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The Adventures of Augie March

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  16,690 ratings  ·  1,039 reviews
Augie comes on stage with one of literature’s most famous opening lines. “I am an American, Chicago born, and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted.” It’s the “Call me Ishmael” of mid-20th-century American fiction. (For the record, Bellow was born in Canada.) Or it would be if Ishmael had be ...more
Paperback, 586 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published September 18th 1953)
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Yari Yes, the book is a masterpiece. Bellow evokes the transcendent insights of the Greek philosophers in the dispiriting environment that is the protagoni…moreYes, the book is a masterpiece. Bellow evokes the transcendent insights of the Greek philosophers in the dispiriting environment that is the protagonist's home. The author also gives voice to the unconscious search for meaning. I enjoy Bellow's imagery, it is so exact and exacting. This is the first book I am reading by Saul Bellow; soon I will tackle Herzog. Are you reading another piece of classic American fiction at the moment? (less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
”I am an American, Chicago born--Chicago, that somber city--and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man’s character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn’t any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles.”

When I worked in a bookstore in Phoenix, there was this judge who frequently
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Original Review:

In Pursuit of Exuberance

I first read this in the mid-to-late 70's.

For a long time, I would have rated Bellow as one of my favourite three to five authors and Augie as one of my top three novels.

I haven't re-read it, but intend to. I am working from long distant memories now, but what I loved about it was the sense of exuberance and dynamism. At that time, it meant a lot to me to find evidence that intellect and vitality could be combined in one person.

It doesn't concern me so muc
Who am I to deny recognition of what others call “the Great American Novel”? Augie is launched on the world like a modern day Huckleberry Finn crossed with Tom Jones. But Augie’s arc does not quite have their level of comic edge, the moral quandaries of Huck or pursuit of women like Tom. Scrambling like a chameleon from one odd job or scheme to another he passes from one mentor to another, then breaks free but never quite grows up. He was a great inspiration for me, always aspiring to better him ...more
Sep 27, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Saul Bellow's the Adventures of Augie March is one of three things; it's either Saul Bellow's most verbose novel, a piece of fiction that almost stands as an historical document of Chicago during the Great Depression, or one of the best contemporary examples of the picaresque novel. Either way it's good and bad, and lovely and sprawling, and a testament to Bellow's fascination with the life that emanated from Chicago in the fifties.

Augie, the protagonist of the story, is a tramp to say the least
Vit Babenco
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wonder how picaresque a life of any individual may look from the outside.
A little man in a big world, all alone and lost in a crowd – how to find one’s walk of life and what way to choose?
Friends, human pals, men and brethren, there is no brief, digest, or shorthand way to say where it leads. Crusoe, alone with nature, under heaven, had a busy, complicated time of it with the unhuman itself, and I am in a crowd that yields results with much more difficulty and reluctance and am part of it mys
Michael Finocchiaro
This book seems to be an underrated classic. From its opening lines, it takes along the heady projectory of Augie March in Chicago and elsewhere - not quite a Horatio Alger but perhaps a less burlesque Ignatius J Reilly whose author must have had Bellow's book in mind when he wrote a Confederacy of Dunces. Augie is a fantastic Everyman who draws us in to his attempts at finding himself. I found particularly that the first climax in Mexico was very moving. The voice that Bellow found here is rich ...more
In the end you can't save your soul and life by thought. But if you think, the least of the consolation prizes is the world.
I may be American, but I am not Chicago born. Nor am I male, or of the generation that grew up in the roar of the twenties and came into adulthood soon after the crash. My life, and more importantly my perspective on said life, would be much different creatures than the ones I currently clamber around on. I think, though, they would've been much like Augie's, on an
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian, u-s-lit
I am an American, Altoona born--not Chicago, but just as somber. At an impressionable age I waited until class was over, then walked up, Bellow's Seize the Day in hand, and asked Professor Mitchell for a moment of his time; Mr. Mitchell, with his wispy hair and pale skin, always the same blue suit, a librarian of a man, conceived before acid-free paper. I said, "The names, the names in this novel; every one is the name of a theorist in psychology. Surely that means something!" And Mr. Mitchell ...more
I am an American, Chicago born - Chicago, that somber city - and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.

