Thursday, February 17, 2005

Saul Bellow

Brian Appleyard, writing about Saul Bellow in The Sunday Times, 21 May, 1995:

In all his writing Bellow has been closing in on the deep sense that the modern world is not good enough for people, for real human people.

"A serious human life? This? You've got to be kidding!" cries critic Charlie Citrine in Humbolt's Gift. What is on offer is just not good enough, because the dominant scientific consumer ethos is simply wrong, one of the most deficient definitions of the human self that history has ever produced. "It is quite obvious to me" he says,"that the generally accepted account of the real world is not a true account. Just by listening to people and reading them and watching them you can see they don't understand even the obvious thing: that what we call reality is a set of conventions referring to phenomena - and it is very inexact and very subject to disorder and derangement".

[ ]....argument at the heart of his faith in writing. In many, modern civilised people, he believes, the "core of the self" is missing - "They've got a kind of restlessness or distraction but they don't identify themselves as human beings."

Novelists, by writing novels at all, are working against this loss of self, traditionally conceived, and so the very act of writing becomes an assertion of conservatism.


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