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Legado De Humboldt
 
by
Saul Bellow
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Legado De Humboldt

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  4,376 ratings  ·  272 reviews
Charlie Citrine, an intellectual, middle-aged author of award-winning biographies and plays, contemplates two significant figures and philosophies in his life: Von Humboldt Fleisher, a dead poet who had been his mentor, and Rinaldo Cantabile, a very-much-alive minor mafioso who has been the bane of Humboldt's existence. Humboldt had taught Charlie that art is powerful and...more
Paperback, 0 pages
Published February 1st 1996 by Aims Intl Books Corp (first published 1973)
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William
I'm going to rave a little here. Do forgive me in advance. This is my second reading of this masterpiece. It was shortly after publication of Humboldt's Gift that Bellow won the Nobel Prize. That in itself usually doesn't mean much, mostly the literature awards are given out for political reasons these days, but I think in the case of Bellow Oslo got it right. From the start the storytelling is brilliant and it never flags. Charlie Citrine, a young man filled with a love of literature, writes to...more
Eric
Last night I dreamt that Saul Bellow was still alive, and that I met him. (Met him at the Chicago branch of something called the Hitler-Piedmont Bank--I know, I know, it was a dream, so it had to be a little fucked up.) I started to gush, but of all the phrases, characters and scenes of his that I admire, the only thing I praised was his description, in this novel, of Humboldt's mud-bespattered station wagon as looking like "a Flanders staff-car."
Fewlas
Questo libro è talmente tante cose tutte insieme, così monumentale nell’intento, così ricco di contenuti, che mi risulta difficile persino pensare ad un genere a cui associarlo. È semplicemente unico ed irripetibile. Tra le tante cose esso è..

Geniale enciclopedia dei tipi umani.

Sapiente analisi dei sistemi di valori vecchi e nuovi.

Dichiarazione d’amore alla Poesia, unico strumento di redenzione a disposizione dell’animo umano.

Un romanzo comico sulla morte” (come recita la quarta di copertina),...more
matt

I don't know what it is, but Bellow's books just go down easy for me. I can (and have) read them in one or two or five very long sittings, enjoying myself enough to just refuse to take my eyes off the page.

There's something about his protagonists- the nervy, learned, spunky, earthy, thoughtful and hyper-attentive 30-40 year old males which seems to resonate with me over and over again. I seriously thought about making a special category on my bookshelves for "old-drunk-wannabe-writer" books (a...more
AC
There is not much need for me to review this book, as it is well known, and as I already wrote substantial reviews of Herzog and Sammler's. As a young man, when I read this, I adored it (5-stars); this time, I saw also its flaws (4-stars).

All the threads of Herzog, Seize the Day, and Sammler come together here in near perfection... 'near'. A picaresque comedy, Charlie Citrine is throroughly modern, and romps through the latter part of the 20th century, trying valiently... like Harry Houdini ( --...more
Denis
It's interesting how passionate I get when I dislike a book. Maybe I feel ripped off? My expectations were high and that no doubt plays into it.

The setup is interesting and has great potential. A man is on a quest to make sense of his life in a world that's lost its way. The theme: Culture, the arts, advanced learning and thinking, (the only raisons-d'être for man's existence don't you know) are being quashed by modern society and its trappings. From the get-go, there are quotes or mention of zi...more
David Lentz
Transcendental. Profound. Scholarly. Challenging. Invigorating. Agile. A literary treasure. Citrine lives and breathes with the perspective of a real writer surging against great existential issues like Walt Whitman's ultimate question. Humboldt is brilliant, pitiful, hilarious and, ultimately, victorious from the grave. The gangster, Cantabile, is Citrine's cosmic foil: the Dionysius of Nietzsche to Citrine's Apollo. This is potentially a life-altering work: it can change your outlook on life a...more
Bruce
This novel is divided into sections of uneven length, each section probably best described as a chapter, unnumbered. The narrative is in the first person, told by the writer Charlie Citrine, the erstwhile friend and protégé of Von Humboldt Fleisher, a poet whose greatest fame occurred in the Thirties, after which the friendship shattered as Humboldt’s reputation declined and Charlie’s rose. The syntax, at the beginning, is simple declarative sentences, but it becomes far more florid during long...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called literary "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #38: Humboldt's Gift (1975), by Saul Bellow

The story in a nutshell:
In good Postmodernist fashion, Saul Bellow's 1975 Humboldt's Gift is a semi-autobio...more
Rayroy
"...There are two graves left.You wouldn't want to buy mine, would you? I'm not going to lie around. I'm having myself cremated. I need action. I'd rather go into the atmosphere. Look for me in the weather reports."

