Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ravelstein - Saul Bellow

I picked this book up in the used bookstore because I recognized the author and couldn't remember having read any of his books in the past.  It's a rambling story of a professor who has become very rich because of a book he published and his dealing a life-ending illness.  He obtains a commitment from his friend who is a writer to write a memoir of his life after he dies.  His friend becomes ill after the professor dies and finally in recovery writes this memoir.

After reading it and not "getting it" I looked up reviews and found that it was considered a masterpiece that told the thinly veiled story of Bellow and his mentor, Alan Bloom, a philosopher from the University of Chicago.  It was the last book Bellow wrote; he was 85 at the time.

I suppose I should re-read the book now that I have its background but I didn't find it that compelling.  It was supposed to be a discussion between friends on life and impending death but I didn't take that from it.  It could be that it required a slower, more careful read than I gave it.    I did like this exchange:

"If you dislike existence then death is your release. You can call it nihilism, if you like."
"Yes, American-style--without the abyss," said Ravelstein.  "But the Jews feel that the world was created for each and every one of us, and when you destroy a human life you destroy an entire world - the world as it existed for that person."

I may go on and explore the philosophy of Alan Bloom.

Published: 2000   Read: February 2015   Genre: Fiction

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