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The Dean's December

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  904 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Albert Corde, dean of a Chicago college, is unprepared for the violent response to his expose of city corruption. Accused of betraying his city, as well as being a racist, he journeys to Bucharest, where his mother-in-law lies dying, only to find corruption rife in the Communist capital. Switching back and forth between the two cities, The Dean's December represents Bellow ...more
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by HarperCollins Publishers
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(showing 1-30 of 1,838)
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Astonishing... by FAR Bellow's most accomplished book. Tender, intelligent, passionate, death-haunted...of course, it is Bellow! -- perfectly constructed, far richer in both plot and character than one usually expects from Bellow... coherent...even the intellectual moments are so much more throughly digested... and the poetics of the final movement.... just a masterpiece.
Mar 03, 2009 Mia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Now I understand why teachers dissuade overuse of parenthetical notes.

I have come to really dislike the protagonist -- I cannot think of another text that has ever affected me in that way --, as well as Bellow's overuse of the words "feminine," "female," and "lady" to describe anything a woman does. "Female generosity" on page 143, "feminine poise" on page 107, "lady phrases" on 92, "feminized tobacco flavor" on page 90, "female bittersweet fragrance" on page 87, "feminine claims" and "broad fe
Andrea Rice
Sep 29, 2007 Andrea Rice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Albert Corde, a college dean whose Roumanian astronomer wife, Minna, defected to the West with the encouragement and help of her intellectual mother, Dr. Valeria Raresh. Now Dr. Raresh has suffered a stroke, and the Cordes are in Bucharest where the secret police and a bitter bureaucracy is denying them the right to visit to her in the hospital. The depictions of these intellectual women are sublime, especially coming from an author who neglected his female characters in the ...more
Ronald Wise
Aug 19, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the most powerful of Bellow's novels I've read to date. An aging journalist turned college dean, caught up in situations which emphasize the personal ramifications of the social political storms raging at home and the unforgiving communist bureaucracy of his wife's homeland of Rumania. Haunted by hostile politically correct reactions to his recent freelance articles, Albert Corde maintains a caring and moral course while questioning his own motivations. A chance encounter with a childhoo ...more
Aug 11, 2010 Tyler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Tyler by: Author's Reputation
Bellow’s reputation as a remarkable prose stylist shows here in the way he uses detail to foreshadow. The heightened use of contrast, too, sets the book apart from his other novels; the story itself follows the same template used for Bellow's other novels – the lives of the urban, upper class and educated. What's different this time is a striking aspect of the protagonist here: an ability to express the utter devastation of life in the American underclass. The unflinching exploration of class in ...more
Paul Grimsley
Sep 23, 2008 Paul Grimsley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People wanting to get into Bellow, people wanting to learn how to write lean effective prose
Shelves: classics
This is gentle and somewhat sedate but every thing that happens in it resonates -- I suppose some people must play a billion notes to enthrall you and some can play a few carefully placed harmonies and seduce you with their fictional worlds.
Christian Schwoerke