What an opening sentence, which manages to prefigure the entire novel - the frenetic energy of it, diverting this way and that, moving enigmatically from one idea to the next by an inscrutable trajectory. It is clear that Augie will make the re
Paul Bryant
I went to Italy once. Siena. The cathedral. Huh. 14th century popes with a licorish allsort fetish and way too much money. Okay, it was, you know, impressive. You could tell those popes wanted to be Alexander McQueen and they were all 6 centuries too early.

What, I hear you cry, does this have to do with Augie March, the mid 20th century Chicago likely lad? Only that I tiptoed out of the book and the cathedral with the same sour feeling. Sour and sore. I was beat. It was all too much. It was ove

Martin Amis, one of Bellow's acolytes, who doesn't suffer fools gladly, said simply this. After you finish Bellow at his best- and this is without question one of his absolute best- you don't even think you can write a novel...ever.

That's how good this is. I was ecstatic when I finished it.

Streamlined, wonderfully paced, exuberantly told.

Augie is one of the best characters you could ever hope to come across. Full of life, totally unpretentious, endlessly inventive adventerous, curious and human
E. G.
Nov 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Introduction: The Great American Augie, by Christopher Hitchens

--The Adventures of Augie March
Steven Godin
An adventurous all-american masterpiece of epic proportions?...well at least that's what I had hoped for with five stars flashing before my eyes before even reading the first page!, so where did it all go wrong?, predominantly because it tries to hard to be many different things at once with even the smallest interactions between characters broken up or halted to reflect on the human predicament, relationships or moments from the past, which on the whole I don't have a problem with from time to ...more
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, this set my reading back a couple of months. Every once in a while I have to tackle something like this to remind myself why I like to stick to non-fiction just as much as possible. But this one was on the prestigious list of the 1001 books you must read before you d-i-e, so I thought I would tackle it.

I hated it. I feel guilty saying that, and maybe a little bit stupid since so many have rated it so highly. Bellow is a good writer when he's not baffling you with some clumsy sentence struc
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The true adventure story is one that not only takes you through a man's life and everything that happens to him, but of his own discovery of who he is and what he wants to be in the world. This book by Bellow is just that. I had only read herzog by him, a very long time ago, but did not get it at all..maybe the time was not right because with the adventures of augie march my experience was completely different, I connected from the first moment, and loved every minute of it. Augie insists on not ...more
Looks like I'll have to change my final opinion of Saul Bellow, the same way I did with Cormac McCarthy. I read Henderson the Rain King and Dangling Man last year, and couldn't stand either of them. They were both a chore, even though Dangling Man was only 150 or so pages. Then I read Ravelstein, and although it was more enjoyable, it didn't seem likely to stick with me. I knew I had to give him one more shot at least, since everyone seems to like him so much, and The Adventures of Augie March s ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

It's said by some that Chicago might have the most vibrant literary community in the entire United States right now; and if that's indeed true, it'd be due in part to the remarkably popular "One Book One Chicago" (OBOC) program run by the Chicago Public Library (CPL), one of the many things that makes it s
robin friedman
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Augie March

"I am an American, Chicago-born, that somber city ...and go at things as I have taught myself, freestyle, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted, sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man's character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn't any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles."

This, the opening paragraph of Bellow's large, sprawling, and exuberant n
Adam Floridia
Only vaguely familiar with the name Saul Bellow, I can thank goodreads for, yet again, helping me discover a great book. Seeing it on one of my friend’s 5-star lists, I decided to give Augie March a read, especially after seeing that another friend had written something so highly of the author.

