Humboldt's Gift

Odyssey Editions
3
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With his uncanny wit and perception, Saul Bellow tells the story of Charlie Citrine, a young man whose life is reaching a critical moment. Over several years, Charlie’s almost obsessive love of literature has led him into a deep friendship with the renowned poet Von Humboldt Fleisher, and when Humboldt dies, the young man’s life rapidly begins to unravel. A stalling career and an ugly divorce feed Charlie’s instability, and he engages in dubious friendships and an unwise liaison with the wrong woman. Amidst the chaos of a life in shambles, Charlie emerges by virtue of a legacy left by his departed companion, a legacy that offers him a glimpse of a new trajectory.
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About the author

A fiction writer, essayist, playwright, lecturer, and memoirist, Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Quebec, in 1915, and was raised in Chicago. He received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937 and did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin before serving in the Marines during World War II. Later, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, Bellow served as a war correspondent for Newsday. Throughout his long and productive career, he contributed fiction to several magazines and quarterlies, including The New Yorker, Partisan Review, Playboy, and Esquire, as well as criticism to The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, The New Leader, and others. Universally recognized as one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century, Bellow has won more honors than almost any other American writer. Among these, he received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Humboldt's Gift and the B’nai B’rith Jewish Heritage Award for “excellence in Jewish literature.” He was the first American to win the International Literary Prize, and remains the only novelist in history to have received three National Book awards, for The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, and Mr. Sammler's Planet. In 1976, Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work.” Saul Bellow died in 2005 at age 89.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Odyssey Editions
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Published on
Dec 14, 2015
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Pages
498
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ISBN
9781623730321
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Literary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Suffocating in the small-town world of his parents, Vijay is desperate to escape to the raw energy of Bombay in the early 1990s. His big chance arrives unexpectedly when the family servant, Raju, is recruited by a right-wing organization. As a result of an article he writes about the increasing power of sectarian politicians, Vijay gets a job in a small Bombay publication, The Indian Secularist. There he meets Rustom Sorabjee — the inspirational founder of the magazine who opens Vijay’s eyes to the damage caused to the nation by the mixing of religion and politics.

A year after his arrival in Bombay, Vijay is caught up in violent riots that rip though the city, a reflection of the upsurge of fundamentalism everywhere in the country. He is sent to a small tea town in the Nilgiri Mountains to recover, but finds that the unrest in the rest of India has touched this peaceful spot as well, specifically a spectacular shrine called The Tower of God, which is the object of political wrangling. He is befriended by Noah, an enigmatic and colourful character who lives in the local cemetery and quotes Pessoa, Cavafy, and Rimbaud, but is ostracized by a local elite obsessed with little more than growing their prize fuchsias. As the discord surrounding the local shrine comes to a head, Vijay tries to alert them to the dangers, but his intervention will have consequences he could never have foreseen.

The Solitude of Emperors is a stunningly perceptive novel about modern India, about what drives fundamentalist beliefs, and what makes someone driven, bold, or mad enough to make a stand.

I thought about the taxi driver who had been murdered. Deepak hadn’t said whether he was young or old, but I imagined him to be as young as I was, and there was a good chance that he, like me, was a recent immigrant to the city, perhaps from Hyderabad, or some smaller place that did not have enough work or resources to hold on to its young. He would have come here hoping to make his fortune, and maybe in time he would have.

Why had he worn the badges of his faith to the very end, I wondered. Even when his life was at stake, why hadn’t he thought to take them off? Maybe they were so much a part of him, he hadn’t even seen them as symbols to be discarded. They would have helped him link himself to a community, of course, until he had saved enough to bring his family over from his home town because it was likely he had married young. Until this fateful day, his religion would have saved him from the loneliness of the room in the chawl or slum. He would go to the mosque, meet others as lonely as he was. They would do their namaz together, celebrate the great festivals of Id and Ramzan with feasts of biryani on Mohammed Ali Road. Yes, his religion had been good to him, until the day it had devoured him.
—From The Solitude of Emperors
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