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Mr. Sammler's Planet Paperback – Jan 6 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised ed. edition (Jan. 6 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437834
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #344,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“The most important writer in English in the second half of the twentieth century…Bellow’s oeuvre is both timeless and ruthlessly contemporary.” –Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times (London)

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."

Stanley Crouch’s books include Notes of a Hanging Judge, The All-American Skin Game (Nominated for the National Book Award), and a novel, Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome. He has received the Whiting Writer’s Award and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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