Saul Bellow


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

Author Quotes

There is simply too much to think about. It is hopeless ? too many kinds of special preparation are required. In electronics, in economics, in social analysis, in history, in psychology, in international politics, most of us are, given the oceanic proliferating complexity of things, paralyzed by the very suggestion that we assume responsibility for so much. This is what makes packaged opinion so attractive.

To tell the truth I never had it so good. But I lacked the strength of character to bear such joy.

Well I gave a lot of time to women and if I had my time again I don't think I would do it that way. I was letting my neurosis monopolize my life.

There is something funny about the human condition, and civilized intelligence makes fun of its own ideas.

Tocqueville predicted that in democratic countries the public would demand larger and larger doses of excitement and increasingly stronger stimulants from its writers. He probably did not expect that public to dramatize itself so extensively, to make the world scene everybody's theatre, or, in the developed countries, to take to alcohol and drugs in order to get relief from the horrors of ceaseless intensity, the torment of thrills and distractions. A great many writers have done little more than meet the mounting demand for thrills. I think that this demand has, in the language of marketing, peaked.

Well, don't build me up so, and you won't have to tear me down.

There is today an extraordinary interest with the data of modern experience per se. Our absorption in our contemporary historical state is very high right now. It's not altogether unlike a similar situation in seventeenth century Holland, where wealthy merchants wanted their portraits done with all their blemishes included. It is the height of egotism, in a sense, to think even one's blemishes are of significance. So today Americans seem to want their writers to reveal all their weaknesses, their meannesses, to celebrate their very confusions. And they want it in the most direct possible way - they want it served up neat, as it were, without the filtering and generalizing power of fiction.

Towards the end of your life you have something like a pain schedule to fill out?a long schedule like a federal document, only it's your pain schedule. Endless categories. First, physical causes?like arthritis, gallstones, menstrual cramps. New category, injured vanity, betrayal, swindle, injustice. But the hardest items of all have to do with love. The question then is: So why does everybody persist? If love cuts them up so much....

There was a disturbance in my heart, a voice that spoke there and said, I want, I want, I want It happened every afternoon, and when I tried to suppress it it got even stronger.

Unexpected intrusions of beauty. That is what life is.

There were people who believed Herzog was rather simple, that his humane feelings were childish. That he had been spared the destruction of certain sentiments as the pet goose is spared the axe.

Unfortunately for the betterment of mankind it is not always the fair-minded who are in the right.

There?s a kind of emptiness at the center of life ... nothing to form your life on, or by.

Unless you're completely exploded, there's always something to be grateful for.

There?s the big advantage of backwardness. By the time the latest ideas reach Chicago, they?re worn thin and easy to see through. You don?t have to bother with them and it saves lots of trouble.

Was she not so simple and free of ulterior motives as she looked? Well, neither was I.

Therefore we didn't talk of genuine things.

We are all such accidents. We do not make up history and culture. We simply appear, not by our own choice. We make what we can of our condition with the means available. We must accept the mixture as we find it ? the impurity of it, the tragedy of it, the hope of it.

There's something that remains barbarous in educated people, and lately I've more and more had the feeling that we are non-wondering primitives. And why is it that we no longer marvel at these technological miracles? They've become the external facts of every life. We've all been to the university, we've had introductory courses in everything, and therefore we have persuaded ourselves that if we had the time to apply ourselves to these scientific marvels, we would understand them. But of course that's an illusion. It couldn't happen. Even among people who have had careers in science. They know no more about how it all works than we do. So we are in the position of savage men who, however, have been educated into believing that they are capable of understanding everything. Not that we actually do understand, but that we have the capacity.

We are always looking for the book it is necessary to read next.

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.

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