Saul Bellow, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976, was the author of seventeen books of fiction. He died in 2005. (November 2011)


A Jewish Writer in America–II

Saul Bellow, Chicago, 1973
I look up Yeats’s poem “Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad?” and see what the provocations of his old men are: a likely lad who turns into a drunken journalist, a promising girl who bears children to a dunce. Yes, private tragedies—one should not minimize them. But put them up against the project of murdering an ancient people in its entirety, think of what it means that your Jewish birth may condemn you to death, and they seem negligible causes of madness.

A Jewish Writer in America

Saul Bellow and Janis Bellow, Boston, Massachusetts, 1994; photograph by Judith Aronson, whose portraits of writers and artists have been collected in her book Likenesses: With the Sitters Writing About One Another, published in 2010 by Lintott Press in association with Carcanet Press, UK
The condition I am looking into is that of a young American who in the late Thirties finds that he is something like a writer and begins to think what to do about it, how to position himself, and how to combine being a Jew with being an American and a writer. Not everyone thinks well of such a project. The young man is challenged from all sides.

On John Cheever

John Cheever died on June 18, 1982. The following was read at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in December. John and I met at irregular intervals all over the US. I gave him lunch in Cambridge, he bought me a drink in Palo Alto; …