World of the Paperback; Saul Bellow's "Herzog"
The world of the paperback the University of Chicago invites you to join us for this series of 15 minute programs dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and the review of significant paper bound books each weekly program will bring to the microphone a different author authority or educator with his particular viewpoint towards the topic for discussion. The book selected for today's discussion is Hertzog by Saul Bellow the guest reviewers Salvatore our medi associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. Here is your discussion host from the University of Chicago Robert C. Albrecht. A novel such as heard so I can be looked at or analyzed in many different ways among them sociological analysis of various types of literary analysis and perhaps also some sort of psychological analysis. You find the character Hertzog an interesting character worthwhile character to look at in this way.
From a psychological point of view yes yes quite interesting actually he's a very complex man. He strains the imagination of any psychologist I think but nonetheless for me he represents some very important things about people in the guise of a particular example of course. Well does he seem to you to have what kind of depth does he have as near a kind of reasonably whole personality here with conflicts and tensions and so forth. Yeah well I'm glad you said reasonably whole because you know he's he's a man of many parts and the problem for him I think is the nature of the integration of those parts. I see him as a as a man with one great deep conflict that is not at all uncommon to people on the one hand this is sensuousness. The kind of thing that contributes meaning to life only at a very simple immediate level of sensory experience
and elaborated by thought processes. It's the kind of thing that hit song refers to disparagingly as potato love and on the other hand on the other theme is idealism. A frame of reference which gives meaning to life on the basis of that which is pure and the ways in which one is wanting it has to do with thought processes rather than with sensory experience. I think these two themes are all probably the most abstract way that you can summarise the character his basic problem in life being what kind of compromise can be achieved between these two things because they both so strongly represented in him. There isn't really the possibility of favoring one as opposed to the other. Every time he mentions in the book some. Some gesture in that direction it sounds very unconvincing like he's clearly not going to be a florist and he's clearly not going to withdraw from the world completely so that he can write his great book. There has to be something in between and that's the problem.
Is he quite aware of this problem. Well I think when we find him in the book he certainly is I don't know whether whether we can infer that he has been all along. I think probably what's happened to him as a person. Maybe before we encounter him in the novel is that he made the kind of resolution of this conflict that is often made. I don't mean to downplay its importance by saying often just perhaps to increase its importance. The compromise is one a vanity that is a way of being that takes only those portions of sensuousness that can be justified in terms of one's ideals. So you see yourself as as a glowing expression of humanity. You don't see the evil in you. You don't see any of the failings and whatnot and you make decisions and when you make decisions out of that vanity you have a particular kind of life you become interested in the kinds of things that that hit song has been interesting well that's. I
think we could sort of say that he's been that way up to the point where we find him where we find the novel beginning. Let's take the letter writing which is goes through the novel is the letter writing a manifestation of one side or the other of the conflict or the conflict itself. It's a very interesting question I think. What happens in the novel is to be looked at as a restitute rather than disintegrative. We have to remember I think that he's an extraordinary man that he has considerable capabilities both the sensuousness and for idealism abstract thought. At the point where the novel begins we we recognize that that he's had a series of what are to him terrible reversals in living and during the course of the novel I think we find him becoming more and more cognizant of the vanity out of which he has lived associated with that. I
think we find him being terribly a poor child at this. And then finally trying to explore other kinds of of resolutions of these two themes in his life resolutions that perhaps might be more valuable in the sense of avoiding failure and the appalling sense of. Triviality associated with the life of vanity. See the letter writing as one of the major devices whereby he attempts to explore some alternative compromise. He never sends the letters. They represent in part his idealism. The great ideas the big ideas. But we find that in the course of carrying out the great ideas on paper he gets more and more confused and gradually comes to recognise that. The big ideas aren't really going to save him. At the same time in the letters here and there we see indications of remarkable
almost brutal honesty. They're often the kinds of letters that one wouldn't really send to anyone. He's able to own how jealous he feels concerning the man whose published ideas which he had song thought were his own and he's able to curse his friends and relatives and went to various points. Now that too is the dawning recognition of the side of his sensuousness that has been left out all along the side that his idealism would see as evil. So I think the letter writing is a kind of self-imposed. Therapeutic expression of his attempt to grow out of the limiting compromise of vanity. Does he achieve the successful resolution of the conflict by the end of the book. Well up until the very end I thought he was really getting there. I personally found the the ending of the novel unconvincing as the capping of restitute of process.
