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Seize the Day

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  7,726 Ratings  ·  568 Reviews
Deftly interweaving humor and pathos, Saul Bellow evokes in the climactic events of one day the full drama of one man's search to affirm his own worth and humanity.
Paperback, 114 pages
Published May 27th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published November 15th 1956)
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Matt Whiteford (edit: spoilers included in answer)

No, Wilhelm is coming to terms with the only fateful resolution with which life can offer him: the deprivation of…more
(edit: spoilers included in answer)

No, Wilhelm is coming to terms with the only fateful resolution with which life can offer him: the deprivation of life itself. While he is not about to have a heart attack, he has finally realized that the depth of human suffering only ceases with the termination of the contract. Wilhelm pauses and reminds us of the similarities between the aged corpse and himself, the greyed, streaking hair and the pangs of sorrow hidden, welting in the man's eyes. Wilhelm then proceeds to break down in the middle of the crowd, understanding the frailty of the human condition and weeping in an unwitting culmination of the emotions building silently throughout the course of the novel(la). (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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s.penkevich
Dec 09, 2012 s.penkevich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to s.penkevich by: James Wood
'Nature only knows one thing, and that’s the present. Present, present, eternal present, like a big, huge, giant wave – colossal, bright and beautiful, full of life and death, climbing into the sky, standing in the seas. You must go along with the actual, the Here-and-Now, the glory -

Following the success of his lengthy, 1953 National Book Award Winning novel The Adventures of Augie March, Nobel laureate Saul Bellow returned in 1956 with the very slender Seize the Day. Called ‘the most Russian
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
If there was ever a character as neurotic as Alexander Portnoy - it was Wilhelm Adler. Following him around for a day in this short but great novella, I laughed and cried. At times, well most of the time, he is pathetic but as in nearly all of Bellow's protagonists, there is a diehard optimism that keeps him going towards self-realization. This book is a breath of fresh air and will bring you a smile. Carpe diem!
Jimmy
Nov 02, 2012 Jimmy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
There is a strikingly pathetic point in Saul Bellow’s novella Seize the Day, when the protagonist Wilhelm (let’s call him Tommy, his Hollywood alias) Adler laments how the latter half of his existence will be occupied by analyzing the failures that occurred in the first half. In the depths of his dour fatalism he opines, “A person can become tired of looking himself over and trying to fix himself up. You can spend the entire second half of your life recovering from the mistakes of your first ha ...more
Perry
Oct 26, 2015 Perry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Good Grief!

There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.
― Tennessee Williams

Bellow's fourth novel, published in 1956, follows sad sack Tommy Wilhelm (real name, Wilky Adler), who is in his mid-40s, lives in a Manhattan residential hotel with his retired dad, separated from his kids and a frigid wife who will not grant him a divorce, unemployed af
...more
Jeffrey
The only Bellow novel I've read to date. I didn't especially care for it as I was reading it, but came to think more and more highly of it in the weeks after I finished it. Bellow has an almost uncanny power of description, and the character Tamkin must be one of the great creations of twentieth-century American literature (especially his poem, "Mechanism vs. Functionalism: Ism vs. Hism"). But what really impressed me about the book was realizing that it's really a profound religious poem, about ...more
Peter
Apr 09, 2011 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm on a bit of a novella reading binge at the moment, in preparation for a class I'm teaching next fall. And if this temporary obsession brings me to more books like SEIZE THE DAY, maybe it will become a lasting obsession.

Reading Saul Bellow is dangerous business for a writer because unless you are one of about five living authors I can think of, your sentences will never be as beautiful as Saul Bellow's. In fact it might be best just to say that out loud before sitting down to write. As in "I
...more
AC
Jul 02, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-english
This is Bellow.

Not the early, picaresque Bellow of Augie (1953) – which I do not much like – writing a clunky, poorly edited, Americanized, Depression-Era Bildungsroman…, with the so-unBellow-like voice of sentences made in endless *largo*… but the Bellow that has found his voice, for better and even, sometimes, for worse…. A Bellow that is modern, urban, postwar, a scratchingly desperate New York Manhattan Bellow…, not the yuppified, gentrified, Ed Kochified Manhattan of Annie Hall, but the Man
...more
Fabian
Nov 15, 2010 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novella about the morning hours in the life of a man which is falling apart is authentic New York narrative AND somber urban fable.

