Saul Bellow 1915–
Canadian-born American novelist, short story writer, essayist, dramatist, editor, and translator.
Bellow is, perhaps, the most important writer to have emerged in post-World War II America. Thoughtful yet humorous, his work pursues the timely question of what it is to be fully human in an increasingly impersonal and mechanistic world. Bellow firmly rejects the modern concept of the absurdity of human existence. Instead, his protagonists—sensitive, observant, intensely individualistic intellectuals—although sometimes despairing and alienated, are never totally so. Their struggle is for a kind of spiritual balance to enable them to exert the will and imagination necessary to control their lives.
Bellow favors a prose style in which he can "talk his characters into existence," reflecting his casual dependence on plot and his emphasis on dialogue, monologue, and "inner voice". As his protagonists speak to each other and to themselves, the reader is drawn into their struggles with self and society.
Taking his place beside other "Bellow Heroes" (Augie March, Henderson, Herzog, and Mr. Sammler) is Albert Corde, the middle-aged academic of Bellow's recent novel, The Dean's December. Critical reaction to this newer work varies, with some critics being reluctant to applaud yet another of Bellow's autobiographical creations. Nonetheless, Bellow maintains a stature shared by few writers of fiction. A recipient of three National Book Awards, he also won both the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and the Nobel Prize in literature in 1976.
(See also CLC, Vols. 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 2; and Dictionary of Literary Biography Documentary Series, Vol. 3.)