Length: 487 pages
About: Art & power in materialist America
Style: 1st person
Where: US (Chicago, Houston, New York), Paris and Madrid
When: 1930s -1970s
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.