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Mr. Sammler's Planet [Paperback]

Saul Bellow , Stanley Crouch
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 6 2004 Penguin Classics

Mr. Artur Sammler, Holocaust survivor, intellectual, and occasional lecturer at Columbia University in 1960s New York City, is a “registrar of madness,” a refined and civilized being caught among people crazy with the promises of the future (moon landings, endless possibilities).  His Cyclopean gaze reflects on the degradations of city life while looking deep into the sufferings of the human soul.  “Sorry for all and sore at heart,” he observes how greater luxury and leisure have only led to more human suffering. To Mr. Sammler—who by the end of this ferociously unsentimental novel has found the compassionate consciousness necessary to bridge the gap between himself and his fellow beings—a good life is one in which a person does what is “required of him.” To know and to meet the “terms of the contract” was as true a life as one could live.  At its heart, this novel is quintessential Bellow: moral, urbane, sublimely humane.

  • Winner of the National Book Award

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Review

?Bellow's oeuvre is both timeless and ruthlessly contemporary.? (Bryan Appleyard, "Sunday Times", London)

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 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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Shortly after dawn, or what would have been dawn in a normal sky, Mr. Artur Sammler with his bushy eye took in the books and papers of his West Side bedroom and suspected strongly that they were the wrong books, the wrong papers. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for fans of dead white men... March 30 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
How did Saul Bellow get into my head? How does this man-whom I picture as some kind of Ur-white male, entombed in Great Books, plastered with awards and walled up in an ivy tower-speak so directly to my experience as a young woman in 2004? I guess is the same reason that Tolstoy gets to the heart of failing relationships more vividly than any chick-lit author, and Flaubert's descriptions of desire are so much more piercing than any "Sex and the City" episode. Sheer, freaking genius.
Don't let Bellow's "white-maleness" or the blizzard of high-culture references scare you off-this is an incredibly moving and powerful book. Sammler, a Holocaust survivor and exiled European intellectual, is watching his life run down in 1960s New York. So much has changed, and so much stays the same. As I was reading this book on the subway in 2004, Bellow could have been sitting next to me in the car, describing what was happening on the platforms rushing by. "Sammler" made me miss my stop more than once, needless to say. His America is "vast slums filled with bohemian adolescents, narcotized, beflowered and 'whole.'" Yet all of Sammler's and his family's sufferings are somehow uplifting, illustrating the power of a mind over the external world.
Please read this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bellow at his almost best May 1 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is my sixth Bellow novel. For first timers, I would highly recommend Henderson the Rain King over this work because Henderson is an easier, funnier, and more exuberant read--a great parody of the Hemmingway novel. That said, Mr. Sammler's Planet is classic Bellow. The protagonist, Mr. Sammler, is heroically flawed (as all of Bellow's protagonists are) and is caught at a point in his late life where numerous themes challenge his moral center: misogyny, pessimism, death, the human condition, the social contract, filial duty, the achievements of science, and modern western philosphy among other themes--and in any great Bellow work, there are so many themes!
The narrative is simple: a close third person point of view brings us inside Mr. Sammler's head as he interprets and analyzes the events in his life: his dying nephew, a pick pocket who assualts him, greedy relatives, a missing manuscript, and his Holocaust experience. There are long philosophic digressions, sometimes humorous, sometimes didactic, that can frustrate, confuse, and enlighten the reader, all within the space of a single paragraph. This density of thought is one of the supreme challenges of Bellow, but as an ardent fan (who only "gets" a mere fraction of what he's talking about), the payoff is exponentially greater than the effort I put in. The only narrative flaw I find is in the dialogue between Sammler and Dr. Lal. It's structured in a Platonic form--reminiscent of the final chapter in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man--and the section seems forced and stilted compared to the rest of the novel.
