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Nobel Prize winning author (1915-2005)

Myself is thus and so, and will continue thus and so. And why fight it? My balance comes from instability.


In an age of madness, to expect to be untouched by madness is a form of madness.

SAUL BELLOW, Henderson the Rain King

Imagination is a force of nature. Is this not enough to make a person full of ecstasy? Imagination, imagination, imagination. It converts to actual. It sustains, it alters, it redeems!

SAUL BELLOW, Henderson the Rain King

A man is only as good as what he loves.

SAUL BELLOW, Seize the Day

A writer should be able to express himself easily, naturally, copiously in a form that frees his mind, his energies. Why should he hobble himself with formalities?

SAUL BELLOW, The Paris Review, winter 1966

I want to tell you, don't marry suffering. Some people do. They get married to it, and sleep and eat together, just as husband and wife. If they go with joy they think it's adultery.

SAUL BELLOW, Seize the Day

I see a great many things now that I couldn't see when I was a young person. And I don't like everything that I see. For instance, I see people spending about fifty hours a week in front of the tv, which means that they have no more family life, they belong to the crowd, so to speak, they belong to the media, and they have no individual perspective, they derive their observations, they get them ready made from somebody who packages them. I don't think that's a very good thing for anybody.

SAUL BELLOW, Q & A at Howard Community College, Feb. 1986

Human character is smaller now, people don't have durable passions; they've replaced passions with excitement.

SAUL BELLOW, The Guardian, Sep. 10, 1997

Every book, every story, has a sort of invisible signature at the front. And when you've written the first few lines of a story, those govern all the rest that follows.

SAUL BELLOW, Q & A at Howard Community College, Feb. 1986

In the 1920s and '30s artists went to Paris and had a hell of a good time, as I tried to do in '48. I went there directly after the war because I was eager to see the action. But I found no great action when I got there. There were not many flowers of culture in 1947-48. Everybody concentrated on gluing the pieces together. For artists the great age had already been petering out before the war. By the great age I mean the international culture -- the gathering in Paris of a group of great figures, few of them French: Stein, Hemingway, Joyce, Pound, Picasso, Brancusi, Modigliani, Diaghilev, Stravinski, and so on. It was an international culture that made Paris its headquarters. But it was French only in location.

SAUL BELLOW, Contemporary Literature, 1984

I didn't want to be ignored. I didn't want my books to be ignored. But I didn't really care to cut such a figure either because ... well, it interferes with the business of writing.

SAUL BELLOW, Q & A at Howard Community College, Feb. 1986

If I want to do the same old thing, it’s easy. If I want to do something altogether new, it becomes harder. I could go on writing the stories I’ve been writing during the last few years. They have a certain charm and they’re true as far as they go. They're just not enough.

SAUL BELLOW, AGNI interview, 1997

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.

SAUL BELLOW, Nobel lecture, Dec. 12, 1976

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.

SAUL BELLOW, To Jerusalem and Back

Can we find nothing good to say about TV? Well, yes, it brings scattered solitaries into a sort of communion. TV allows your isolated American to think that he participates in the life of the entire country. It does not actually place him in a community, but his heart is warmed with the suggestion (on the whole false) that there is a community somewhere in the vicinity and that his atomized consciousness will be drawn back toward the whole.

SAUL BELLOW, "The Distracted Public," It All Adds Up

I love solitude, but I prize it most when plenty of company is available.

SAUL BELLOW, letter to Albert Glotzer, Apr. 19, 1996

Anxiety destroys scale, and suffering makes us lose perspective.

SAUL BELLOW, "The Sealed Treasure," It All Adds Up

There are evils, as someone has pointed out, that have the ability to survive identification and go on for ever — money, for instance, or war.

SAUL BELLOW, The Dean's December

A writer is a reader moved to emulation.

SAUL BELLOW, attributed, The Hidden Writer

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


Losing a parent is something like driving through a plate-glass window. You didn't know it was there until it shattered, and then for years to come you're picking up the pieces -- down to the last glassy splinter.

