MR. SAMMLER'S PLANET by Saul Bellow

MR. SAMMLER'S PLANET

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Mr. Sammler's planet will be terra firma to all Bellow admirers.

The novel is, as Herzog was, a polemic, or discourse--a dazzling discourse commenting on man and always searching for "what is normal for human life" through one of his put-upon, assertive, strenuously speculative dangling men. Or victims. But always, somehow, a resilient survivor. This time it's Sammler, a refugee via Poland and two decades in England, now in Manhattan (grapefruit juice on the window sill, onion rolls in a humidor). Sammler has only one good eye but it's "full of observation," as is Bellow's for the particulars which give his works such a crowded, restless vitality. ("His senses are especially alive to things and he catches the sensation that the things have created the people or permeated them"--Pritchett.) Sammler's a septuagenarian--too old not to be aware of his cleavage from the present generation ("Who had made shit a sacrament?"); an admirer and friend of H. G. Wells, he often wonders how long this earth will be the only hope of man; and whether "this liberation into individuality" has failed (Bellow has always been passionately involved with the unique needs and powers of the individual and his "contract" with humanity); and what will happen in that unknowable future. And of course at seventy death is just a whisper away ("No one knew when to quit. No one made sober decent terms with death")--in fact very close as the kinsman-friend who imported him lies dying in the hospital. Among the other things that happen here (always incidental, in Bellow): his witness of a pickpocket on a bus; his trouble over his daughter Shula (her "open elements" baffle him) who steals a manuscript in his interest, however misguidedly; the romance of his niece; his general availability as a confidant to the luxuriously sensuous Angela (her father is the dying man) and other; etc., etc.

Bellow has generally been considered our most intelligent and palpably stylish writer; beyond that there's the marvelous intellectual agility and animation; and of course the swaggering comic spirit which keeps Sammler, like Herzog, so triumphantly alive.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1969
ISBN: 0142437832
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1969




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