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Henderson the Rain King

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  8,267 ratings  ·  519 reviews
"It blazes as fiercly and scintillatingly as a forest fire. There is life here; a great rage to live more fully. In this it is a giant among novels."(San Francisco Examiner)

Saul Bellow evokes all the rich colors and exotic customs of a highly imaginary Africa in this acclaimed comic novel about a middle-aged American millionaire who, seeking a new, more rewarding life, de...more
Paperback, 330 pages
Published December 24th 2012 by Penguin Classics (first published 1959)
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sckenda
“I am a nervous and emotional reader,” says Henderson. “It takes only one good sentence to turn my brain into a volcano and a lava of thought pours down my sides." Henderson is haunted by a passage he once read, “the forgiveness of sins is perpetual and righteousness is not first required,” but Henderson cannot remember where he read those words, and he searches in vain for the book that he believes holds a clue to the meaning of life.

Henderson feels displaced. "There was a disturbance in my h...more
Arun Divakar
There is a thriving trade in self-help books which have always baffled me. I could never relate to another person telling me Look, these are the steps you need to take to better your life & if you don't take them you are done for ! Well, no book will be so absolute in saying so but underlying all the sugarcoating there is this message loud & clear in most books of this genre. Then however comes the matter of literature where a clever author without even giving you the faintest clue tie...more
Nathan Isherwood
read more saul bellow. philip roth does. i hate the word romp. so let's say this book is all about personal exploration. henderson is opinionated, an american bull. he's in africa. he's being ugly and how you'd expect him to be. but he's the only one giving revelations and you couldn't imagine it any other way. he's like a teddy roosevelt mid life crisis tour guide. henderson's a brute with color. it's a search for the meaning of life with your dickhead uncle who owns a brand new chrysler. the w...more
Io?
Strepitoso Bellow. Con questo romanzo la mia mente è volata su su oltre le nuvole, compiendo le stesse piroette fanciullesche che orgiasticamente facevo quando divoravo Zanna bianca. E contemporaneamente è andata giù giù, dentro gli abissi chiaroscuri del mio io, lasciandomi una melanconia sottile.
Jason
This novel is staggering. It is the story, which we have heard so many times, of a bellicose foreigner who goes to Africa in order to find himself. But something is amiss. This isn't just some person who has lost their way a little bit, but someone that while good intentioned at times is a drunkard and a lout, selfish and violent; while he wants to be a good person, he simply isn't. Then he decides to ditch the tourist Africa and find the true heart of it in order to understand and heal himself,...more
Vale
Dice tu vuoi vivere, Grun-tu-molani. L’uomo vuole vivere.

In queste calde giornate di luglio, l’idea della fuga ritorna nella mia mente come un mantra. Ci sarà un altrove?

Un luogo diverso non solo nella lingua, nei costumi e nell’architettura, ma nelle persone e nei valori di cui sono portatori. Fatico sempre di più ad incastrarmi nel modus vivendi di chi mi circonda e la letteratura resta uno dei pochi luoghi inviolati in cui riesco a respirare.
Penso ad Enrico Baj perché nel saggio Ecologia del...more
lori mitchell
i loved, loved, loved this book.

this is the book that adam duritz from the counting crows named the song "the rain king" after...i've meant to read it for years and years and just now got around to it. i plan on buying a copy and picking it up once a year or so.

it's just really so enjoyable and really beautiful.

favorite excerpts:
"I had a voice that said I want! I want? I? It should have told me SHE wants, HE wants, THEY want. And moreover, it's love that makes reality reality. The opposite ma...more
Richard Hensley
If you can endure the narcissistic, misogynistic narrator-protagonist, if you can pretend to believe that every woman he meets wants to jump his bones, every guy wants to become his pal and no one anywhere wants to slap him silly, if you can abide the phony African setting, if you can shrug off the plot contrivances and force yourself to care about yet another privileged male’s midlife crisis, if you can avoid rolling your eyes out of socket at the “humorous” mishaps caused by the Rabelaisian he...more
Jamie VW
I need to stop reading Saul Bellow.

In fact, 2/3rds through this book, I was announcing that I was swearing off all mid 20th century male writers. But I'll walk that back some and just come to the point where I announce that I have now tried Bellows three times and there is something that absolutely turns me off. I had thought that since I had read two minor works (cue Squid and the Whale joke), The Bellarosa Connection and Mr. Sammler's Planet, I should try one selected as part of the cannon. Ye...more
Stacie
...in an age of madness, to expect to be untouched by madness is a form of madness. But the pursuitof sanity can be a form of madness, too.

This book is filled with little gems like these. This is, by far, my favorite Bellow. He plots out the self-exploration of a millionaire with wit and humor, a look at what it is to love and be loved, and most importantly, the difference between what it means to be and become.

