Saul Bellow


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

Author Quotes

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.

What makes me say these things is that I see how much you care about the way people look at you. It matters too much to you. And there are people who take advantage of that. They haven't got anything of their own and they'll leave you nothing for yourself. They want to put themselves in your thoughts and in your mind, and that you should care for them. It's a sickness. But they don't want you to care for them as they really are. No, that's the whole stunt. You have to be conscious of them, but not as they are, only as they love to be seen. They live through observation by the ones around them, and they want you to live like that too. Augie darling, don't do it. They will make you suffer from what they are. And you don't really matter to them.

Writers are greatly respected. The intelligent public is wonderfully patient with them, continues to read them, and endures disappointment after disappointment, waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, social theory, and what it cannot hear from pure science. Out of the struggle at the center has come an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are and what this life is for.

What this means is not a single Tower of Babel plotted in common, but hundreds of thousands of separate beginnings, the length and breadth of America. Energetic people who build against pains and uncertainties, as weaker ones merely hope against them.

Writers, poets, painters, musicians, philosophers, political thinkers, to name only a few of the categories affected, must woo their readers, viewers, listeners, from distraction. To this we must add, for simple realism demands it, that these same writers, painters, etc., are themselves the children of distraction. As such, they are peculiarly qualified to approach the distracted multitudes. They will have experienced the seductions as well as the destructiveness of the forces we have been considering here. This is the destructive element in which we do not need to be summoned to immerse ourselves, for we were born to it.

What use was war without also love?

Yes, these business people have great energy. There?s a question as to what?s burned to produce it and what things we can and can?t burn.

What was the matter that pureness of feeling couldn?t be kept up? I see I met those writers in the big book of utopias at a peculiar time. In those utopias, set up by hopes and art, how could you overlook the part of nature or be sure you could keep the feelings up?

You become a writer because you are convinced that you have a grip on reality of a certain distinctive kind. It belongs to you and to others who share such a recognition.

This time she wasn?t up the stump, as she spoke of it. Eventually she was able to give Frazer better news. But she made him wait for it. She wanted him to worry, or to give him practice in learning to worry about her and not about himself. She was not easy toward him. She knew it was unequal, that she loved him more than he could her or anyone. But neither was love his calling, as it was hers. And she was very severe and exalted about this. She too could have lived in desert wilderness for the sake of it, and have eaten locusts.

We take foreigners to be incomplete Americans ? convinced that we must help and hasten their evolution.

There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book.

To him, perpetual thought of death was a sin. Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.

We took the coal-and-ice dealers into taverns and drank beer and swapped talk, in those sleepy and dark with heat joints where the very flies crept rather than flew, seeming doped by the urinal camphors and malt sourness, and from the heated emptiness and woodblock-knocking of the baseball broadcast that gave only more constriction to the unlocatable, undiagnosed wrong.

There is simply too much to think about.

To rip off a piece of lover's temper was a pleasure in her deepest vein of enjoyment.

We were friends, somehow. But in the end, somehow, he intended to be a mortal enemy. All the while that he was making the gestures of a close and precious friend he was fattening my soul in a coop till it was ready for killing

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