Tuesday, 30 December 2014

HERZOG by Saul Bellow

Apparently I am in the mood for novels about mid-century men losing their wives. Herzog has recently been dumped by his wife, and is slowly losing his mind. He endlessly writes letters to different people, with the novel moving around across his entire lifetime. Usually I find this kind of thing deeply annoying in novels, but Saul Bellow is a remarkable writer and manages to hold it together. Here for example is Herzog's lawyer:
Simkin, sitting in his office, occupied a grand Sykes chair, beneath enormous rows of law books. A man is born to be orphaned, and to leave orphans after him, but a chair like that chair, if he can afford it, is a great comfort.

Less hilarious is the reminder of world population in the 50s:
I know its no cinch to manage the affairs of this planet with its population exceeding 2 billion. The number itself is something of a miracle and throws our practical ideas into obsolescence.
Apparently in forty years since we've managed to triple world population. That is something of a miracle.

It was also interesting to see in this novel, as in THE SPORTSWRITER which I read recently, that in the past, the wife got to keep the children, no matter what. It's pretty disgusting and sexist. So is Herzog's view on a twelve year girl he sees riding a horse:
In jodphurs, boots and bowler she had the hauteur of a female child who knows it won't be long before she is nubile and has the power to hurt.
I have some experience in the twelve year old girl area, having been one myself, and I can assure you that your nubility (?) never crosses your mind.

Herzog eventually attempts to murder his wife. I can't tell you if he succeeded, as fifty pages from the end, my shampoo burst on the book. Sorry Saul Bellow.

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