Written in '56, it is still supremely relevant and I bet there are dozens, perhaps thousands, of Tommy Wilhems out there in the world, and they are all MODERN MEN; Wilhem is a man confused and, in the same vein as lame-o Holden C., one very unhappy with his placement in society, while also questioning his duties as a "man." The episode between Wilhem and his fa
...more
Erik F.
Jul 29, 2012 Erik F. rated it really liked it
Astonishingly powerful novella structured around a day in the life of an actor manqué as he deals with a shrewish ex-wife, an untrustworthy "psychiatrist" who entangles him in the stock market, an icy father who (understandably) has grown tired of helping his middle-aged son out of financial binds, and with assorted feelings of acedia, alienation, and desperation. In a brief number of pages, Bellow builds a very convincing miniature panorama of a single man adrift in an urban and emotional waste ...more
Celeste
«Agarra o Dia » (1956) de Saul Bellow (1915-2005)

«Foi um dia tramado, Margaret. Queira Deus que não torne a viver um igual»

Um título colossal, um livro tramado. Um dia na vida de um quarentão, Tommy Wilhelm, com comportamento de adolescente fruto de uma certa cultura americana, uma certa indiferença frívola para com a vida.

«Depois de muito pensar, hesitar e discutir, tomava sempre o caminho que rejeitara inúmeras vezes»

«São os mesmos erros e escaldo-me sempre.»

Livro curto, poucas personagens, um
...more
Teresa
May 03, 2013 Teresa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Saul Bellow não é para mim. Dos dois livros que li dele só retirei bocejos.
Mas, apesar de me ter desinteressado da leitura logo nas primeiras páginas, aguentei até ao fim. O que teve a função de me libertar de escrúpulos e culpas por pontuar e comentar certos livros de que desisto.

A acção de Agarra o Dia decorre durante um dia, no qual a personagem principal recorda o passado e tenta resolver uns problemas do presente. Wilhelm deixou a mulher e os dois filhos porque quer ser livre; vai viver p
...more
Solistas
3.5/5

"Κάθε φορά που ερχόταν μια στιγμή ηρεμίας, όπου απλά η κούραση τον έκανε να σταματάει τον αγώνα, ένιωθε αυτό το μυστηριώδες βάρος, πως μεγάλωναν ή μαζεύονταν μέσα του ακατονόμαστα πράγματα που έπρεπε όλη του τη ζωή να τα κουβαλάει. Αυτός θα πρέπει να 'ναι ο προορισμός του ανθρώπου [...] Σ'αυτόν τον Ουίλκυ ή Τόμυ Ουίλχελμ, 44 χρόνων, πατέρα δύο γιων, που προς το παρόν ζούσε στο ξενοδοχείο Γκλοριάνα, είχαν αναθέσει να κουβαλάει ένα φορτίο που ήταν ο εαυτός του, ο χαρακτηριστικός εαυτός του. Α
...more
احمد هلال
May 30, 2012 احمد هلال rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
الحمد لله رب العالمين
- العلاقة بين الابن و أبيه ، قد تضطرب لاقدر الله ،و تسوء بسبب حمق الأبن و إصراره على سلوك طريق معين ، الكاتب الأمريكى سول بيلو رسم لوحة رائعة بروايته أغتنم الفرصة ، فالأب فى الرواية طبيب ناجح ولكن أبنه شاب يتنكب نصائح الأب فيترك الجامعة بحثا عن هليود فيفشل فى هليود ويخسر الجامعة و يخسر تقدير والده و يعمل مندوبا للمبيعات ويتزوج و لضعف شخصيته تستغله زوجته فتسنزفه و تنفصل عنه ولكنها تظل ترسل له الفواتير ، و يظل هو طوال فصول الرواية يستجدى عطف أبيه ، و يستدين منه الأموال بلا مقا
...more
Manab
Feb 11, 2016 Manab rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ঢাকা আরট সামিটের সেমিনার রুমে শরমিনী পেরেরা নামের একজন পজিশনিং, লোকেশন এইসব নিয়ে কথা বলতে বলতে এই বইয়ের কথা বললেন, এই বইয়ের পরথম পযারার কথা। মনে হইলো বাসায় পড়ে আছে যখন, পড়ে ফেলাই।