Bellow's prose is as strong as ever. We return to New York City in the late 1960s, much filthier and more violent than the setting of Seize the Day.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Why should I care? Dec 28 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book was probably the most hit-and-miss I have ever read. I really enjoyed the stream of consciousness internal monologues by the main character, and after having read this and other books by Bellow, I've decided Bellow is the most original thinker of 20th century English language writers, capable of the most profundity. However, this book had little to hold it up in between these moments. The plot was weak, the characters varied from interesting(the protagonist, most of the time) to obnoxious(his daughter and the Hindu doctor).
Other reviewers have made the claim that looking for solely plot is superficial, and while I agree somewhat(but I also think this is their elitist way of intimidating those who didn't like the book into feeling uneducated and stupid), I agree only in the sense that great fiction should ideally have more than simple plot. But this book has almost no plot, nothing more than contrived situations in order to house the author's intelligent postulates. This is fiction, and story is what makes fiction thrum. If Bellow really wanted a context in which to pose these ideas, he should have just released a collection of essays, possibly interrupted with anecdotal short stories and brief allegories(I get that feeling reading most of his work.)
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By L. Dann
Format:Mass Market Paperback
There is never just one conversation or story in a novel by Saul Bellow, but Mr. Sammler's lifespan and intellectual range make this novel particularly dense. Did I say dense? I meant light- oh, you know. What we have here is social commentary, classical philosophy, global history and sex in the city. At one level, that is.
Mr. Sammler lost an eye in the Holocaust, but he appears to be the only one in New York City in the '60's, with the exception of the black pickpocket, who is of the sighted world. He is a gentle, quiet man, that is, if one is not, as we are, hearing his thoughts as we do. (Consistent with all Bellow's novels) Mr. Sammler must watch as no one else, it seems the disfiguring effects of the assimilation process upon his family. In turn, his daughter Shula becomes a crazy bag lady, Dadist, Zionist and sometime Christian. His niece a sex addict, is described as a "sensual woman without remission." There is the orthodox cousin who is the doctor and the source of all the financial security, his son, however is the antithetical and also incomplete gambler. There are times when Sammler looks at the moon and thinks longingly of little tents there.
It is, in a sense, the sixties. But it is also the England of Wells and Orwell, it is Jerusalem with the Knights Templar. The Sinai desert and in Algeria, where De Gaulle is termed the 'neo-Charlagmagne.' We are gloriously jettisoned through literature, philosophy, (in this volume a fair amount of Keirkegaard,) and with all nods to Wells, we are time travellers, from Brest Litvosk to Kresge's.
Artur Sammler grew up in Britain in an educated and somewhat elevated Jewish familiy. His mother gave him a copy of a Schopenhauer with the comment that he called the Jews optimists.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars bellow is the best
another brilliant book from mr. bellow.
Published on Oct. 5 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Daunting but daedal writing-The Intense Saul Bellow
Judging from the lengthy screeds many readers have levelled at other Bellow books such as Henderson the Rain King and Humboldt's Gift, I surmised (even though I, in fact, read and... Read more
Published on July 26 2001 by "calico30"
5.0 out of 5 stars The view from a survivor
Mr. Sammler is a Polish Jew who escaped death at the hands of the Nazis at the cost of sight in one eye.
He is a survivor. Read more
Published on July 7 2001 by Roy Gordon
3.0 out of 5 stars I Was a Little Lost on Mr. Sammler's Planet
I'm an avid reader, but I admit to being a little lost while reading Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet. Overall, I liked the book. Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2000 by zeni
5.0 out of 5 stars deep and fascinating
This review is to refute some of the negative customer reviews. Anyone who is reading only for plot is reading on a very superficial level. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Bellow's Philosophy Masquerading as a Novel
This was my second attempt at Bellow. I started with the very short and enjoyable "Seize the Day" and jumped into this. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
This book is an important and fascinating study of the human will. What drives us to act? When action is taken, what determines how and why we act as we do? Mr. Read more
Published on June 21 2000 by a reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
An often hilarious, always thought-provoking, fascinating book. While it may seem to be thick reading at times, it is well worth it--an entertaining and humanist novel.
Published on May 3 2000 by Edward A. Olson
1.0 out of 5 stars I was sure glad when I came to the end
This is the sixth Bellow novel I've read, and the first one I've read since I finished Humboldt's Gift on July 8, 1981. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 1999 by Schmerguls
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