Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 200

Herzog gained popular and critical success after its publication in 1964. Critics praised its examination of Western intellectual traditions, its colorful characterizations, and its innovative narrative structure. Keith M. Opdahl, in an article on Bellow for the Dictionary of Literary Biography, notes the novel's historical relevance when he writes, "The prose is charged, rich, full of the specifics and precisely defined impressions that create the feel of mid-1960s American life." Opdahl argues that Herzog "is perhaps most notable for the style, which represents Bellow at his very best." He concludes, "Herzog's double remove permits Bellow to dote on detail, to slow the action when necessary to make the scenes live."

Eisinger finds Herzog to be "one of the finest novels of ideas written by a 20th-century American." Eisinger also praises the structure of the book, claiming that Bellow's adaptation of the epistolary novel provides "a vehicle beautifully appropriate for the selfcommuning protagonist in a book which is largely a meditation." Eisinger notes that while the novel is "deficient in action," Bellow has written it in a "flexible, breathless, lively, energetic style which at the same time is restrained by the wry, skeptical, sometimes bitter expression with which [he] endows Herzog."

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Critical Evaluation


Essays and Criticism