Saul Bellow was born in 1915 to Russian émigré parents. As a young child in Chicago, Bellow was raised on books - the Old Testament, Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Chekhov - and learned Hebrew and Yiddish. He set his heart on becoming a writer after reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, contrary to his mother's hopes that he would become a rabbi or a concert violinist. He was educated at the University of Chicago and North-Western University, graduating in Anthropology and Sociology; he then went on to work for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Bellow published his first novel, The Dangling Man, in 1944; this was followed, in 1947, by The Victim. In 1948 a Guggenheim Fellowship enabled Bellow to travel to Paris, where he wrote The Adventures of Augie March, published in 1953. Henderson The Rain King (1959) brought Bellow worldwide fame, and in 1964, his best-known novel, Herzog, was published and immediately lauded as a masterpiece, 'a well-nigh faultless novel' (New Yorker).
Saul Bellow's dazzling career as a novelist was celebrated during his lifetime with an unprecedented array of literary prizes and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, three National Book Awards, and the Gold Medal for the Novel. In 1976 he was awarded a Nobel Prize 'for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work'.
Bellow's death in 2005 was met with tribute from writers and critics around the world, including James Wood, who praised 'the beauty of this writing, its music, its high lyricism, its firm but luxurious pleasure in language itself'.
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