We are all looking for the truth, but in that search do we become slaves to our own f...more
David
Jul 15, 2013 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: rich white dudes on African safari, rain kings, lions
Huh — so, the plot of this book, I say to myself, having chosen it at random from Peter Boxall's 1001 Books list, is a rich white guy goes to Africa to learn the meaning of life from the noble savages. Oh, I can see that this will turn out well.

Saul Bellow is one of those Big Literary Dudes I've never read, but by reputation I was expecting him to be kind of like Philip Roth or J.M. Coetzee (who I did not love) — lots of manly wangsting to the tune of Fond Memories of Vagina.

Okay, let me dial do...more
Drew
So far I've only read this and Dangling Man, but I'm convinced that Saul Bellow is the most overrated American author of the 20th century. I will say this for it: the main character is complete, and very real-seeming. I almost feel like I've met him.

But that is just about the only good thing I can say about this book, apart from a few bits of all-right prose. It reads like I assume Eat, Pray, Love would, were I to actually read THAT: imperfect white person goes to a third world country in search...more
Elizabeth
This was a struggle for me but I enjoyed it. I was not offended by the stereotypical depiction of Africa nor the bumbling, blustering, outrageous (self-described) Henderson but I don't know if I got much out of it except the fabulous word play and the idea of the spiritual hunger which ran through the book. The famous line "I want, I want, I want..." is one that certainly all have experienced. It was perhaps the juxtaposition of crude humor and lofty philosophical thoughts that left me a bit baf...more
Mitchel Broussard
I imagine that chick from Eat Pray Love owes a lot to this book. Some rich and successful but oh-so-depressed dillhole decides to go to Africa because, you know, foreign countries have ALL the answers because they're SO mysterious!

I don't even feel like explaining. Henderson is a grade A asshole, even when he starts to "become" or whatever the fuck that means. I didn't care about him. I didn't care whether he "became" and I didn't care whether that baby tiger he takes home with him on the plane...more
David
Now I have already mentioned that there was a disturbance in my heart, a voice that spoke there and said, I want, I want, I want! It happened every afternoon, and when I tried to suppress it got even stronger. It said only one thing, I want, I want! And I would ask, 'What do you want?' But this was all it would ever tell me.
I've never been to Africa. I'd love to though - if anyone wants to float me a one-way ticket to Ouagadougou, maybe a layover in Zürich to pick up some luxury essentials, I'd...more
Judy
This is the fifth Saul Bellow novel I have read. I started with his first, The Dangling Man (1944) and moved along. I don't know that he is currently read much (and I don't know why), but I just love his novels. I would think that an author who won three National Book Awards, a Pulitzer, and the Nobel Prize should be an American treasure.

Henderson is a character who could only have been created by Bellow. Larger than life, literally and figuratively, socially embarrassing, personally challenged...more
Cindy
Henderson The Rain King certainly provides food for thought. Eugene Henderson's macho character was modeled after another famous E. H. This E. H. was a boozer, went to Africa and carried his macho weight around like a club as does Eugene Henderson, and at times, wanted to blow his brains out. As many people of the day went off to Africa - however, notes Henderson, 'man goes into the external world, and all he can do with it is to shoot it?' Eugene just wants to set the record straight, with hims...more
James
Told from the point of view of one of the more larger than life characters in literary history, Bellow's novel portrays a search for the kernel of life, the desire for the good. Henderson explores the further reaches of Africa (at least in his mind) and comes closer to understanding his own deepest desires. Searching to find these Henderson goes on safari to the Dark Continent in search of self, or Ernest Hemingway. The novel is full of satire, extreme characterizations, and raucous jokes. It is...more
Erin
Aug 02, 2007 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who thinks the best is yet to come
I read this book a long time ago but I'll never forget Saul Bellow's description of the two types of people - be-ers and becomers. Some people are content where they are and know how to appreciate each day: being. Others are always looking for what's next, focused on change, struggling every day to figure out where and who they want to be: becoming. I felt like he was speaking to ME about this. It is a wonderful and bizarre story with some truly identifiable characters and sentiments.
James
Reading this book quickly became a sort of dull, courtroom procedure of listening in my head to all the testimonials confirming and explicating the number of times I experienced literary deja vu while taking note of the heavy-handed, existentialist-laden themes that continuously cropped up throughout the narrative. Wanted to like it but felt dragged along into terrain that by this point is way too familiar.
Gabriele
Da dove partire? Ah, sì, partiamo con il dire che Saul Bellow è uno di quegli autori che piacciono a me, uno di quegli americani che hanno aperto, spesso inconsapevolmente, le porte al postmodernismo, un po’ come John Barth o Philip Roth o DeLillo, gente che un giorno, subito dopo la seconda guerra mondiale, si sono messi alla loro scrivania e hanno iniziato a buttar giù storie che ritraessero i loro contemporanei, spesso da un punto di vista imparziale, a tratti volutamente cinico e/o umoristic...more
Nick Jones
I read The Adventures of Augie March some 20 years ago and since then have been fully convinced that Saul Bellow is the finest English language novelist of his generation. He is the only one I know of who seems to sum up his age: his work calls for a multiplicity of responses that reflect the multiplicity of his times. Even when his characters seem trapped in some sort of spiritual impasse, the world around them teams with meaning. There is an energy in his world, one that is created through the...more
Michael Alexander
Dec 27, 2011 Michael Alexander rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People wondering what the hell to do with themselves in life
Just off a reread from this baby, I'm both reminded of how amazing its best parts are and made aware for the first time how lame its worst parts are. Really, this thing is a 5-star, best-of-all-time book and a dubious 3-star adventure yoked together pretty awkwardly--but sometimes transcendently.

