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Henderson the Rain King

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  14,219 ratings  ·  843 reviews
Henderson has come to Africa on a spiritual safari, a quest for the truth. His feats of strength, his passion for life, and, most importantly, his inadvertant success in bringing rain have made him a god-like figure among the tribes.
Paperback, 341 pages
Published 1996 by Penguin (first published 1959)
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Greg Have you read "Herzog"? It's a continuation of "Henderson". Rob, I want to reach Henderson/Herzog's conclusion, and that conclusion is perfect. If you…moreHave you read "Herzog"? It's a continuation of "Henderson". Rob, I want to reach Henderson/Herzog's conclusion, and that conclusion is perfect. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.(less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
(464 From 1001 Books) - Henderson the Rain King, Saul Bellow (1915 - 2005)

Bellow's glorious, spirited story of an eccentric American millionaire who finds a home of sorts in deepest Africa.

Eugene Henderson is a troubled middle-aged man. Despite his riches, high social status, and physical prowess, he feels restless and unfulfilled, and harbors a spiritual void that manifests itself as an inner voice crying out I want, I want, I want. Hoping to discover what the voice wants, Henderson goes to Afr
Apr 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Although I enjoyed the book, I have trouble improving on this brief summary from onestarbookreviews:
A rich old man goes to Africa to find himself, only to get tangled up in one huge, extended metaphor with a lion.
Barry Pierce
Holden Caulfield goes to Africa.
Richard Hensley
May 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Arun Divakar
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 ties a blin ...more
This is my first Saul Bellow book and while I didn't hate it, I didn't love it either. I get that Henderson was on a spiritual journey to find the answers to his life's questions, and that the reader can pluck a few jewels of inspiration from Bellow's examples throughout the novel, but I've experienced that in many other novels that I enjoyed much more than this one. I think the problem I had was with Henderson's personality. He reminded me of a few people that I have known, one in particular, w ...more
A book of a brilliant comic, after all, and completely innovative, to which I cannot stick a clear label,
a book that is both serious and frivolous, that encourages an academic reading, but at the same time, ironizes it.
A quite crazy book, I could say, but not without a crazy authority.

Bellow's Africa has for Henderson - the central character - the same role as the village owned by the kafkaesque castle for K. , giving the protagonist from the outside a completely unknown test area, in which
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
Henderson the Rain King or, as I like to think of it, Hunter S. Thompson's African Adventure is one of those rare books that I didn't want to end. I found it powerful, beautiful, and funny. Looking through some of the negative reviews, however, I find myself confused about people's approaches toward literature. for example:

Complaint 1: Main character is a rich white guy: Can only disadvantaged minorities be interesting or have noteworthy events in their lives? Also, if every character in every b
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: could-not-finish
This has to be one of the most overrated and boring books I have ever attempted to read. I made it half way through, but would have only finished it if someone had put a gun to my head.
lark benobi
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I just finished another bout with Eugene Henderson, this time via audiobook. And I'm so sad. This novel is like a beloved eccentric uncle to me, the one who used to be my favorite when I was younger, but as the years passed I changed and he didn't, and now I've discovered that he's slid irrevocably into maudlin self-pity, egoism, and blinding privilege. I've tried so hard to keep on loving him, but just now I can't forgive him.

I can still remember why this novel used to be my favorite, though.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2010, default
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
Now I am grumpy. I have been struggling to understand what Bellow was saying with this book. Giving up in the middle was to acknowledge defeat. Now, on completion, I have come to the conclusion it was a total waste of time.

The book is said to be a comic adventure story. In fact, that is all it is. As you read, assorted philosophical themes are hinted at. I mistakenly thought that the book might have something of value to say. Why? Well because we are often in the central character’s head. He is
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saul-bellow
I belong in the service of the Queen
I belong anywhere but in between
She's been crying, I've been thinking
And I am the rain king
-Counting Crows

Just a great novel from a top American writer. Quite funny also.
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am a steady admirer of Saul Bellow and this since I read, some thirty years ago, “Humboldt’s Gift”. And I was thinking, while reading “Henderson, the Rain King” how important (although irrelevant) is the first reading of an author. For if I had read this book first, I doubt I have ever tried another. Not because it is bad, but because it didn’t say much to me. As a complex parody it was sometimes boring instead of funny, even though I quite liked the idea of an anti superhero (I don’t know if ...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
lori light
May 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: myfavorites
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
Betsy Robinson
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is bawdy, spontaneous, poetic writing.

