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Humboldt's Gift Paperback – Oct 28 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (Oct. 28 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143105477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143105473
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #160,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Saul Bellow was praised for his vision, his ear for detail, his humor, and the masterful artistry of his prose. Born of Russian Jewish parents in Lachine, Quebec in 1915, he was raised in Chicago. He received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, and did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin. During the Second World War he served in the Merchant Marines.

His first two novels, Dangling Man (1944) and The Victim (1947) are penetrating, Kafka-like psychological studies. In 1948 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent two years in Paris and traveling in Europe, where he began his picaresque novel The Adventures of Augie March, which went on to win the National Book Award for fiction in 1954. His later books of fiction include Seize the Day (1956); Henderson the Rain King (1959); Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories (1968); Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970); Humboldt's Gift (1975), which won the Pulitzer Prize; The Dean's December (1982); More Die of Heartbreak (1987); Theft (1988); The Bellarosa Connection (1989);The Actual (1996); Ravelstein (2000); and, most recently, Collected Stories(2001). Bellow has also produced a prolific amount of non-fiction, collected in To Jerusalem and Back, a personal and literary record of his sojourn in Israel during several months in 1975, and It All Adds Up, a collection of memoirs and essays.

Bellow's many awards include the International Literary Prize for Herzog, for which he became the first American to receive the prize; the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, the highest literary distinction awarded by France to non-citizens; the B'nai B'rith Jewish Heritage Award for "excellence in Jewish Literature"; and America's Democratic Legacy Award of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the first time this award has been made to a literary personage. In 1976 Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work."

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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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

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on Nov. 17 2003
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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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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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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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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