Saul Bellow: 百歲；The Adventures of Augie March (1953)
The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow 中國有譯本，也選入Saul Bellow文集 (約10冊)。
The 100 best novels: No 73 – The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (1953)
In the long-running hunt to identify the great American novel, Saul Bellow’s picaresque third book frequently hits the mark. Robert McCrum explains why
• Join Robert McCrum and Kate Mosse in a discussion of the 100 best novels
Saul Bellow in the 1950s, after writing The Adventures of Augie March. Photograph: Victoria Lidov/ Bettmann/Corbis
Monday 9 February 2015 05.45 GMT
From the get-go – “I am an American, Chicago-born” – this turbo-charged masterpiece declares itself to be a heavyweight contender; and for some,The Adventures of Augie March is a knockout. Delmore Schwartz called it “a new kind of book”. Forget Huckleberry Finn (nodded at in the title); forgetGatsby; even forget Catcher in the Rye. This, says Martin Amis, one of many writers under Bellow’s spell, is “the Great American Novel. Search no further”. Well, maybe.
In retrospect, both JD Salinger (no 72 in this series) and Saul Bellow, who declared their originality at the beginning of the 1950s, stand head-and-shoulders above a rising generation of young contenders, from Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal to Kurt Vonnegut, and James Salter. No question: the great American postwar fiction boom starts here.
Augie March opens in 1920s Chicago during the Great Depression. Augie is “the by-blow of a travelling man”, and his adventures, loosely patterned after Bellow’s experience, are picaresque. This odyssey, in Bellow’s own words, traces “a widening spiral that begins in the parish, ghetto, slum and spreads into the greater world”, much as his own life did. Augie finds his feet through his engagement with a kind of America that had not been run to earth in fiction before. A sequence of brilliant set pieces narrates the footloose Augie’s upward drift. He becomes a butler, a shoe salesman, a paint-seller, a dog-groomer and a book thief, even a trades union shop steward.
He also revels, like Dickens, in some memorable characters – Augie’s Jewish mother; Einhorn, the fixer and surrogate father – and some seductive women: Sophie Geratis, Thea Fenchel (and her eagle, Caligula), and finally, Stella, whom Augie will marry. It’s a long book, some 500 pages. “It takes some of us a long time,” says Augie, “to find out what the price is of being in nature, and what the facts are about your tenure.” Quite so.
Augie enlists in the merchant marine during the second world war. When his ship, the Sam MacManus, is torpedoed, Augie experiences a long quasi-surreal episode on board a lifeboat in which he confronts matters of life and death in the company of Basteshaw, a weirdo. In the end, with persistent questions about identity and reality unresolved, Augie, the “travelling man”, declares himself to be “a sort of Columbus”, one who discovered a new world but who may himself be a flop. “Which,” as Bellow jokes in a brilliant closing line, “doesn’t prove there was no America”.
A Note on the Text
Saul Bellow published his first novel, Dangling Man in 1944, followed by The Victim (1947) – two works of fiction that reflect his marginal status as a Canadian Jew living in the US – but did not find his true voice as a novelist until he wrote The Adventures of Augie March. Later, looking back, he recalled: “I was turned on like a fire hydrant in summer.” He had begun to write the novel in Paris, having won a Guggenheim fellowship. According to his first biographer, James Atlas, from whom he became estranged, Bellow found the spectacle of water flooding down a Parisian street to be the inspiration for the “cascade of prose” that gushed after his famous opening line: “I am an American, Chicago born – Chicago, that sombre city – and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way…”
He was, he said, revelling in “the relief of turning away from mandarin English and putting my own accents into the language. My earlier books had been straight and respectable. But in Augie March I wanted to invent a new sort of American sentence. Something like a fusion between colloquialism and elegance.” Philip Roth, who would sometimes struggle with Bellow’s influence, noted that this new style “combined literary complexity with conversational ease”. It was, like many literary innovations, from Mark Twain onwards, a high-low hybrid, and linked, in Roth’s words, “the idiom of the academy with the idiom of the streets (not all streets – certain streets)”.
The great, unfulfilled, hope of American fiction in the 1930s, Delmore Schwartz, put this explicitly: “For the first time in fiction America’s social mobility has been transformed into a spiritual energy which is not doomed to flight, renunciation, exile, denunciation, the agonised hyper-intelligence of Henry James, or the hysterical cheering of Walter Whitman.” Other critics, notably James Wood, have celebrated something equally universal – “the beauty of this writing, its music, its high lyricism, its firm but luxurious pleasure in language itself”.
The Adventures of Augie March encountered only one serious pre-publication critique (from Bellow’s British editor, John Lehmann, the celebrated founder of Penguin New Writing). The upshot of this clash was Bellow’s determination to prevail. And he did. Augie March spoke directly to the new postwar generation, and would go on to influence writers as various as Cormac McCarthy, Martin Amis, Jonathan Safran Foer and Joseph Heller.
Bellow’s third novel was published by the Viking Press in 1953. In 1976 he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature, which identified this book as an important “novel and subtle analysis of our culture, of entertaining adventure, drastic and tragic episodes in quick succession interspersed with philosophic conversation, all developed by a commentator with a witty tongue and penetrating insight into the outer and inner complications that drive us to act, or prevent us from acting, and that can be called the dilemma of our age…”
Three more from Saul Bellow
Henderson the Rain King (1959); Herzog (1964); Mr Sammler’s Planet (1970).
