Read To Jerusalem and Back by Saul Bellow Free Online
Book Title: To Jerusalem and Back|
The author of the book: Saul Bellow
Edition: Penguin Classics
Date of issue: May 1st 1998
Loaded: 1472 times
Reader ratings: 7.3
ISBN 13: 9780141180755
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 13.19 MB
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Oddly enough, I bought a copy of Saul Bellow's To Jerusalem and Back at a centennial birthday celebration for the author where author Scott Turow was a keynote speaker. Having read 7 or 8 of Bellow's fictional works over many years & in the midst of planning a trip to Israel & the Palestinian Territories, this book seemed a nice travel accessory, even though written 4o years ago. And while there are some interesting personal reflections on Israel and detailed encounters with a variety of Israelis, the book seemed much too self-indulgent, being at times more about Saul Bellow than about Israel or the cast of intriguing characters he intersects with while in Jerusalem. Rather than presenting an overview of a famous American author's impressions, Bellow feels compelled to include a copious list of the books he has read and also inserts rather curious comments attributing power & social bearing based on the facial characteristics of many he encounters, a kind of rudimentary phrenology, rather than just concentrating on their ideas or life experiences, something that seemed more than a little distracting.
That said, Bellow is a sardonic story teller and his observations are often quite humorous, if also occasionally quizzical, one being his recounting of an encounter with an Orthodox Jew seated next to him on an El Al flight who refuses to be seated in the same row as Bellow's wife & who offers to pay the author a fixed monthly sum if he will forswear the consumption of pork. Bellow, with money in the bank & being current on his rent payments desists. As the author meets up with some prominent Israelis, one gets the sense that Bellow doesn't want to be courted or admired for his Jewishness but for his status as a gifted writer and a famous touring American, something that is understandable but which at times seems to represent countering pulls & tugs on his innate sense of identity. Bellow was a secular Jew, Montreal-born but Chicago-bred & educated, Chicago being the city where he spent most of his life & where he found many of his fictional voices, Augie March and Herzog among them. He did not seem ecstatic about the prospect of a cultural rebirth in Israel but rather appeared to prefer admiring Jerusalem and Israel, while keeping it at something of a distance. And, Bellow especially bristles when an ultra Orthodox Professor Harold Fisch, bearded & wearing a skullcap, informs him that American Jews are not Jews at all, also making reference to "recently liberated territories" that were originally allotted to Palestinians, suggesting that "all biblical lands must be colonized & reclaimed by the Jews."
While Bellow's travel observations and commentary go back 40 years, much of the underlying tension in Jerusalem & elsewhere in the region remains amazingly unchanged. For example, the author spends time with a Prof. Jacob Leib Talmon who laments what he calls the new forms of Israeli nationalism, a fanatical nationalist extremism:It is a lunacy to carry the argument back to the Judaism of the Bronze Age and to invoke the enmity of the Amalekites and the Edomites, to claim eternal rights--past, present & future--in the Holy Land and to combine eschatological visions with modern arms. Elsewhere, such movements have invariably been intensely anti-Semitic. Mystical nationalists in Israel are using the language of a holy war just as Arab extremists also call for a holy war, a jihad. Jewish survival is not only threatened by Arab enemies but is being undermined from within.Especially interesting were Saul Bellow's meetings with Prime Minister Rabin and his wife + novelist & former kibbutznik, Amos Oz, who comments that "Israel has more different visions of Heaven than any outsider can imagine, with everyone who came over having brought his own dream of Paradise with him." Bellow listens as Oz details how those within the kibbutz, many being Russian in origin, read Dostoevsky & other serious books, listen to classical music by Russian composers and spend their evenings gravely discussing Marxism, while German Jews read Homer, Plato, Goethe & listen to Mozart. There are also memorable anecdotes about time spent with Moshe, a Masseur and the longtime barber at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
40 years after Bellow's travel book, To Jerusalem & Back first appeared, the world is still debating & attempting to resolve the possibility of a Two State Solution and the continuing occupation of Palestinian Territories and Jerusalem remains a tense but fascinating destination. I will include a last quote from Prof. Talmon, "What Switzerland is to winter holidays & the Dalmatian Coast is to summer tourists, Israel & the Palestinians are to the West's need for justice--a sort of moral resort area." What a wonderful manner of summing up!
I began by awarding this book 3 stars but in honor of the Bellow Centennial & after reviewing my notes, I now find that I gained more than initially remembered by reading To Jerusalem & Back & I now intend to downgrade a few of my complaints, giving Saul's old travel book another *. (Otherwise, I'd rate the book at 3.)
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Read information about the authorSaul 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 Marine during World War II.
Mr. Bellow's first novel, Dangling Man, was published in 1944, and his second, The Victim, in 1947. In 1948 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent two years in Paris and traveling in Europe, where he began The Adventures of Augie March,, which won the National Book Award for fiction in 1954. Later books include Seize The Day (1956), Henderson The Rain King (1959), Herzog (1964), Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories (1968), and Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970). Humboldt's Gift (1975), was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Both Herzog and Mr. Sammler's Planet were awarded the National Book Award for fiction. Mr. Bellow's first non-fiction work, To Jerusalem and Back: A Personal Account, published on October 25,1976, is his personal and literary record of his sojourn in Israel during several months in 1975.
In 1965 Mr. Bellow was awarded the International Literary Prize for Herzog, becoming the first American to receive the prize. In January 1968 the Republic of France awarded him the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, the highest literary distinction awarded by that nation to non-citizens, and in March 1968 he received the B'nai B'rith Jewish Heritage Award for "excellence in Jewish literature", and in November 1976 he was awarded the America's Democratic Legacy Award of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the first time this award was made to a literary personage.
A playwright as well as a novelist, Saul Bellow was the author of The Last Analysis and of three short plays, collectively entitled Under the Weather, which were produced on Broadway in 1966. He contributed fiction to Partisan Review, Playboy, Harper's Bazaar, The New Yorker, Esquire, and to literary quarterlies. His criticism appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Horizon, Encounter, The New Republic, The New Leader, and elsewhere. During the 1967 Arab-lsraeli conflict, he served as a war correspondent for Newsday. He taught at Bard College, Princeton University, and the University of Minnesota, and was a member of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.
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