Saul Bellow (1915 — 2005) was an American writer, known as the spokesman of American contemporary literature. Born in 1915 in Racine, a suburb of Montreal, Canada, to Jewish immigrants from st. Petersburg, Russia. In 1924, the family moved to Chicago, USA. He attended the University of Chicago in 1933, and two years later transferred to Northwestern University, where he graduated in 1937 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology. In addition to the occupation as an editor, journalist, and merchant navy, Bellow spent most of his time as a college professor. He received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern universities. Bellow wrote and published 11 novels, 3 novellas, 4 short stories, and a play. In addition, he also published three non-fiction works, such as travel notes, essays, and speech collections.
The protagonists in Bellow’s works all desire to pursue a better life and the meaning of life. Even Maggie, who is in a wandering situation, dreams of starting an orphanage. The pursuit of the perfect self and social life translates into the ideal of Bellow’s heroes. However, life not only rewards them with incentives but more often stabs them in the back without them noticing. Hence, most of the characters exemplify escapism from the harsh reality that is imposed upon them. There is an inescapable paradox between their search for freedom and their flight. Just as they dream of playing the noble role of helping the world and saving the common, they are also victims of the cruel world.
The first two parts of Ravelstein, a biographical novel, are mainly about the last and most important stage of Ravelstein’s life. He was terminally ill, but he fought against the disease until his death. The latter part is mainly about the narrator, Chick himself is on the verge of death due to food poisoning, but he has deep thoughts about life and death at this time. Ravelstein was born in a small city and had a very unhappy childhood. His father had been poor all his life and was a tyrant in the family. Ravelstein, who grew up in the shadow of his father, came into contact with society at an early age and went out on his own. After struggling hard for many years, he finally got rid of the poor people’s life being a famous university professor. He taught students from all walks of life, many of them in important positions, including students who played an important role in the Gulf War. He maintained close contact and frequent intercourse with them. Taking advice from his good friend Chick, he turned his teaching research into a best-selling book attacking the theory of relativity, the American education system, and its declining international status and influence, and became a guest of the president of the United States and the prime minister of Britain. From then on, he became a successful member of the upper class of the affluent society in the United States and lived a luxurious and decadent life. While he was enjoying a life of fame and fortune, he found himself terminally ill. Towards the end of his life, he asked Chick to write an autobiography for him.
Ravelstein is a charming and paradoxical Jewish intellectual. he embraced life with the indulgence and intoxication of Dionysus and the dream and aspiration of the god of the sun. He questioned the contemporary American social value and education system but highly praised the classical culture of ancient Greece and Rome and loved classical music. He fell in love with Armani suits, Cuban cigars, pure gold Montblanc gold pens, and so on. He was an advanced intellectual in American society, but his manner was vulgar. When attending various celebrity social occasions, he would often splash coffee or other drinks on expensive clothes and drink them directly from a coke bottle, which even made T.S. Eliot stunned. He is a conservative who does not worship the free market, but uses his talent to produce valuable goods and become rich overnight. He advocates aesthetic, free love, but has gay friends; he grew up trying to escape his Jewish father, the tyrannical king of his family, but in his life he played his father’s role to his students and friends. The unique historical background, social situation and ethnic characteristics of the Jewish people make Jewish writers in the American culture face embarrassment in their creation. Jews in America (especially the upper-class intelligentsia), reluctant to abandon their traditional religion and unable to resist the American way of life floundered in this confusion, searching for their identity with both desire and disappointment.
“Mr. Sammler’s Planet” is the work of American writer Saul Bellow. The novel describes in great detail a three days trip to New York of a Polish Jew who survived the second World War. He attended lectures, was threatened by black pickpockets, his daughter took manuscripts, and his nephew died. The story is interspersed with untold personal and painful memories of the concentration camp’s dark days—the experience of being buried alive, his wife dying, and him trembling in the tomb. The story has a strong sense of painting the protagonist’s real life in front of the reader. “Mr. Sammler’s Planet” is filled with Mr. Sammler’s musings on such weighty questions as humanity, history, religion, the past and future of mankind.
Mr Sammler’s eyes give the reader a unique perspective on the world. Mr. Sammler had only one eye, and he could see the outside world from only one angle. The beginning of the novel presupposes Sammler’s specific ethical standpoint. Mr. Sammler was blind in one eye, but that did not prevent his interest in the outside world. He still had a special interest in books and papers, implying that he was a man of learning. The author apparently reminds the reader again of Mr Sammler’s patient status. In addition, in this description, the author adds some new information, suggesting that Mr. Sammler is a man of insight, and that his observations of the outside world are worthy of the reader’s expectation which prepares the author to express his views later through what he sees and feels. The description of Mr. Sammler as a patient creates a good foundation for plot development in the novel.
Night by Elie Wiesel is a terrifying story of the Holocaust during World War 2. Elie was born in Sighet, Transylvania. He lived a normal age until the day that he and his family were taken to a concentration camp formerly called Auschwitz. There he is separated from his mother and sisters. He is told to lie about his age and job in order to survive.
After he tells a guard about his age, he is led away with his father. Some days after, they are taken to Buna, a work camp. They work long hours and are very malnourished. Due to the harsh conditions, the Jews must look after one another. This behavior doesn’t last long, and soon all the Jews care about is that they survive. This pushes many of them to commit horrific crimes for extra rations of bread. They quickly lose faith in God and no longer pray. This brings on a worse despair. After some months of labor, the prisoners are soon to be liberated by the Russians. Because of this, the Germans decide to move the prisoners. They are forced to march through a snowstorm to another concentration camp called Gleiwitz. Once at Gleiwitz, they are crammed into cattle cars. All 100 prisoners that hadn’t died were tightly packed against one another. Most cannot take anymore pain and die on the train. Once the train stops at Buchenwald, only 12 prisoners get off of the train. Soon after arriving, Elie’s father dies of dysentery on April 11, 1945. After experiencing so much, this breaks Elie and he is transformed into only a skeleton of a man.