The heart of what I love in this book is the poetry of the language, the over-the-top romanticism about Life and Meaning and Ecstatic Experience. Bellow is pouring out these incredible bits of prose abou...more
Francesco Fantuzzi
Caspita!

Ho capito che, insieme a H. Boell, Bellow sarà uno degli autori che leggerò integralmente, con tanto di rilettura di Herzog. Capisco che Bellow possa essere stato particolarmente legato a questo romanzo, dato che contiene la vita al suo interno, in tante sue manifestazioni e rifratta in mille colori. Un'esistenza che spesso ci è incomprensibile, ma che si disvela, brano a brano, nelle esperienze, negli incontri più varii, e che magari, nella sua enorme complessità, non giungeremo mai ad...more
Kim Godard
If you enjoy philosophy, this is a book for you. Ditto if self-discovery, Don Quixote-like tilting at "windmills," allusions, and personal growth are interests of yours. Personally, this book is readable simply because Bellow is a master of the metaphor. As a taste of what you'll find, one of his best; he's describing a cemetery with its headstones: "each of the dead having been mailed away, and those stones like the postage stamps death has licked." See? Good book.
Julie
Sometimes, I read a book and marvel that an author could take such an unlikable character and make him so human, so universal, that the reader is carried along by his tide of thoughts.
This book is full of revelations. The yearning to be better is palpable. The acknowledgment that the main character BY the main character that he is a drunk, a womanizer, and a bum helps, as does his goal of fixing it.
My favorite part of the book was when he admits that the reason the bride hates him has little to...more
Genia Lukin
Sadly, I found this book to be, not to mince words... dull.

The narrator's unlimited satirical egotism was dull, the plot plodded along and was dull, the rambly writing was dull. If this were an 18th century novel, perhaps I could forgive it more of its dullness, but it really was not, so I couldn't.

The book is supposed to be psychologically insightful, and profound, but, frankly, and maybe this is just me, I could see no insightfullness r profundity in it. The psychology seemed trite, the relat...more
Jamie
Well. This book took work. It was beautifully written, but it was dull. It was fast-paced, but it seemed to take years to get through it.

The first hundred pages or so are very expository – the titular character talks about his reasons for going to Africa, but it takes a very long time for him to actually get to Africa. It’s plodding. And then suddenly the opposite happens: he gets to Africa, and in single paragraphs so many things happen that you get a little distracted. It’s hard to focus. Whe...more
Moses Kilolo
My previous attempts at reading Bellow were not that interesting. For some reason I could not go into the spine of the Humboldt's Gift, and Herzog was some tough material for me. Could be I was not really ready for him or his kind of writing. But that has now changed with my reading of Handerson the rain King, and I plan to attempt Bellow again some time soon.

The man Handerson is a wild and funny one, but very deep and weird in his own sense. He does not settle for what society seemingly lays i...more
Matthew
Through parody and satire, Henderson the Rain King (1959) offers Bellow’s most trenchant and comic analysis of literary modernism.

The title character is a direct parody of literary giant Ernest Hemingway, a narcissistic stoic who is introspective, solipsistic, bumbling and egocentric. Despite wealth, physical prowess and social standing, Henderson feels restless and unfulfilled. He is Bellow’s answer to a generation of modern writers who reacted with exaggerated disappointment to the failures of...more
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Theme??? 2 48 Aug 15, 2013 07:17PM  
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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
More about Saul Bellow...
Herzog The Adventures of Augie March Humboldt's Gift Seize the Day Mr. Sammler's Planet

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“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.” 78 likes
“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.” 33 likes
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