ইতোপূরবে সল বেলো পড়ি নাই। ভালো লাগছে। কোনো শবদ অযথা ছিলো না। কোনো চরিতরও। বেশিরভাগ লেখা পড়ার সময় উলটোটা মনে হয়, মনে হয় কলেবর বাড়ানোর জনয আঙুল নাড়াচছে। একটা সনদেহ অবশয হচছে যে সল বেলো হয়তবা একঘেয়ে। কিনতু এক বইয়ে একঘেয়ে বলি কী করে।

একটু ইয়ে লাগতেছে চললিশ বছর বয়সের কথা ভাবতে এখন। আমার ধারণা ছিলো ঐ বয়স মানে পায়ের উপর পা। দিল
...more
Tara
Feb 09, 2009 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been about a week since I finished this book, and have picked up two new books in the meantime, so my first thoughts are a bit hazy and lost to other curiosities. However, the thing about the book that has stuck with me - and will no doubt lead me to re-reading it in later years - is its examination of American ideals and the internal grapplings of a human soul. How wonderfully fresh and true this story remains today, over 50 years after it was written! Tommy, the novel's protagonist, must ...more
Sarah
Oct 22, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome!
Saul Bellow has just entered "favorite writers" list.
And I've found the grown up, forty-four years old 'Holden Caulfield'.
It was awesome...

حال بعد از خوندنش مثل حال بعد از خوندن "فرني و زويي" و "سقوط" كامو ه، انگار خسته ميشي بعد از خوندش انقدر حرف برا گفتن داشته، از اون كتابا كه نميشه ازش يه سري كُتيشن برداشت. كل كتاب هايلايت ميشد اگر مال كتابخونه نبود...
Lobstergirl
Aug 22, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Bellow is a treat even if you don't completely swoon over every novel in its entirety. His descriptions, his dialogue, his portrayals of humanity are so rich. This novella is told from the point of view of the increasingly shabby and morose failed actor and salesman, Tommy Wilhelm, but Bellow also lets us in on what his disapproving father, Dr. Adler, thinks.

Then Wilhelm had said, "Yes, that was the beginning of the end, wasn't it, Father?"

Wilhelm often astonished Dr. Adler. Beginning of the end
...more
David
A deeply psychological novel, Seize the Day follows the middle-aged man in the life of a single day in New York City. "Psychological"... "single day"... Bellow's ante into the pool of single-day novels, alongside Joyce's Ulysses and Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, is a much slimmer volume than its fellow one-day wonders, but carries perhaps no less of a whollop. The story follows Tommy Wilhelm, a middle-aged man, a failed actor, a failed salesman, a husband whose wife refuses him a divorce but takes his ...more
Sandra
Apr 06, 2014 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
Wilky Adler, che si ostina a farsi chiamare con il nome d’arte Tommy Wilhelm, scelto in giovinezza quando volle andare ad Hollywood per intraprendere la carriera di attore che è consistita in una semplice parte da comparsa in un film, non ha fatto che sbagli nella vita: non è riuscito a tenere in piedi il suo matrimonio, non è riuscito a conservarsi il posto di lavoro, ha investito in Borsa gli ultimi soldi che gli sono rimasti ed ha perso tutto, e poi non riesce ad ottenere l’amore di suo padre ...more
Ali Nazifpour
Nov 10, 2013 Ali Nazifpour rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm afraid I couldn't like this novel although I wanted to. Yes, the writing is fantastic, the humor is cutting, the psychology of the characters is perfect - however, what I'm missing here is the point, the plot, the actual novella. It seems like an opening rather than the complete work. OK, we know Tommy. His life sucks and he's a loser. Cool. So what? The novel never goes beyond a portrait of its protagonist and its supporting characters. And just when you expect the story to begin, for the n ...more
Vit Babenco
May 02, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Cynicism was bread and meat to everyone. And irony, too.”
Tommy Wilhelm is a hopeless dream chaser – all his life he was chasing his romantic dreams but couldn’t catch any. He is too credulous and conscientious so he always ends up being used. He wanted to be an actor but had no talent, he got married but received only unhappiness, he hoped to make money but just lost everything so he became bitter and distressed. And his ancient father, aware that the son will always remain a useless good-for-n
...more
Jan
The little novella ‘Seize the Day’ is rightly called a masterpiece.
Like a modern Greek tragedy, we have in Tommy Wilhelm a protagonist who is facing the world closing in on him. Instead of shutting down, giving in or giving up, he feels very deeply. What he ask for is just a bare minimum of human understanding, of compassion

