Reviews

Herzog, by Saul Bellow

lorettapetolla's review against another edition

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dark slow-paced

ireadslow's review

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challenging emotional funny inspiring reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

vtlism's review

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2.0

i never find it that enjoyable to read about sad-sack old men.

the_dave_harmon's review against another edition

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2.0

So I went back and finished it.
So my big complaint is there are these long asides where he departs from the narrative and starts rambling. And it's generally incoherent blathering that doesn't seem to mean anything. And I guess it's supposed to be Herzog's stream of consciousness? Letting us in on his mental confusion he is going through. But it was not enjoyable to read. Better than Virginia Woolf though.

cjcurtis's review

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5.0

I didn't realize it until about twenty pages from the end of the book, but Moses Herzog is one of the most endearing characters I have ever encountered in a novel. He probably shouldn't be. He's washed up, broken down, and quite possibly a little bit crazy, and spends a great deal of time mentally composing letters full of obscure philosophical references, addressing them variously to former colleagues, past lovers, or the dead philosophers themselves. All the while he is anguishing over the destruction of his second marriage, the distance between himself and his two children, the woman who may actually love him despite everything. As the wreckage of his actual life is slowly revealed, the pointlessness of the letters, even were they actually written down and sent, becomes increasingly, painfully apparent.

But then, somehow, that changes. Herzog's letters begin to seem more relevant, more significant, even with their persistent indecipherable academic jargon. Their abstract seriousness begins to seem like a front, a shield, and one that Herzog himself seems to see as increasingly flimsy and, more importantly, superfluous. As he divests himself of scholarly baggage, the meaningful parts of his life begin to reveal themselves, and suddenly, imperceptibly, Herzog the human being comes to light. (The unresolved question for me here is, did the letters themselves change, or did I change, and gradually come to recognize the truth hidden within them all along?)

For a considerable portion of this book, I admit I skimmed a lot of the letters, stuffed as they were with their hyperacademic maundering, thinking, as long as I got the gist, there was no need to bog myself down with the details. But when the book ended, so soon after I finally realized how fond of this shambling academic I had become, I began to regret my casual attitude. In a scaled down version of what we so often feel at the passing of a loved one, I wished I had paid better attention, had listened more carefully to what this earnest soul was trying to say before he was gone. He deserved that much. But now it was too late.

njauf's review

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3.75

Herzog decided not to be mentally ill anymore and that's so valid of him

blackjessamine's review

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4.0

25.10.2013

Leggendo trama e recensioni avrei pensato che tutte queste lettere fossero il fulcro, anche narrativo, di questo romanzo. Eppure, a me è sembrato che fossero solo un accompagnamento, qualcosa su cui ogni tanto, durante la lettura, si scivolasse. E, devo dire, a me non hanno infastidito molto. Certo sono impegnative, richiedono forse un'attenzione superiore a quella che solitamente si utilizza per seguire "solo" lo scorrere della trama di un romanzo, ma a me è sembrato come se queste lettere nascessero quasi fossero delle semplici (semplici per modo di dire, ovviamente ) riflessioni del protagonista. In effetti, devo dire che forse a me questi brevissimi saggi (perché, sì, alcuni secondo me li si potrebbe considerare saggi) sono risultati meno d'impiccio perché molti degli autori e delle tematiche affrontate io le studio, e dunque mi è sembrato di trovarmi a leggere un testo di quelli che solitamente mi trovo a dover studiare inframezzato da parti narrative ad alleggerirlo.
Anche io ho impiegato comunque diverso tempo a terminarlo, non tanto perché non mi sia piaciuto, ma proprio perché comunque l'impegno e l'attenzione richiesta erano tanti, e non l'ho trovato un romanzo "da abbuffata", in cui immergersi e da divorare in pochi giorni, ma piuttosto qualcosa da gustare piano, per avere modo di assaporare ogni cosa.
Herzog mi ha suscitato tanta tenerezza, con i suoi modi spesso ingenui, nonostante la facciata dell'intellettuale. E al tempo stesso, a volte è arrivato quasi ad irritarmi, come se facesse apposta a mostrarsi così ingenuo, come se in realtà quella fosse una maschera che lui ha deciso di indossare, assumendosi tutte le conseguenze, quasi volesse incorrere in nuovi fallimenti. E, non so, in questo forse ho rivisto alcuni tratti del mio carattere, e credo che questo mi abbia fatto riflettere molto più delle numerosissime lettere ad intellettuali.
Mi ha colpito tanto anche la parabola della stabilità mentale di quest'uomo, che inizialmente mi si è presentato solo come una persona verosimilmente provata da una batosta sentimentale, per poi mostrare sempre più i segni di un cedimento interiore: e, paradossalmente, mi è apparso quasi più lucido nei momenti finali, nei suoi gesti impulsivi e nelle sue meditazioni più astratte (astratte nel senso di "più slegate dalla realtà", meno saldamente legate a ciò che le suscita).
Non so, ho terminato questo libro solo qualche ora fa, e credo di averlo ancora troppo vivido e "vivo" addosso per un commento sensato, ma credo mi abbia dato tanto, e ho sentito la necessità di scrivere qualche cosa subito.

sarahreadsaverylot's review

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4.0

4.5
Welcome to Herzog's "post-quixotic, post-Copernican U.S.A., where a mind freely poised in space might discover relationships utterly unsuspected by a seventeenth-century man sealed in his smaller universe." Nothing remains sealed in this world of heartrendingly effortless prose, where every sentence is a microcosm. Follow Herzog, that magnificent pierrot, along his epistolary journey of curiously exuberant entropy. Listen as he navigates that emotional landscape, crying, "what can thoughtful people and humanists do but struggle toward suitable words? Take me, for instance. I've been writing letters helter-skelter in all directions. More words. I go after reality with language. Perhaps I'd like to change it all into language...I must be trying to keep tight the tensions without which human beings can no longer be called human. If they don't suffer, they've gotten away from me. And I've filled the world with letters to prevent their escape. I want them in human form, and so I conjure up a whole environment and catch them in the middle. I put my whole heart into these constructions. But they are constructions." Revel in a novel that grows deeper and richer with every provoking page you turn.

hammo's review

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3.0

Found this pretty boring TBH.

The narrative alternated between the plot of "Jewish guy is sad because he's too smart and has too many girlfriends", and long-winded verbiages of pseudo-academic nonsense.

I only realised about halfway through that that was the joke. So there is something to enjoy in there, but you have to really be paying attention to notice it.

And some of the verbiages were quite interesting:
* Churo was your true discipline of Thomas Hobbes. Universal concerns were idiocy. Ask nothing better than to profit in the belly of leviathan and set a hedonistic example to the community.
* Ruin comes to beauty, inevitably. The space-time continuum reclaims its elements, taking you away bit by bit. And then again comes the void.
* What is the philosophy of this generation? Not God is dead. That point was passed long ago. Perhaps it should be stated: Death is God.

And then there are also some simply nice phrases:
* He was a big man, too big for anything but the truth.
* Some kill, then cry. Others, not even that.

emmamacdonald's review

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4.0

“At moments I disliked having a face, a nose, lips, because he has them.”