What Saul Bellow Saw

The Jewish writer who became America’s most decorated novelist spent his early years prodding the nation’s soul. Then, sensing danger to it, he took up the role of guardian.

Saul Bellow shortly after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976. Keystone/Getty Images.

Saul Bellow shortly after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976. Keystone/Getty Images.

Ruth R. Wisse
essay
Oct. 7 2019
About Ruth

Ruth R. Wisse is a Mosaic columnist, professor emerita of Yiddish and comparative literatures at Harvard and a distinguished senior fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Her memoir Free as a Jew: a Personal Memoir of National Self-Liberation, chapters of which appeared in Mosaic in somewhat different form, will be published in September.

In May 1949, a year after the establishment of the state of Israel, the American Jewish literary critic Leslie Fiedler published in Commentary an essay about the fundamental challenge facing American Jewish writers: that is, novelists, poets, and intellectuals like Fiedler himself.

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More about: American Jewish literature, American Jews, Arts & Culture, Literature, Saul Bellow