Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

1976 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow


Publisher: Penguin

Length: 487 pages

About: Art & power in materialist America

Style: 1st person

Where: US (Chicago, Houston, New York), Paris and Madrid

When: 1930s -1970s



Publisher’s synopsis:

For many years, the great poet Von Humboldt Fleisher and Charlie Citrine, a young man inflamed with a love for literature, were the best of friends. At the time of his death, however, Humboldt is a failure, and Charlie's life has reached a low point: his career is at a standstill, and he's enmeshed in an acrimonious divorce, infatuated with a highly unsuitable young woman and involved with a neurotic mafioso. And then Humboldt acts from beyond the grave, bestowing upon Charlie an unexpected legacy that may just help him turn his life around.



It's like an instinct with women,' she said. 'You communicate to them what you have to have and right away they tell you they've got exactly what you need, although they never even heard of it until just now. They're not even necessarily lying. They just have an instinct that they can supply everything that a man can ask for, and they're ready to take on any size or shape or type of man. That's what they're like. So you go around looking for a woman like yourself. There ain't no such animal'.




Although granted a separate history by Bellow, Citrine is bound to the Chicago of Augie March. Decades separate their adventures but the aging hero of Humboldt’s Gift is March become author, still buffetted by the wills of others, but finding his way to contentment. Graceful, comic and thoughtful, the book conatins multitudes. 

The Times, Ned Chaillet 2nd April 1977

Not so good:

If 'Humboldt's Gift' may be taken as a fair sample of the benefits of anthroposophy, the author had better go back to those used-up ideas and routines his protagonist so cavalierly dismissed. Mr. Bellow's lion could swallow his anthroposophist without so much as a belch.

New York Times, Anatole Broyard,  14th August 1975


About the author

Saul Bellow was born in Canada in 1915 (died in 2005) and grew up in Chicago. He attended Chicago, Northwestern and Wisconsin universities and has a B.Sc. in anthropology. He has been a visiting lecturer at the universities of Princeton and New York and associate professor at the University of Minnesota. He has also lived in Paris and travelled extensively in Europe. 





















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Age guide: 12



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2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

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