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Mr. Sammler's Planet (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) Paperback – March 1, 1996

3.9 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“The most important writer in English in the second half of the twentieth century…Bellow’s oeuvre is both timeless and ruthlessly contemporary.” –Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times (London) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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 --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Twentieth Century Classics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014018936X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140189360
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,826,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is my sixth Bellow novel. For first timers, I would highly recommend Henderson the Rain King over this work because Henderson is an easier, funnier, and more exuberant read--a great parody of the Hemmingway novel. That said, Mr. Sammler's Planet is classic Bellow. The protagonist, Mr. Sammler, is heroically flawed (as all of Bellow's protagonists are) and is caught at a point in his late life where numerous themes challenge his moral center: misogyny, pessimism, death, the human condition, the social contract, filial duty, the achievements of science, and modern western philosphy among other themes--and in any great Bellow work, there are so many themes!
The narrative is simple: a close third person point of view brings us inside Mr. Sammler's head as he interprets and analyzes the events in his life: his dying nephew, a pick pocket who assualts him, greedy relatives, a missing manuscript, and his Holocaust experience. There are long philosophic digressions, sometimes humorous, sometimes didactic, that can frustrate, confuse, and enlighten the reader, all within the space of a single paragraph. This density of thought is one of the supreme challenges of Bellow, but as an ardent fan (who only "gets" a mere fraction of what he's talking about), the payoff is exponentially greater than the effort I put in. The only narrative flaw I find is in the dialogue between Sammler and Dr. Lal. It's structured in a Platonic form--reminiscent of the final chapter in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man--and the section seems forced and stilted compared to the rest of the novel.
Bellow's prose is as strong as ever. We return to New York City in the late 1960s, much filthier and more violent than the setting of Seize the Day.
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Format: Paperback
I can imagine few curses worse, historically speaking, than being born in Europe at the fin de sielce. Being born during this period afforded millions of individuals a front row seat, from the flowering youth into the onset of middle age's end, to this century's most colossal stupidities and unspeakable horrors. First industrialized warfare with its colossal waste during the First World War and then industrialized murder in the second. Artur Sammler, not thoroughly affected by the first war is, in every conceivable respect, a survivor of the second. Sammler exemplifies with his one eye, the other sacrificed to a Mauser rifle butt, what it means to see the world clearly, unmediated in its most extreme forms of viciousness and madness. He has lived life at its extremes.

There are many ways to read Mr. Sammler's Planet, and though it probably detracts from gaining some of the meaning of the work, I choose to read it as part historical document and part philosophical treatise. As a document of the 1960's and 70's, it is a lamentation by Bellow at seeing an environment of what he considers adolescent intellectual arrogance blossom up all around New York coupled with a hedonistic sexual revolution which, though not necessarily condemnable is certainly not commendable. Sammler's New York is a mad house of crime, vice, and utter-ridiculousness. For him, one who saw society fall apart at the seems with disastrous consequences for his life--Bellow's narrative reveals very early on that Sammler should in all actuality be dead--New York is very close to being a modernized Sodom or Gomorrah, but a long ways away from having fire and brimstone rained down upon it. It is only redeemed by being almost stupidly infantile.
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Format: Paperback
Both as an example of fine writing and as a book that leaves you thinking deep thoughts, this novel is outstanding. One of my rules for determining the "importance" of any book, movie, or other entertainment piece is whether or not it is capable of inspiring change in its audience. This novel is.
Bellow achieves the perfect balance of interior monologue and narrative in Sammler, in which we see the world through the eyes of the erudite elderly man, who, though constrained by his own reserved demeanor, sees the world with his eyes, his mind, and his heart. At a loss, often, to express himself, Sammler filters the world through his intellect. And yet, the truths he knows are intuitive, and he realizes that value in life is found through making and acknowledging the human connection and bond, and living up to the spiritual and moral truths of the "human contract." This is a book about how important it is to love, to connect with other frail, imperfect, crazy humans, how to come to terms with the messiness of life, and make peace with the contradictions between intellect and religion/spirituality.
Living in New York on the charity of relatives, Sammler struggles, and succeeds in, maintaining his dignity in spite of the seemingly depraved surroundings of the city and in spite of his precarious financial and physical conditions. Observing the world around him, Sammler poses many questions about the values that drive us, noting poignantly that bragging about one's vices has become virtue, and that honor, "virtuous impulses," have somehow become shameful.
Yet, the book also has an engaging plot, one that serves the message of the book, and Sammler's many family relationships are amusing and touching at once.
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