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American Literature
Library of America
Saul Bellow

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Saul Bellow. Novels 1944-1953
Novels 1944-1953 book jacket Edited by: James Wood
Library of America
ISBN: 1-931082-38-3
Series Number: 141
Product Code: 201493
Price: $35.00
Winner of the Nobel Prize and a towering figure of 20th-century literature, Saul Bellow is perhaps America's foremost living novelist. The Library of America begins its Bellow edition with a collection of his first three novels. Dangling Man (1944), an incisive character study cast in the form of a diary, depicts the anguish and uncertainty of a man known only as Joseph. Expecting to be deployed to the war overseas, Joseph quits his job and finds himself increasingly on edge when his draft board defers his enlistment. The first of his many books to take place in Chicago, Dangling Man is a spare, haunting novel in which Bellow lays bare Joseph's dilemma with rigorous precision and subtlety.

The Victim (1947), which Bellow described as "a novel whose theme is guilt," is an unsettling moral parable. Left alone in New York City while his wife is visiting her family, Asa Leventhal is confronted by a former co-worker whom he can barely remember. What seems like a chance encounter evolves into an uncanny bond that threatens to ruin Leventhal's life. As their relationship grows ever more volatile, Bellow stages a searching exploration of our obligations toward others.

In a radical change of direction, Bellow next wrote The Adventures of Augie March (1953), the book that established him as one of postwar America's most important novelists. Its hero, Augie March, grows up in a bustling Chicago peopled by characters as large and vital as the city itself, then sets off on travels that lead him through the byways of love and the disappointments of a fast-vanishing youth. Exuberant, uninhibited, jazzy, infused with Yiddishisms and a panoply of Depression-era voices, Bellow's prose is borne aloft by an ebullient sense of irony. Winner of the 1954 National Book Award and praised by writers and critics ranging from Alfred Kazin to Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, The Adventures of Augie March has had a lasting impact that shows no sign of abating.

 

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