"Moreover I was convinced that there was nothing in the material world to account for the more delicate desires and perceptions of human beings.


I met to write a full review but too much time has past to write a good one, this is just a book about an author that fears culture and arts...more
Kristen
The country is proud of its dead poets. It takes terrific satisfaction in the poets’ testimony that the USA is too tough, too big, too much, too rugged, that American reality is overpowering. And to be a poet is a school thing, a skirt thing, a church thing. The weakness of the spiritual powers is proved in the childishness, madness, drunkenness, and despair of these martyrs. Orpheus moved stones and trees. But a poet can’t perform a hysterectomy or send a vehicle out of the solar system. Miracl...more
Paul
This is the first Bellow I have read and I enjoyed the experience. It concerns Charlie Citrine, a chap in his 50s, a writer and intellectual who has an ongoing divorce, an unpredictable girlfriend, an acquaintance in the mob who decides he quite likes Charlie, various bloodsucking lawyers, friends who want money for hare-brained schemes and his relationship with his old mentor (now dead), the poet Von Humboldt Fleischer. It is an erudite book with lots of ideas in play and Bellow has great fun w...more
Hadrian
So close to being a 5-star.

Fantastic, lyrical, excellent when both comic and tragic, plaintive and descriptive, and there are a few ugly spots which almost spoil the whole thing (the rant about divorce/women) and made me have to stop. Still a very good examination of the role of writing and consumerism in American culture, if you want me to retreat to my usual sterile descriptions.
Christopher Roth
Maybe I just read this at the wrong time of life. The only other Bellow I'd read were Herzog many many years ago, plus scattered short stories. More vivid in my mind is Brent Staples' brilliant University of Chicago memoir "Parallel Time: Growing up In Black and White," in which Staples confesses, hilariously, to stalking, even terrorizing, Bellow after his novel "Ravelstein," with its portrayal of blacks that many found racist, appeared. And I must say, the African-Americans in "Humboldt's Gift...more
Manray9
When Bellow’s main character, Charlie Citrine’s, lover Renata said “When you get to the story let me know, I’m not big on philosophy,” she hit the bullseye. I have never before read a more pretentious glob of self-indulgent philosophizing, high-brow name-dropping, and conceited intellectualism. You realize a novel isn’t working when you catch yourself frequently checking how many pages remain. I kept at it only out of respect for Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate Saul Bellow, as the autho...more
Erez Davidi
After a rather pleasant experience with “Seize the Day,” I decided to try another and slightly more lengthy work of Bellow’s. After about 50 pages, I couldn't ignore the resemblance between the two novels. As in “Seize the Day”, this is a critique of our modern society. This time, Bellow explores the nature of materialist America through the lives of two writers, Von Humboldt Fleisher and Charlie Citrine. The former is a gifted poet who fails to achieve commercial success yet yearns to help Amer...more
Michael
I have mixed feelings about the overall literary quality of this book, but I'm glad I read it because Bellow is a good teacher, very good at mixing abstract thought (here death, the soul, and the possibility of a vital American poetry are the biggest concerns) with the plot, action, character, and the other stuff of life and novels. Really, Humboldt's Gift reads like a clinic on this novelistic skill, but more in the way of an exercise book than a masterpiece. The two writers I thought of most w...more
Jeremiah Tillman
This is a pretty singular reading experience. Bellow's narrator, Charles Citrine, is a well-defined, unrelenting voice. Citrine is, as Bellow was at the time, preoccupied with the work of Rudolf Steiner (lol). Anthroposophy, a doctrine essentially stating that a person can grasp the immortality of the soul through the intellect, is the center of the novel. Citrine yearns to transcend the finite world for the immortal soul; thus he spends a lot of time on a green sofa thinking about the past so a...more
Bridge
I almost gave up on this book because it was so annoying and I found no pleasure or interest whatsoever in any part of it including any of the characters, but I finished it for my brother. I guesss I'm glad I did, so that I can add it to my list and write a review having known that I did read the whole book and didn't miss anything in the last half that would change my opinion of the book. I didn't learn anything and was confused at times. This book was just not for me.
Fabian
The labyrinthine mental processes of an exceptional man of letters--challenging, uneven, extremely self conscious and, of course, literary.

"I have snoozed through many a crisis (while millions died)" laments our hero. Our overthinking, overcompensating, overwhelming hero. He's a regular Danish prince--indeed most of his life is seen through a Shakespearean filter that has more to do with complications than tragedy or romance.