SAUL BELLOW, letter to Martin Amis, Mar. 13, 1996

I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness that characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm.

SAUL BELLOW, The Paris Review, winter 1966

Boredom is the conviction that you can't change ... the shriek of unused capacities.

SAUL BELLOW, The Adventures of Augie March

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


A novel is balanced between a few true impressions and the multitude of false ones that make up most of what we call life.

SAUL BELLOW, Nobel lecture, Dec. 12, 1976

Live or die but don't poison everything.


I've got at least four or five readers. God has not abandoned me. Why the Lord of hosts has let the ranks become so thin, who can say?

SAUL BELLOW, letter to Richard Stern, Mar. 12, 1996

There are those who believe that clumsiness and truthfulness go together. But cumbersomeness does not necessarily imply a sincere heart.

SAUL BELLOW, The Paris Review, winter 1966

Psychoanalysis pretends to investigate the Unconscious. The Unconscious by definition is what you are not conscious of. But the Analysts already know what’s in it. They should, because they put it all in beforehand. It's like an Easter Egg hunt.

SAUL BELLOW, The Dean's December

A man may say, "From now on I'm going to speak the truth." But the truth hears him and runs away and hides before he's even done speaking.


People don't realize how much they are in the grip of ideas. We live among ideas much more than we live in nature.

SAUL BELLOW, Conversations with Saul Bellow

Unexpected intrusions of beauty. That is what life is.


I never yet touched a fig leaf that didn't turn into a price tag.

SAUL BELLOW, Humboldt's Gift

Fidelity is for phonographs.

SAUL BELLOW, Humboldt's Gift

I am a true adorer of life, and if I can't reach as high as the face of it, I plant my kiss somewhere lower down. Those who understand will require no further explanation.

SAUL BELLOW, Henderson the Rain King

People reserve their best thinking for their professional specialties and, next in line, for serious matters confronting the alert citizen—economics, politics, the disposal of nuclear waste, etc. The day’s work done, they want to be entertained.

SAUL BELLOW, introduction, The Closing of the American Mind

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.

SAUL BELLOW, "There Is Simply Too Much to Think About," It All Adds Up

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.

SAUL BELLOW, Henderson the Rain King

A human soul devoid of longing was a soul deformed, deprived of its highest good, sick unto death.

SAUL BELLOW, Ravelstein

Some people, if they didn't make it hard for themselves, might fall asleep.

SAUL BELLOW, The Adventures of Augie March

I am quite prepared to admit that being habitual liars and self-deluders, we have good cause to fear the truth, but I'm not at all ready to stop hoping. There may be some truths that are, after all, our friends in the universe.

SAUL BELLOW, The Paris Review, winter 1966

You can spend the entire second half of your life recovering from the mistakes of the first half.

SAUL BELLOW, Seize the Day

I've discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, "To hell with you."

SAUL BELLOW, attributed, Putting Your Passion Into Print

Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.

SAUL BELLOW, Mr. Sammler's Planet

I think that when I wrote those early books I was timid. I still felt the incredible effrontery of announcing myself to the world (in part I mean the WASP world) as a writer and an artist. I had to touch a great many bases, demonstrate my abilities, pay my respects to formal requirements. In short, I was afraid to let myself go.

SAUL BELLOW, The Paris Review, winter 1966

I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed. And then? I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed. And what next? I get laid, I take a short holiday, but very soon after I fall upon those same thorns with gratification in pain, or suffering in joy -- who knows what the mixture is! What good, what lasting good is there in me? Is there nothing else between birth and death but what I can get out of this perversity -- only a favorable balance of disorderly emotions? No freedom? Only impulses? And what about all the good I have in my heart -- does it mean anything? Is it simply a joke? A false hope that makes a man feel the illusion of worth? And so he goes on with his struggles. But this good is no phony. I know it isn't. I swear it.


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

SAUL BELLOW, "A Second Half Life," It All Adds Up

You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.

SAUL BELLOW, attributed, Something About the Author

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