Humboldt's Gift Paperback – Oct 28 2008
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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."
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on April 11 2014 by Amazon Customer
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 morePublished on Feb. 27 2004 by Arram Dreyer
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 morePublished on June 4 2002
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 morePublished on Nov. 17 2001 by Walter von Wegen
I loved Bellow's two short novels, Dangling Man and Seize the Day; tightly packed, concentrated thrilling accounts of alienation. Read morePublished on Oct. 22 2001
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 morePublished on Oct. 2 2001 by DC20009
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 morePublished on Aug. 13 2001 by Bill
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 morePublished on July 9 2001 by Reviewer