Why Bellow Was the Least Jewish Writer of the Golden Age of American Jewish Fiction

The great theme of his work is resistance to spiritual constraint, the soul’s freedom as the highest value.

Saul Bellow in Italy in 1984. Marisa Rastellini/Mondadori via Getty Images.

Saul Bellow in Italy in 1984. Marisa Rastellini/Mondadori via Getty Images.

Response
Oct. 23 2019
About the author

Adam Kirsch, a poet and literary critic, is the author of, among other books, Benjamin Disraeli and The People and The Books: Eighteen Classics of Jewish Literature.


Saul Bellow didn’t like the word “task” as applied to literature: “tasks are for people who work in offices,” he once cracked. Yet Ruth R. Wisse’s survey in Mosaic of Bellow’s achievement as an American Jewish novelist, “What Saul Bellow Saw,” shows that synthesizing those two parts of his identity, the American and the Jewish, was indeed a lifelong task, one that occupied his fiction from The Victim (1947) to Ravelstein (2000).

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