Saul Bellow


Canadian-born American Novelist, Playwright, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and National Medal of Arts

Author Quotes

You have one of two choices. Either you can panic and start making frantic attempts to reform under the glare of these awful critical eyes, or you can just say, "The hell with you! I know what I'm doing. If you don't yet, it's because you haven't given me an attentive reading.

When one turns against himself, nor others and mean nothing to him.

You have to fight for your life. That's the chief condition on which you hold it.

Well, I need a job. Something that'll leave me the free time I want.

When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice

What art thou?' Nothing. That's the answer. Nothing. In the heart of hearts- Nothing! So of course you can't stand that and want to be Something, and you try. But instead of being this Something, the man puts it over on everybody instead.

When we read the best nineteenth- and twentieth-century novelists, we soon realize that they are trying in a variety of ways to establish a definition of human nature, to justify the continuation of life as well as the writing of novels.

What do I care what happened with Oliver? None of my business, I said. I want to get married. Clem had insisted on an engagement of six months, knowing my nature and my personality. But this advice was fine for the shopkeepers of life, not for those who had spent his entire life with one big goal. Sure, she said, I want to get married, if you love me. I swore to him with all the heart. If you still love me after lunch, she said, ask me again.

Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.

What do women really want? They eat green salad and drink human blood.

Wise men talk because they have something to say fools talk because they have to say something.

What I seem to do, thought Herzog, is to inflame myself with my drama, with ridicule, failure, denunciation, distortion, to inflame myself voluptuously, esthetically, until I reach sexual climax. And that climax looks like a resolution and an answer to many higher problems.

With a novelist, like a surgeon, you have to get a feeling that you've fallen into good hands - someone from whom you can accept the anesthetic with confidence.

What is art but a way of seeing?

With one long breath, caught and held in his chest, he fought his sadness over his solitary life. Don't cry, you idiot! Live or die, but don't poison everything.

What is imposed on us by birth and environment is what we are called upon to overcome.

With small nose, gross thighs, and those back-bent smoke-dyed fingers, he obliged me with this explanation, and he thought to have more effect on me than he really ever could have. When I didn't argue he was satisfied that he had persuaded me, and was not the first to make that mistake.

These were his friends of the business community; a man in business had to have such, and he visited and entertained but neither touched nor was touched, ever.

We are free to withdraw (to withdraw our minds where we cannot withdraw our bodies) from situations in which our humanity or lack of it is defined for us.

These, said Conrad, knew the world by systematic examination. To begin with the artist had only himself; he descended within himself and in the lonely regions to which he descended, he found the terms of his appeal. He appealed, said Conrad, to that part of our being which is a gift, not an acquisition, to the capacity for delight and wonder... our sense of pity and pain, to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation - and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts... which binds together all humanity - the dead to the living and the living to the unborn.

We are funny creatures. We don't see the stars as they are, so why do we love them? They are not small gold objects, but endless fire.

Things that you write are in some degree autobiographical, but the first thing you find out about autobiography is that it's the hardest thing in the world to write. It's hard because it's very difficult to be absolutely factual about yourself. So ... when you write, you may draw on facts from your own life, but if they?re not in harmony with your story, they're worse than useless. You just stumble over them.

We mustn't forget how quickly the visions of genius become the canned goods of intellectuals.

This development is possibly related to the fact that so much of value has been absorbed by technology itself. It is good to electrify a primitive area. Civilization and even morality are implicit in technological transformation... New techniques are in themselves bien pensant and represent not only rationality but benevolence... Romantic individuals (a mass of them by now) accuse this mass civilization of obstructing their attainment of beauty, nobility, integrity, intensity. I do not want to sneer at the term Romantic. Romanticism guarded the inspired condition, preserved the poetic, philosophical, and religious teachings... uring the greatest and most rapid of transformations, the most accelerated phase of modern scientific and technical transformation.

We never learn anything, never in the world, and in spite of all the history books written. They?re just the way we plead or ague with ourselves about it, but it?s only light from the outside that we?re supposed to take inside. If we can. There?s a regular warehouse of fine suggestions and if we?re not better it isn?t because there aren?t plenty of marvelous and true ideas to draw on, but because our vanity weighs more than all of them put together.

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Canadian-born American Novelist, Playwright, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and National Medal of Arts