Saul Bellow’s writing is muscular and sinuous at once, able to capture the quotidian and the abstruse in a single cascade of words that runs fluently from capital to period. What’s intriguing about this almost claustrophobic novel is that Bellow is able to fill the confines of the small flat in Romania with incident that stretches back in time and space to Chicago many months before, and which in real time will end there as well. There are no abrupt transitions from the present to moments in the ...more
Victor Gibson
Nov 30, 2014 Victor Gibson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an accomplished work, which apparently sold over 100,000 copies in hard back. Quite something, but maybe in 1982 waiting for the book to come out in paperback is a bit like waiting for the DVD of a film to come out today. This is my first venture into a Saul Bellow work, and I enjoyed it to the point that I have now picked up another Saul Bellow from my wife's bookshelves (She has a better taste in literature than I do). I note that I complained a lot about the number of brackets in "The ...more
Nov 13, 2012 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dean's December is set back in the early '80's when (I guess - need to check the dates) Communist control in Eastern Europe was still in place. The book centers on a middle aged, intellectual Dean who accompanies his wife to Bucharest to be with her mother for her final days of life. The book is mostly conversations and thoughts that the Dean has over the month of December - with the narrative pivoting between events in Bucharest and some chaos that the Dean has left behind in his native Chi ...more
Feb 16, 2016 Gordon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
My first exposure to Saul Bellow, in some ways The Dean's December is exactly the kind of book I don't much like. There are plenty of literary references that mean little or nothing to me, and the characters indulge in enough jargon-laced philosophizing to float several overladen dissertations. And yet... even though very little happens, there is a lot going on. Beyond the academic angst the book is full of down-to-earth details that bring even minor characters to life in a world that somehow of ...more
Oct 10, 2014 Maryam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
تو كجا با تصوير فاجعه رو به رو شدي؟؟؟؟
در كودكي
در كتابخانه ي پدرم
Jun 06, 2008 Dina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school
I think this is the first book I have given less than three stars to. Oh, Saul Bellow is so smart, look how smart he is! Sympathize with his alter ego, a totally unsympathetic character! Life is so hard when your mother in law is dying in Communist Romania! Life is so hard when you've stirred up a load of trouble in Chicago! It's especially hard when you hate Chicago, which I think Bellow, who grew up there, did when he wrote this book. I'm not a fan.
Nov 11, 2007 Syd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saul is an excellent writer and approaches many sensitive subjects in this novel. I was often unsure where he was going regarding race relations, but upon finishing decided it was a reflection of the main character's real confusion. I think the novel still pertains to many urban realities that people face today.
May 16, 2008 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I may have liked this more had I not read it on the heels of Algren's The Man with the Golden Arm. After Algren, this book was very old fashioned and slow. I found the character of Albert Corde unlikable and I got to a point where I just didn't care what happened to him.
Horia Bura
I had read before "Mr. Sammler's Planet" by the same author, and I remember I liked it more. This is not the case of this novel, which excels in a pretty bland writing, sometimes tangled or even diffuse, but not in the good way. There's not much going on here: a visit of the main character in his wife's origin country (that is Ceausescu's Romania) for his mother-in-law's falling ill and eventually death, juxtaposed with the evolution of a trial in a murder case, back in the States, of which we l ...more
Iarna decanului nu e o carte uşoară. Nu aş recomanda-o ca lectură de vacanţă decât în cazul unui scenariu mai izolat, de plecat prin munţi şi rupt legăturile cotidiene cu lumea – caz în care cartea îţi va confirma că nu puteai face o alegere mai bună decât să te retragi un pic.

