but can't overshadow the fine quality of the narrator's interpretation. E.F. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
The book of ballads published by Von Humboldt Fleisher in the Thirties was an immediate hit. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Odyssey of an American poet Nov. 17 2003
By A.J.
Format:Paperback
As in Bellow's "Herzog" and "Seize the Day," the protagonist of "Humboldt's Gift" is a highly educated late-middle-aged man who's made a minor mess of his life but weathers the storm with any resources of which he can avail himself. Charlie Citrine, an Appleton, Wisconsin, native transplanted to Chicago, is an author and a briefly successful playwright who spends the novel reminiscing about his longtime friendship with the late poet Von Humboldt Fleisher, an eccentric genius and self-diagnosed manic depressive, and describing the people and events in his life that somehow seem to shape themselves around his relationship with Humboldt.
Humboldt once had a goal to raise the esteem of the poet's role in American society. In 1952 he believed an Adlai Stevenson presidency would allow the involvement of more intellectuals in government; when this hope crumbled, he sought and won an ephemeral poetry chair at Princeton, where he and Citrine concocted a strangely Sophoclean movie treatment about a doomed Arctic expedition and a man who became a cannibal. This was not the last of their show business aspirations; Citrine's play, "Von Trenck," based loosely on Humboldt's life and therefore vexatious to Humboldt, was a hit on the theater circuit and was made into a movie.
Citrine's dubious fortune attracts all kinds of problems with love and money. His ex-wife Denise is straining him over an uncomfortable divorce settlement; his new girlfriend, a much younger woman named Renata, takes advantage of him and leaves him stranded in Madrid to babysit her son. A simple poker night results in an undesirable association with a small-time gangster named Rinaldo Cantabile from which he can't seem to extricate himself.
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3.0 out of 5 stars great narrative voice, drawn out story line July 19 2004
Format:Paperback
This is the first Bellow book I've read and I finished feeling ambivalent about his talents.
Humboldt's Gift is the story of a successful writer, Charlie Citrine and his fascination with his friend the poet, Von Humboldt Fleisher. Woven within the text are his relationships with a mobster, several women, and an unreliable literary friend.
Citrine is an intellectual and a thinker. Interspersed throughout the story are philosophical thoughts and conjectures about life. Sometimes these further the story or provide more depth to a character, other times they seem like extraneous rambling.
The strength of the book is Citrine's strong and unique narrative voice and the portrait of literary and mob life in Chicago, New York and Europe of the 1970s.
What disappointed me about the book was that the lack of a strong story line made it difficult to continue reading. I felt the same story could have been told in a few hundred fewer pages.
Overall, not a terrible book, but not especially memorable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars American Literature June 16 2004
Format:Paperback
This novel won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The author was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature the same year. In reference to some of the other reviews, I would note that readers need to decide whether they want to read literature or to read brain candy. This novel is literature and requires some amount of concentrated thought. The author digresses and backtracks to fill in details of various characters. He also has a tendency to philosophize. It is past page 300 before you actually get to Humboldt's Gift. It took some effort to get into the novel but, once involved, it was worth the effort. Some parts are more interesting than others, especially the parts set in Chicago.
Charlie Citrine is a writer who is at a crisis point in his life. His ex-wife is trying to strip him of everything he has. He is in trouble with the IRS over past tax returns. Investments have gone bad. He is threatened by a hoodlum, who really wants Charlie to help his wife on a PhD dissertation. He is having some conflicts with his girlfriend. He is almost out of funds, but everyone thinks he is rich.
Charlie had been the protege of the poet Von Humboldt Fleisher. Humboldt had early success, than went downhill. He could be compared to Vincent Van Gogh, i.e., people were not buying his work; he was considered psychotic; and he died in poverty; but is now well regarded after his death. He was not as crazy as people thought, and he leaves a surprising legacy.
The novel is a story of Charlie turning his life around, and rebounding to new found fame. He has help from Humboldt from beyond the grave.
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3.0 out of 5 stars for some interesting ideas June 5 2002
Format:Paperback
this book is captivating only if you have loads of patience to go through all the intellectual material loaded in it by the author. it is not the kind which can be whole heartedly endorsed to everyone. the plot is about Charles Citrine a famous author- now in decline- and his poet-friend Von Humboldt and their internal struggles. like everyone else, Citrine too faces all the common problems of life. these are all encompassing interms of physical (hairloss), material (eluding success, lawsuits and money), emotional (ex-wife, gold- digging girlfriend, ambiguous friends), and intellectual (philistinism, deciline in arts, Humboldt's failure etc). but the most important quest for him is to define consciousness. he is forever struggling with this enigma. he is in search of an answer for the following mysteries of nature. what is this consciousness, is there a spirit and a soul, what do they mean, is there a higher form of consciousness like the spirit, does this consciousness remain after death and if so what are its consequences and so on. he is scared of a conscious entity after death but again if there is none, he argues the futility of a single life. these enquiries of his range from topics like meta-physics to mysticism and spiritualism. though Bellow may not have actually attempted to deal with this subject, it forms the most interesting part of the book. the rest is in the higher realms of intellectualism which one may neither follow nor comprehend. but one is helped in tiding over these parts by Bellow's typical humourous and satirical prose. if you are really hounded by the enquiries mentioned above, then this book will prove an interesting read.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars humans, fully rendered
Bellow gives readers a diverse cast of characters, full of humanity. His baffled protagonist, Charlie Citrine, is on the downward incline of his sixth decade, a life of great... Read more
Published 5 months ago by productum
2.0 out of 5 stars Pulitzer Prize? My Gawwwwwd.
This book is just one more example of how Pulitzer Prizes and Nobel Prizes don't mean squat. Saul Bellow is not one of the best authors of the 20th century and this book is not or... Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2004 by Arram Dreyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, brilliant, timeless classic
Many of the reviewers in this space are out of their minds! This is one of the finest works of literature ever written. Brilliant in its insight, sprawling masterpiece. Read more
Published on June 4 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but irritating in places!
Based on his encounters with the brilliant but doomed poet Delmore Schwartz, Humbold's Gift is like much of Saul Bellow's novels in that it's well-written and flows nicely. Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2001 by Walter von Wegen
1.0 out of 5 stars cries out to be taught in a classroom
I loved Bellow's two short novels, Dangling Man and Seize the Day; tightly packed, concentrated thrilling accounts of alienation. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars A Delicate Weave of Exposition and Storytelling
Charles Citrine's fascination with death (although not his) seemed to pre-occupy him to the point where he was unable to understand his own living. Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2001 by Bobby Jasak
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a GREAT book.
This is the first book I have ever read by Saul Bellow. What a book it is!! I strongly recommend it on two levels. First Mr. Bellow is a master of the language. Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2001 by Bill
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest works of American literature
I have a hard time understanding what there is not to like about this novel. The only thing that I can think of is that it is a book very uncontemporary in its style, but I find... Read more
Published on July 9 2001 by Reviewer
2.0 out of 5 stars A brainy moron
Charles Citrine is an author. The man isn't stupid. Yet, like other leading characters in Saul Bellow's books, he lives his life in a foolish way. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2000
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