Saul Bellow: Letters

Andrew O’Hagan writes:

In every great novelist there’s a baby, a slack-mouthed tyrant, a bawling and mewling ankle-biter, a demon chomper, a rattle-chucker, a rivalrous toad, green and pink and fat with self-concern, and we will often see this distinguished person most clearly in his letters. Saul Bellow knew the type very well and we meet one of them in the shape of Moses Herzog, the eponymous hero of Bellow’s sixth novel, a helpless, epistolary nutcase who yawps as if his nappies were as heavy as his brain.

As long as I was Mady’s good husband, I was a delightful person. Suddenly, because Madeleine decided that she wanted out – suddenly, I was a mad dog. The police were warned about me and there was talk of committing me to an institution. I know that my friend and Mady’s lawyer, Sandor Himmelstein, called Dr Edvig to ask whether I was crazy enough to be put in Manteno or Elgin … It must be very deep and primitive, the feeling people – women – have against a deceived husband.

(LRB 6 January 2011)

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