Decanul este chiar Saul Bellow, iar iarna cea a anului 1977, când scriitorul american vine în România, împreună cu soţia sa Alexandra, reputat om de ştiinţă în State, fiica profesorului Dumitru Bagdasar (cel care a creat ş
From a stylistic point of view, The Dean's December can be pretty impressive. Bellow's prose stands out a the most fantastic part of this book. Some writers have a knack for pacing, plot, or characters; Bellow makes whatever he's writing sound good, frequently bordering on poetry.

Too bad there isn't much of those other aspects (pacing, plot, characters, etc.). This is a character study, where a clever man has painted himself into a corner, professionally, and is dealing with an impending death
Oct 03, 2014 Clayton rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Saul Bellow novel and I don't think it was the best choice. I found the protagonist, a college dean named Corde, passively egotistical the entire time. There was never a change in tone and the female characters were flat and seemed liked background scenery to the main character's monologue (although, to be fair, so were many of the men). There is a familiar 1970s apocalyptic tone to the story. The two settings are communist Romania and Chicago, both with their dark, evil underb ...more
Jul 13, 2015 Andreea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Am citit cartea sub impresia puternica a recenziei favorabile scrise de traducatoarea Antoineta Ralian, exprimata in " Toamna Decanei", in dialog cu Radu Paraschivescu, titlu ce face trimitere la romanul lui Bellow. Puternicul continut autobiografic si plasarea actiunii in Romania comunista, pe care scriitorul o descrie cu o deosebita acuratete - fapt pentru care a fost declarat persona non grata de catre regimul comunist al anilor 80 - au fost principalele motive pentru care am fost curioasa sa ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Jaclyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Albert Corde is not exactly a self-made man; he comes from a wealthy Chicago family - as his old friend, Dewey Spangler, couldn't fail to notice, Corde's father drove a Packard. But even if Corde isn't a self-made man, he did make himself into a world-reknowned journalist. And then he unmade himself. Deciding he'd had enough of current events, he returned to Chicago and took on a position as a professor, and later Dean of Students, at a local university. He married a brilliant astronomer and set ...more
Jane Griffiths
I think I may be going off Saul Bellow. I started with Augie March and it was wonderful. This one, not so much. Clever and all, though. A dysfunctional pseudo-academic from Chicago with a Romanian astronomer wife (this is in communist times) goes to Romania for a month. It's not very nice there. Also lots of tedious ranting about black-on-white murder and rape and the black Chicago underclass. Disappointing. Am I being unfair?
Jul 30, 2013 Elvia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm ambivalent with this book. This is the first Saul Bellows book I have read. I think that the protagonist, Albert Corbe is a realistic character. He's definitely fallible. It is this fallibility that I appreciate. I also appreciate how the novel is filled with contradictions. Corde talks of his cousin, Detillion and states that he is offended when found out about his swindle. There are several more contradictions and parallels which is the point of the plot. Compare Communist Romania in the e ...more
Jul 07, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If it sometimes feels like the characters in DECEMBER are mouthpieces constructed by Bellow for the purpose of talking at his audience, it is a beautiful and eerily prescient set of lectures he gives to us: "In the American moral crisis, the first requirement was to experience what was happening and to see what must be seen. The facts were covered from our perception. More than they had been in the past? Yes, because the changes, especially the increase in consciousness -- and also in false cons ...more
Don't get me wrong--I love Saul Bellow's work. But this one was a chore to get through. It sputters along on two cylinders, the narrative drive so weak I forgot what the characters wanted at times. While the writing on a sentence-by-sentence basis is very good, the novel suffers from too much rumination and philosophizing. Not his best work.
incipit mania
Mar 06, 2016 incipit mania marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bellow-s

Corde, che in America conduceva la vita di un executive (non è forse un decano di collegio una sorta di funzionario esecutivo?).....

Il dicembre del professor Corde
Marik Casmon
Mar 16, 2013 Marik Casmon rated it liked it
I read and enjoyed this novel after reading Bellow's More Die of Heartbreak, which I preferred. However, The Dean's December was definitely worth reading. Not surprisingly, the novel basically covers a December in the life of an unaccomplished Chicago college dean. It involves the dean's life in Chicago and also a trip he and his wife took to Rumania for the last days of his wife's mother. The Dean's December concerns, among other things, ruminations on death, partnership, and academia. It invol ...more
Oct 03, 2015 Gringoire rated it it was amazing
This is the fourth of Bellow's novels I've read. Many times while I was reading I felt that it was one of his best works. I'd encourage reading it either as an intro to Bellow or as another novel to be considered by someone who's a great, intelligent writer.
Oct 08, 2013 Mauro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very personal (the author sometimes interchanges between first and third person narrative) and kind of depressing, Dean’s December is a book about acceptance and freedom: acceptance of our choices, freedom from our circumstances.

But what is most impressive is how it shows, through a kind of stream of consciousness, the delicacy, the intricacy, the complexity and the sensibility of human relations.

And besides that it is a Saul Bellow: you can expect, always, the best possible choice of words.
Mar 04, 2015 Greg rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Eastern block funeral, racially heated murder accusation, and dude who hates Chicago. It was the worst of times and it didn't get much better...
Mar 20, 2008 deLille rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People looking for a quiet, introspective book
Recommended to deLille by: I forgot his name!
Shelves: political
I first started trying to read this book in 1983 when a guy I was dating recommended it to me. I read the first chapter or two -- and fell fast asleep. This book sat on my shelf for the next twenty-five years, and I finally picked it up over Christmas break. Still a slow... slow... slow... paced book, but I think that is the point. The author did a good job at capturing the stifling, restrictive, oppressive mood of what the Dean was enduring, and the feeling of being trapped.
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Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, in 1915, and was raised in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago, received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, and served in the Merchant Marine during World War II.

Mr. Bellow's first novel, Dangling Man, was pu
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“For God's sake,' the dog is saying, 'open the universe a little more!” 16 likes
“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.” 2 likes
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