The first few pages reinforced exactly what Eric claimed: not since Nabokov have I been blown away by language like this. Nabokov’s sentences are long, often meandering, intensely vivid and smooth. Bellows
Aug 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Looking for the Great American Novel? According to the likes of Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, and Christopher Hitchens, look no further than this book. (Why the book jacket would quote three Englishmen about the Great American Novel is a mystery not explained by the editors at Penguin Classics.) James Wood, in his almost ecstatic essay "Saul Bellow's Comic Style," called Bellow "probably the greatest writer of American prose of the 20th century--where greatest means most abundant, various, precis ...more
I knew from the first couple paragraphs of this novel that it was fantastic, amazing, like a well-built Italian or German sports car. However, once Bellow jumps into Augie's flight to Mexico with Thea (where they try to to catch Mexican lizards with an wussy eagle) it was equivalent to discovering that the sports car you are driving actually has 6 gears. Anyway, this is one of those books where sentences seem likely to escape the gravity of English, the characters are as big as planets, and the ...more
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
536 pages of very small type, I might add. What a chore reading this book was! I began reading it in 2008 and finished over a year later... and this was my third attempt. Bellows uses every adjective in the dictionary. Never heard of Belshazzar or Pasiphaë? Me neither, but Bellows has, and he inserts every historical, mythological, biblical and classical reference, every Yiddish, Latin and French phrase, as well as every long word in English he knows, as if to say, “Hey, look how smart I am!”. O ...more
Clif Hostetler
Jan 14, 2021 added it
Shelves: novel
Augie March is a young Chicago man graduating from high school in the late 1920s and hustling a living through the 1930s depression. As his adventures continue through to the end of WWII he spends time in Mexico, in New York, in the Merchant Marine, in a raft in the Atlantic, and finally in Paris.

The life of Augie is incredibly varied moving from job to job, which is surprising considering that this is occurring during the time of the Great Depression. He also moves from relationship to relatio
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reminded me of Dickens' "David Copperfield," a book I read for my English class back in high school in the Sixties. I remember we spent a lot of time discussing all the various characters, all richly described by Dickens, and all having their own particular eccentricities. Having just finished "The Adventures of Augie March" by Saul Bellow (1915-2005) and published in 1953, I felt that I had been inundated by a procession of characters, some of them strange, all of them richly describe ...more
Czarny Pies
"The Adventures of Augie March" was once a great novel but its quality is eroding away. At the end of WWII, a wave of outstanding Jewish writers appeared in America. They included Herman Wouk, Leon Uris, Isaac Asimov, Ayn Rand, Joseph Heller, J. D. Salinger, Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth and finally Saul Bellow the winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize for literature. These authors wrote about an America that was urban rather than rural and no longer Anglo-Protestant. Of the works they pr ...more
This is the American epic. In the lineage of The Odyssey and The Aeneid and Argonautica, Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March is a modern struggle against, or for, fate. It is an paean of life's potential, of endurance. Augie's struggle is not to get ahead, but to take the helm of his fate, to direct it toward better waters, to live the way he wants, the way he feels is right for him, and the ways of life for other men be damned. He is often showered with opportunities, grande advantages which ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 101 Books for Men; National Book Award, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006 edition)
The Adventures of Augie March (first published in 1953) is the 3rd novel of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Literature awardee, Saul Bellow. The year before that he also won the Pulitzer award for his 8th novel, Humbolt's Gift. He is the only writer who has won the National Book Award three times: The Adventures of Augie March (1954), Herzhog (1965) and Mr. Sammler's Planet (1971).

Last year, I read Herzhog and I gave it a 4 star (I really liked it).

I spent 5 days reading this. It's an easy read but th
Mattia Ravasi
Video review

The Adventures of Mimi Villars, now that's what I wanted to read.
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The saga of a fatherless boy, brought up by his timid mother and overbearing grandmother, as he grows to a man, trying to make his way in Depression-era Chicago (and later, in other countries). Augie believes that “a man’s character is his fate,” and thus that “this fate, or what he settles for, is also his character.” Therefore, always searching for “a fate good enough” – somehow “fitting into other people’s schemes” but never coming up with any of his own – he feels buffeted by the vicissitude ...more
ETA: When I wrote my review last night, I was terribly disappointed with the ending, the result being I didn’t want to write ANYTHING about the damn book. Yeah, I am an emotional person who gets involved in the books I read. There is much I didn’t but should have mentioned.

Bellow’s writing is descriptive, filled with details of how people and places look. The dialogs capture the people’s lifestyles very well. You understand who you are dealing with. I personally feel I looked at a family which i
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All About Books: Week 73- The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow 8 28 Feb 09, 2015 08:13PM  
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The Modern Librar...: The Adventures of Augie March - by Saul Bellow 40 60 Oct 27, 2011 12:38PM  

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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 Marines during World War II.

Mr. Bellow's first novel, Dangling Man, was p

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