Sadly, his father, who is fiercely aloof, can’t provide this and regards him as a loser. He ex-wife demands even more alimony. He is swindled out of the little cash he has b
...more
Doug H
Jul 04, 2015 Doug H rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Be here now...."

Part Wilhelm Reich lecture, part Seinfeld television episode featuring a guest appearance by Ram Dass.

I'm not ashamed to say that half of this novella floated over my head or passed through my brain without sticking. I loved the funny bits in the other half though.
Evandro
Wilhelm é um homem que não está à altura do que precisa ser: um pai de família. Não consegue sustentar os filhos, está quebrado, e ninguém o consola. Ninguém tem pena dele. É aflitivo, verdadeiramente aflitivo, assistir ao seu colapso emocional.
Sofía (Софья)
Jul 21, 2015 Sofía (Софья) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: A nadie
Una novela mediocre sobre un hombre mediocre.
Frankie
May 31, 2012 Frankie rated it really liked it
I'm reading Saul Bellow backwards. I should've read Augie March, then Seize the Day, then Herzog. Instead I read Herzog first, the tale of a man at rock bottom. Now I've read about Wilhelm, a man who thinks he's at rock bottom but isn't. I have yet to read Augie March, but my impression is that he's a superego-type character. Perhaps for Bellow it shows his progress from the shallow heroes to the complicated. At any rate, I should get back to chronological order for Bellow's books.

One of the st
...more
Amin
Dec 01, 2012 Amin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I have been reading Philip Roth for a long time now (the long time amounting to only twelve books read out of an outstanding thirty or so Roth books), and reading Saul Bellow was nothing but help; nothing but completion, and comprehension (already many things!). As soon as you start reading this book you feel as if you're reading Roth, but a Roth who is in a more moderate mood. Not much anger, not much ridicule, not a 'howl', but very moving all the same.

Saul Bellow's human understanding (
...more
Dianne
Feb 22, 2017 Dianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't decide between 3 or 4 stars, so I went with generosity. This is my first Saul Bellow book and I am interested in him as an American New Yorker philosophical novelist.
'Seize the Day' takes place in the course of a day as Wilhelm, a middle age Jewish man, reflects on his state of affairs, the life he has chosen, and his regrets. It certainly is not an uplifting book, but Bellow is such a keen observer and his writing is sparse, yet pungent.
I particularly enjoyed city descriptions, and
...more
Jim
May 20, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing
Apolgies in advance for skipping over the plot summary, but here's what I think I learned from this book:

1) Bellow, like Banville, is a master of characterization, the expression of character through movement, reaction, idiosyncrasies, etc. It's not just what they look like and what they're wearing (though this is important) it's what these things say about the character and how they're expressed through speech, interaction with others, moments of isolation, etc. It can't be all wooden descripti
...more
Jim Peterson
I expected more. Likeable characters would've been a good start, but a likeable story would've been even better.
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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
...more
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“You can spend the entire second half of your life recovering from the mistakes of the first half. ” 99 likes
“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.” 67 likes
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