Reviews

Herzog, by Saul Bellow

emmamacdonald's review

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4.0

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

franlifer's review

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challenging dark reflective medium-paced

4.25

acraig5075's review

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1.0

Finishing this book was a labour

mayralimeirajm's review

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Novels without chapters bug me.
Herzog had some sort of dissection; sometimes the prose would be cut, only to be continued a couple spaces below. It still seemed vague and disorganized to me, having been for so long used to chapters and clear division.

I read a measly 18% of this book, and this is what I have to show for it:
This book was extremely hard for me to review. I’m still not completely sure I have a finished opinion on it. It had been on my to-read list forever. And it’s long been on the corner of my eye, beckoning, begging me to open it, and discover the amazing Nobel Prize winner.

I thought I would love it. Sixty pages in, I still could not see the point the author was trying to sell with his story. It was not grabbing me. The introduction by Philip Roth had mentioned Tolstoy and compared their prose. I could not see the resemblance, as Anna Karenina is one of my all-time favorites.

I felt the writing was all over the place and it was not able to focus on one sole idea for even the length of a couple of phrases. Perhaps that was meant to illustrate Herzog’s “madness”, but it was sort of annoying.

Interspersed with that muddle were quotes of extreme genius, wit and introspection, so you might perhaps understand my difficulty in wrapping my mind on a fixed opinion.

Throughout what I actually read, I could sense a dulled, dark humor underneath the drama of the plot. Most of the time I didn’t know if I should consider some passages funny or insulting; like this one:

“Will never understand what women want. What do they want? They eat green salad and drink human blood.”

Nearing the 70th page, I grew extremely tired of the character’s crazy, chopped letter writing. Plus, my book was smelling all mildewy (thanks, new Penguin Classics copy, that managed to be the only book in my shelves – among 200 others – to get mildew/mold, having been less than 2 years old), so I just decided to abandon it for now, and maybe pick it up again in a couple of years. Maybe.

I just honestly could not bring myself to care for Herzog, or his incessant ranting.

These quotes are pretty killer though:
“You have to fight for your life. That’s the chief condition on which you hold it.”

”People are dying – it is no metaphor – for lack of something real to carry home when day is done.”

comparadox's review

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dark slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.75

orangejenny's review

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2.0

The only thing I liked about this book was the phrase "potato love." Just couldn't muster much interest in Moses's hurt feelings, his letters, or his life. Having read Coetzee's Disgrace recently, perhaps I had just too recently used up my capacity for caring about the crises of aging male intellectuals who lack emotional depth.

amadswami's review

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5.0

While you may find yourself at home within the mind of Herzog, it is no place to sit back and put up your feet. His brain is constantly cycling through his choices, his life's directions and of course where all of this fits within his belief system/philosophy.

braaandon's review

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3.0

"Karen took the kids": the book.

merixien's review against another edition

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5.0

Herzog okumanın çok da kolay olmadığı metinlerden. Zaman içindeki sıçramaları, karakter sayısı ve Herzog’un dağınık zihninde gezinmek ilk başlarda kitaba adapte olmayı zorluyor.
Kitap, toplumun beklentileri ile kendi özlemleri arasında parçalanmış ortayaşlı bir entelektüelin hikayesi. Bir noktada da “kayıp yahudi neslinin” bireysel aktarımı durumunda. Bu açıdan da pozitivist bir bakış açısına sahip, zira Herzog ile Bellow’un hayatının kesiştiği çokça nokta bulunuyor. Lakin bunun tamamen otobiyografik bir kitap olarak tanımlaması da pek yerinde değil. Daha çok kendisinin karikatürize edilmiş bir versiyonunu sunuyor Bellow. Yazar bunu yaparken de hiçbir şekilde okurun kitapla/kendisiyle bağ kurması, özdeşleşmesi ya da sorularına cevap bulması gibi bir kaygı duymuyor. Tam tersine kendisinin güvensizliklerini ve sorularını hiçbir çözüm olmadan okura geçiriyor. Varoluşa, zaman kavramına, sona dair asla cevabı olmayan soruları okuyana bırakıp vedalaşıyor. En başta söylediğim gibi, okuması çok rahat olmasa da kitabı bitirdiğinizde buna değdiğini görüyorsunuz. Amerikan edebiyatı seviyorsanız, es geçmeyin

“Hayatın dikenlerinin üzerine düşüyorum, kanıyorum. Sonra? Hayatın dikenlerinin üzerine düşüyorum, kanıyorum. Peki ya sonra? Birileriyle yatıyorum, kısa bir tatile çıkıyorum ama çok kısa bir süre sonra, acıdan haz alarak ya da mutluluktan acı çekerek - bu karışımın ne olduğunu kim bilebilir! - yine aynı dikenlerin üstüne düşüyorum. İçimde iyi olarak nitelendirebileceğim, kalıcı olan ne var? Doğumla ölüm arasında, bu sapkınlıktan elde edebileceğim şeyin haricinde hiçbir şey yok mu? Sadece karmaşık duyguların merhametli dengesi mi? Özgürlük yok mu? Sadece dürtüler mi? Peki ya yüreğimdeki onca iyilik, hiçbir anlamı yok mu? Bir şakadan mı ibaret? İnsanın, kendisinin değerli olduğu yanılgısına kapılmasına yol açan sahte bir umuttan? Böylece insanın mücadeleye devam etmesini sağlıyor, öyle mi? Ama ben bu iyiliğin sahte olmadığını biliyorum. Biliyorum. Yemin ederim.”


“...psikolojinin söylediği gibi zihinsel olarak öldürmek doğalsa (günde bir düşünce cinayeti, uzak tutar psikiyatristi) o zaman var olma arzusu iyi bir yaşamı destekleyecek kadar sağlam değil demektir.”

levitybooks's review

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3.0

As in Humboldt's Gift, Bellow perfectly captures the midlife crisis of a weak and failing professor. The problem is that these aren't the people you wouldn't want to invite or talk to at a party, let alone spend a whole book with. Being a PhD student in Neuroscience, one of the most navel-gazing academic disciplines ever, it's hard to believe these professor characters can be 'this' in their heads. It feel like an unintentional caricature of analysis-paralysis, or the dithering intellectual, given the reality given to all else in the story.

Charlie Citrine in Humboldt's Gift has lost a wife and is chasing a new woman, he is weathered and bitter but still a man going down with a fight. By contrast, Moses Herzog in Herzog is utterly ruined by his divorce. I don't know if I want to know what a desperate man spying through his ex-wife's window is feeling? I don't know if there's something to learn about playing life from griping like this. The melodrama in The Sorrows Of Young Werther were more enlightening than this, if you're going to be sad then let it be a flood for the reader. Don't drag me into a plodding frail drone of dejection with you, damn it!