Winner of the Nobel Prize and a towering figure of twentieth-century literature, Saul Bellow secured his place as one of the most distinctive and significant writers of the postwar era with the publication of his third novel, The Adventures of Augie March. This Library of America volume collects all three of Bellow’s early works, beginning with Dangling Man (1944), an incisive character study cast in the form of a diary that depicts the anguish and uncertainty of a man known only as Joseph. Expecting to be deployed to the war overseas, Joseph quits his job and finds himself increasingly on edge when his draft board defers his enlistment. The first of his many books to take place in Chicago, Dangling Man is a spare, haunting novel in which Bellow lays bare Joseph’s dilemma with rigorous precision and subtlety.
The Victim (1947), which Bellow described as “a novel whose theme is guilt,” is an unsettling moral parable. Left alone in New York City while his wife is visiting her family, Asa Leventhal is confronted by a former co-worker whom he can barely remember. What seems like a chance encounter evolves into an uncanny bond that threatens to ruin Leventhal’s life. As their relationship grows ever more volatile, Bellow stages a searching exploration of our obligations toward others.
In a radical change of direction, Bellow next wrote The Adventures of Augie March (1953). Its eponymous hero grows up in a bustling Chicago peopled by characters as large as vital as the city itself, then sets off on travels that lead him through the byways of love and the disappointments of a fast-vanishing youth. Exuberant, uninhibited, jazzy, infused with Yiddishisms and a panoply of Depression-era voices, Augie March is borne aloft by an ebullient sense of irony. Winner of the 1954 National Book Award and praised by writers and critics ranging from Alfred Kazin to Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, The Adventures of Augie March has had a lasting impact that shows no sign of abating.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was one of the most celebrated writers of the last century, the only author to win the National Book Award for Fiction three times. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976.
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If Saul “Bellow wasn’t actually the first to make a novel out of the pure American idiom, he makes Augie March a darn good voice to sing along with Huckleberry Finn…. Sentence for sentence, Augie March is one of the finest excursions into prose by any modern American.” —Chicago Tribune