Eugene Henderson, an overblown, twice-married, millionaire pig farmer and violin player is having an existential crisis.
I want, I want, I want, I want, I want!
This is the geshrei that drives fifty-five-year-old Henderson into and through a spiritual quest in Africa. He doesn’t know what he wants, just that “everybody is working, making, digging, bulldozing, trucking, loading, and so on . . .” until it is a form of madness. (I think he would be righ
Vit Babenco
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Are the modern achievements of civilization good or evil? Isn’t it better to return to the primordial roots and become a part of a nature?
Henderson – “a giant shadow, a man of flesh and blood, a restless seeker, pitiful and rude, a stubborn old lush with broken bridgework, threatening death and suicide” – is tired of civilization and in search of human origins he runs away to Africa.
“All human accomplishment has this same origin, identically. Imagination is a force of nature. Is this not enough
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 20th-century
I want therefore I am - Bellow’s version of Descartes’ proposition. Eugene Henderson’s trip is a Hemingway parody and a satirical allegory of our search for self sprinkled with beautiful writing that touches the soul. It both makes fun of the contemporary pursuit of being real and seriously questions our values. The story is fanciful but purposeful. Henderson’s boorishness and bombastic outbursts can become tiresome (just like the original EH) but Bellow’s poetic prose always comes to the rescue ...more
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel-winners
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,
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-lit
As I read this novel forty years ago, my comments are dated. But every book on Africa and the West I have read since--including Naipaul's Bend in the River--must compete against this one. So far, Bellow still trumps the list. What a concept. Move a large stone, You're KIng! Henderson does, and is. For one gratifying sidelight: as King, Henderson gains--what?--50+ wives. One hazard, the wives decide on whether he remains king. Check me on this, it's broadly correct, but I may mis-remember over th ...more
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This lion roar of a novel, by turns deeply felt and comic, certainly ranks with Saul Bellow's best.

In "Henderson the Rain King," American Eugene Henderson, a very big man with a very big appetite for life, leaves his wife behind for a questing African adventure, trying to satiate a familiar voice saying, "I want, I want, I want!"

Restless, rich, Henderson is tormented by yearnings for more: "If I don't get carried away, I never accomplish anything." He also says: "I am a true adorer of life, and
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
May 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own, 1001books 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
Marc Gerstein
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
Literature has no shortage of male protagonists suffering existential crises and somehow or other trying to find meaning in their lives. But Eugene Henderson, the unfulfilled scorned son of a wealthy father (who still left him plenty of money) is a seeker with a difference. He is a world-class fu**-up and he ups the ante on bad decisions after he decides to seek meaning in Africa. The book is hysterically funny in a Saul Bellow sort of way (which means if you’re not into Bellow-style introspecti ...more
Mitchel Broussard
Jan 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: for-college
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
I was able to “get” Henderson immediately, not because I am a rich white boisterous man in search for my inner self in an "exotic" place,but for the very simple reason that I could recognize in his narration the restless flee from death. The noise in the head that will not let you become. I've been there and got this insight. I am Henderson but then I'm not. Saul Bellow’s Henderson is a strong and complex, imaginative and full of life literary character that is crafted in such a way that you fin ...more
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
lark benobi
I just finished another bout with Eugene Henderson, this time via audiobook. And I'm so sad. This novel is like a beloved eccentric uncle to me, the one who used to be my favorite when I was younger, but as the years passed I changed and he didn't, and now I've discovered that he's slid irrevocably into maudlin self-pity, egoism, and blinding privilege. I've tried so hard to keep on loving him, but just now I can't forgive him.

I can still remember why this novel used to be my favorite, though.
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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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