There are amazing sentences and exuberant prose in this, a lauded Pulit...more
Kristel
The novel tells the story of Charlie Citrine, a successful writer, who is reflecting on his own talents and life after his friend, Humbolt’s death. Citrine is involved with a young mistress who is leading him around by sexual promises, a wanta be gangster, the IRS and his exwife and her lawyers. Even his mistress abandons him. Charlie is alienated in Madrid when he discovered that Humboldt has left a gift. Saul Bellow is really writing about his friend, the poet Delmore Schwartz and the influenc...more
Holly
Okay so now I've finally read one of the late-twentieth century biggies -- now maybe I'll get more of the Humboldt references in the criticism I read. I was amused by the wit and loved the language, though not moved emotionally by the story itself. Of course the comic scenes were marvelously madcap and over-the-top, but I also laughed out loud at some of the ruminatory passages: when Charlie Citrine is told he must participate in an interview about "the dear dead days of the Village, and its int...more
Richard Bon
I'd be shocked if I ever enjoy any of Bellow's books as much as I did Humboldt's Gift, and stacked against Herzog and Seize the Day, I'd say it's my favorite.

Citrine is at once enviable, sad, and such a cleverly comical pushover. His career success, wealth (well, at least at the novel's outset), freedom, and intellect are on par with the highest societal levels, and yet he seems to have next to no relationship with his daughters, and for all of his intelligence, he's devoid of common sense in de...more
Karyn Wergland
In search of a book with scope, I chose this one, and was not disappointed. Rather than a "small and perfect gem," this is a broad, sprawling story that spans decades, crosses continents, and and delves into the soul of the narrator. The profusion of language leaves the reader with a sense of abundance. The book has a voice that suggests the author could talk anyone into a corner, regardless of the level of discourse. Yet the author is in control of the story, no matter how many tangents, twists...more
Sternej
This is my favorite Saul Bellow book. Like many of his books, in this one the main character is middle-aged Jewish man who's in a kind of mid life crisis. There's a lot of first person stream of consciousness exposition from Charlie Citrine, the main character. The plotting is almost secondary. If you don't enjoy book like that this won't be for you. Bellow's voice is very male centric so I don't know if this kind of lit appeals to women. The prose can be at times poetic and simply magnificent....more
Andy
An interesting portrait of mid-20th century Chicago, and a host of strange characters therein, from artists and academics to crazed gangsters. Loaded with interesting philosophical concepts about the nature of human existence. The story, at times, tends to take the back seat to all of this, but, still, worth reading. The main thrust of the story concerns a writer, Charlie Citrine, who, with the aid of his late friend's legacy, is able to turn his life around.
Susan
I read this book, probably when it came out in the 70ies, and because I didn’t remember it at all, decided to read it again. It was certainly about a 70ies world—no cell phones and predatory divorce lawyers seemed a new phenomenon—but the basic theme is much older, and if anything more relevant today. Struck me that it had a lot in common with Peter Cary’s Theft which I read recently, namely, the position of the artist in a grossly materialistic society.

The main character—and narrator (Bellow cr...more
Mike Robinson
"Humboldt's Gift" is a steady unresolved current of introspective reconciliation, punctured occasionally by a rock of solid plot. This is less a complaint than an observation. One's enjoyment of the novel depends heavily on the reader's intellectual and spiritual commonalities with the somberly bewildered narrator, Charlie Citrine, whose multi-dimensional qualities are drawn at the expense of others I might have expected from a personality such as his. As such, the nature of Bellow's novel, at l...more
Kelly
"Some think that sloth, one of the capital sins, means ordinary laziness," I began. "Sticking in the mud. Sleeping at the switch. But sloth has to cover a great deal of despair. Sloth is really a busy condition, hyperactive. This activity drives off the wonderful rest or balance without which there can be no poetry or art or thought -- none of the highest human functions. These slothful sinners are not able to acquiesce in their own being, as some philosophers say. They labor because rest terrif...more
Ratan Sebastian
The obligatory quote to start of this review would be from Bellow's own Nobel prize acceptance speech where he, quoting Joseph Conrad, said, "He[the artist] appealed, said Conrad, "to that part of our being which is a gift, not an acquisition, to the capacity for delight and wonder... our sense of pity and pain, to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation - and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts... which binds...more
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Tackling the Puli...: Humboldt's Gift (Saul Bellow, 1975) 27 29 Sep 15, 2011 11:03AM  
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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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“She's very pretty but she's honey from the icebox, if you know what I mean. Cold sweets won't spread.” 26 likes
“Boredom is an instrument of social control. Power is the power to impose boredom, to command stasis, to combine this stasis with anguish. The real tedium, deep tedium, is seasoned with terror and with death.” 22 likes
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