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Herzog (Penguin Classics)

113 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0142437292
ISBN-10: 0142437298
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Editorial Reviews Review

A novel complex, compelling, absurd and realistic, Herzog became a classic almost as soon as it was published in 1964. In it Saul Bellow tells the tale of Moses E. Herzog, a tragically confused intellectual who suffers from the breakup of his second marriage, the general failure of his life and the specter of growing up Jewish in the middle part of the 20th century. He responds to his personal crisis by sending out a series of letters to all kinds of people. The letters in total constitute a thoughtful examination of his own life and that which has occurred around him. What emerges is not always pretty, but serves as gritty foundation for this absorbing novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A feast of language, situations, characters, ironies, and a controlled moral intelligence . . . Bellow’s rapport with his central character seems to me novel writing in the grand style of a Tolstoy—subjective, complete, heroic." —Chicago Tribune

"Herzog has the range, depth, intensity, verbal brilliance, and imaginative fullness—the mind and heart—which we may expect only of a novel that is unmistakably destined to last." —Newsweek 

"A masterpiece" —The New York Times Book Review


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (February 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437292
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Saul Bellow won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel HUMBOLDT'S GIFT in 1975, and in 1976 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 'for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work.' He is the only novelist to receive three National Book Awards, for THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH, HERZOG, and MR. SAMMLER'S PLANET

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

140 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Mark B. Friedman on February 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
I was prompted to write this because most of the reviewers published here miss the plain fact that Herzog is extremely funny. Herzog writes letters. He writes manic, crazy, poignant, inspired letters to people both living and dead: to his friends, to his shrink, to his divorce lawyer, to the President of the United States, and to Heidegger, to Schrodinger, to Nietzche and to Willie Sutton. It is, of course, one of Saul Bellow's best novels, written at the height of his carrer, which would place it somewhere on the list of the Top 10 or 20 best American novels of the 20th century. Herzog is worth both reading and re-reading, but the book is clearly not for everyone. It is as personal, realistic, and autobiographical as The Adventures of Augie March, but it is significantly more difficult to read in terms of both style and content. It is probably less accessible than Augie, the work of a maturer artist. Readers should expect neither a conventional plot or a chronological narrative, although the book is highly structured and is brought to a very satisfying and almost inspirational resolution as Herzog regains his equilibrium, which he loses to such comic effect in the early going.
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71 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Steven Reynolds on December 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
The middle-aged Moses Herzog is a notable literary-historical academic, the father of two children from two failed marriages, and the lover of a string of exotic women. His most recent wife, the Catholic convert Madelaine, has lately left him for his best friend. Herzog is lost. As he reflects on the continuing disaster that constitutes his life, and the choices which led him to this crisis, he begins writing unsent letters - to friends and family, colleagues and enemies, to famous figures both living a dead. As Bellow himself has noted, Herzog is a man who, in the agony of suffering, finds himself to be his own most penetrating critic. He re-examines his life by re-enacting all the roles he took seriously - the professor, the son, the brother, the lover, the father, the husband, the avenger, the intellectual. It's an attempt to divest himself of these personae, and when he has dismissed them, there comes a pause - a moment of grace - which is infinitely more valuable than his trying to invent everything for himself, or accepting human inventions, the collective errors, by which he's lived. He's decided to go through a process of jettisoning or lightening. The effect is that this is something the reader shares. Bellow has the capacity in his novels to cover the smallest timeframe - a matter of days, or even hours in some cases - and yet through the subtle interleaving of flashbacks, meditations and philosophical musings, cover a vast amount of intellectual and emotional ground. His novels are vast in scope yet humanly scaled. The philosophical is made real by instantiation.Read more ›
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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Half way through this book. I shared some of the doubts expressed by other reviewers. Yes it is well written, but it appeared to be too narrow in its focus. A book whose sole topic is the protagonist's ego is hard to sustain for 340 pages. It cried out for social or political contexts into which the eccentric character could be absorbed. However all my early doubts were dealt with as the book progressed. His love for his daughter, brother and mother give Herzog greater depth and the reader starts to realise that Moses is not just a self-pitying, self obsessive. He is a man out of his depth , an intellectual in an anti-intellectual age. He is a Jew with a long family history of suffering, a "schooling in grief" yet even this proud history of struggle seems trivial because as Herzog notes: "What happened during the War abolished Father Herzog's claim to exceptional suffering". This is one of many aspects of personal history that troubles Moses
The early chapters lay the foundations for the wonderful latter parts of the book. Herzog is one of the most extraordinary literary creations of modern times. Bellow has created a multi-layered madman, pathetic yet loveable, a man of great intellect; solipsistic, moving, pedantic, gentle and above all believable. One moment he is plotting to murder the wife he loathes; the next he is showing the depth of his love for his daughter; then he writes to Nietszche telling the long dead philosopher that he is lying in a hammock in rural Massachusetts. He also writes to God, Heidegger, Eisenhower, ex-lovers and many of the personal and professional rivals he wishes to settle scores with. These letters (never posted), like the wife's one legged lover and Herzog's monkey kissing friend add much dark humour to what is often a very serious and moving narrative. This is a difficult, intense novel, but well worth the effort.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Vince Leo on November 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
The funny thing about Herzog is that it's no longer contemporary fiction. In terms of language, operating philosophies, and identifiable character types, it's as far behind us as Moby Dick. That's part of the charm of reading Herzog-the discovery that 50 years ago is indeed a half century away. But, like Moby Dick, age doesn't make any difference to the power of Moses Herzog's story, the truths it depicts, or the awe Bellow can sometimes inspire. Herzog is a philosophical novel about a failed academic philosopher who can't help but search for the truth. Whether in love affairs, memories of his Jewish childhood, or the letters he obsessively writes, M. Herzog flings himself against hypocricy, alienation, and boredom. He never wins, but he never gives up, and somehow or another comes to accept his own soul. "The dream of man's heart, however much we may distrust or resent it, is that life may complete itself in significant pattern." Bellow creates that soul from his own, through long and brilliant analytical passages that turn philosophical propositions into intricate, heart-stopping interior monologues. These are interspersed with suggestive aphorisms ("God's veil over things makes them all riddles.") The real secret of Bellow's novel is the emotional pitch of spiritual imperitive and secular compromise so perfeclty rendered in his prose. Half a century later it still resonates.
war on typos: p.302, line 9: "hinding behind the tree trunk" instead of hiding.
p. 227, line 16: "the sinstrument of the soul" instead of instrument.
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