The Adventures of Augie March is available in Penguin paperback, £12. Click here to buy it for £9.60
Some Blogs of Hanching Chung
- 導演：陳芯宜： 《行者》 (藍光BD+3DVD) The Walkers
- 上田信（ueda makoto）《森林和綠色的中國史》；Robert B．Marks《中國環境史：從...
- Michel Foucault,
- Julian Barnes 《回憶的餘燼》The Sense of an Ending
- 葉揚「桃花源與烏托邦」 《覆水年華》
- 哲學達人關子尹——笑與哭；香港局勢；教我心醉--教我心碎 (關子尹)/關中「寄天上雲兒」
- "Lafcadio's Adventures" , Paul Valéry, André Gide ...
- CITIZENS: A Chronicle of the French Revolution ; D...
- ‘Don Quixote’ then and now《堂吉訶德》《吉訶德》When Cervante...
- Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966）
- THE MOON AND SIXPENCE (1919) By W. Somerset Maugh...
- Translating Myth (Legenda, 2016)
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; 《馬克‧吐溫 自傳》Mar...
- William Golding, The Author of 'Lord of the Flies'...
- Still Vital, ‘On the Road’ Turns 50 (2007) Jack Ke...
- 林毓生：政治秩序與多元社會、 唐獎 漢學 2016；Spring Reading for a Cha...
- Thomas Mann《歌德與托爾斯泰》 BUDDENBROOKS: The Decline of ...
- 《人文主義與民主批評》《文化與抵抗》《世界.文本.批评家》(the World,the Text,a...
- 河西著 《自由的思想——海外學人訪談錄》
- Will Durant's Fallen Leaves：Last Words on Life, ...
- 李劼 《冷月峰影：東西方文藝經典名作縱橫》(允晨文化 ，2016)
- 《洪業——清朝開國史》《講述中國歷史 》Telling Chinese History by Fre...
- Ivan Klima《布拉格精神》崔衛平譯或景黎明，景凱旋譯
- 高爾基Gorky, Maxim or Maksim/ 萊蒙托夫 Mikhail Lermontov
- Map of James Joyce’s Ulysses (Vladimir Nabokov)
- Adam Smith had a more complex view of human action...
- 蕭公權著《中國政治思想史研究》《迹園文存》/ 汪榮祖編/ 《蕭公權學記》
- 世界电影史(乔治·萨杜尔)，動畫片，Disney's Fantasia (1940)，趙元任
- Critical Lives
- John Updike: More Matter: Essays and Criticism, Ra...
- Thames & Hudson Literary Lives Series
- Dorothy's Grasmere Journal
- The Confessions of St. Augustine《懺悔錄》（希波的奧古斯丁著）
- "Insomnia" by Salvatore Quasimodo
- UNCLE TOM'S CABIN (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe
- 錢存訓Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien《中國古代書史》《留美雜憶——六十年來美國生活的回顧》
- "Hamilton" ; Alexander Hamilton By Ron Chernow
- 蘐園隨筆 五卷 / 萩生徂徠著
- Peter Brook 2 ：《空的空間》《敞開的門--談表演和戲劇》 The Empty Spac...
- On Literature by Umberto Eco/ Q. and A./《一個青年小說家的告...
- W. Somerset Maugham毛姆, Tellers of Tales, THE SUMMI...
- LIVING TO TELL THE TALE by Gabriel García Márquez
- Benjamin Franklin 《富蘭克林自傳》力行十三項箴言
- Frederich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, "Nietzs...
- Saul Bellow: 百歲；The Adventures of Augie March (195...
- Actual Minds, Possible Worlds by Jerome Bruner； H...
- Max Perkins
- The Issa Valley: A Novel (Czesław Miłosz: The true...
- MADAME BOVARY--Provincial Ways《包法利夫人》
- Milan Kundera米蘭‧昆德拉作品集《不能承受的生命之輕》《小說的藝術》The Curtai...
- Maupassant’s “The Necklace”
- 貿然推 圖書按定價銷售制度（fixed book price）？吳思瑤：《台灣出版產業正值寒冬，春天...
- 《無緣社會—「無緣死」三萬二千人的衝擊》；死亡和西方: 從 1300年至今《死亡文化史》
- 潘鳴嘯教授《失落的一代—中國的上山下鄉運動》； 感他謝接受 法廣台的採訪
- Carl Jung - Face to Face. MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLEC...
- John Maynard Keynes: 《精英的聚會》《傳記文集》A Keynes for all...
- Raissa Maritain 昔日舊友：非凡人間 一，單國璽主講
- 哈佛老師們的故事（1*）：Books of their youth Albert Camus, "L...
- Hutchins' University : A MEMOIR OF THE UNIVERSITY ...
- Homer：The Iliad 《伊里亞德》（The Iliad）與《奧德賽》（The Odysse...
- 《古典光陰風格考 》All the Time in the World: A Book of Hou...
- Theodore White ( 1915-86，白修德). America in Search ...
- 張曉風：故事兩則； 駐校作家；《再生緣》1982《愁鄉石》1971《曉風自選集》1979。亮軒《青田...
- ▼ 六月 (82)
- ► 2015 (639)
- ► 2014 (455)
- ► 2013 (354)
- ► 2012 (454)
- ► 2011 (904)
- ► 2010 (507)
- ► 2009 (238)
- ► 2008 (202)