I don't know maybe maybe it's just the way I read it but it seems to me that during the course of the novel he does become much more conscious of himself much more conscious of the failings in him and at the very near the end though terribly humiliated and terribly damaged in his living. He shows signs of. If not for giving himself working out more pragmatic rough every day basis for compromising between sensuousness and spirit and idealism. But the trouble with the ending for me is that you know the final relationship with Ramona doesn't seem convincing to me it seems too much like a repetition of old things. Now the thing is if it were true that
what he's working for is a kind of pragmatic work a day resolution a view of the conflict then it would be understandable that the final relationship would seem similar to previous ones but there should be some discernible differences and I didn't find them for his weekly dissertation come more resilient at the end of the novel. This presupposes a rigidity at the beginning. Yeah well there was a rigidity I think you know. He had he couldn't deviate from the vanity all of the decisions were made in that vein and he wasn't always aware of it. That's as good a definition of rigidity as any. So he becomes more flexible in the sense of knowing himself better. But in the process of becoming more flexible he also becomes more vulnerable. He becomes more vulnerable to feelings of hatred toward himself. That's as he recognises the aspects of the sensuality that are inconsistent with his ideals. And he also becomes more vulnerable to the external world. People can hurt him a great deal but
it seemed to me that that as the book was ending not at the very end but as the book was ending. He had achieved a kind of a kind of honesty that had a strength of its own. He's 10 pounds lighter you know and sharing his his bread with the mice and whatnot. But. There was a kind of shedding of. The illusions of vanity that could very well form the basis for a new life that's meaningful in a new way. I don't think the ending quite comes off though it fails us. Some people have said that they tried to read Hertzog and couldn't finish the book because the character Hertzog was too familiar to them is heard sogged does he have the characteristics of people that we
might well meet every day. Or is he unique. This is somewhat somewhat unfair question to ask of about a literary character but this objection has come up. Well I can give one sort of answer to this anyway. Certainly I wouldn't consider it an objection if if a character you read about reminded you very much of yourself. Indeed you know you can go you can go to. Emerson even you who would advocate turning within oneself to find what is there and indicate that if you do that truly you'll find what's common to all men. Now if the book is disturbing on the basis of reminding you of yourself I think that it's successful more than anything else. That's one kind of answer to your question. I feel for I feel that that you know the intense conflict between sensuousness and idealism is a very real thing represented in the characters of many people.
However to say that it is you know in a literal way that hit song is like a lot of people I think raises some problems. I wouldn't imagine that a very young person at the beginning of life experience would would find hit song very representative of the kinds of problems that they experience in day to day living. I think you know you have to you have to recognize it's not accidental that the book deals with a man who's close to 50 who's had a history of water on his own terms failures in living and has become become begun to be. Terribly concerned about that and introspective concerning it while paired saga still a vigorous lusty man he's not optimistic forward looking particularly any of the things we usually associate with with youth although I can very well imagine that that
song as a younger man would have been that way. But I do think that here at Sawgrass presents a very common problem of the second half of life in people who are remarkable enough to see it clearly. Failures are not all that unusual are they. That is they are the failures that any man might well might happen to almost any man. I think so. And yet on the other hand you wouldn't say that her dog is a kind of common man and he says no he's a remarkable man but I think one can especially you know when one sits down to write a novel one would want to choose a remarkable example of a common situation in order to demonstrate the dimensions of that situation. It's very important I think literally that here it's Aga's a remarkable man. I can imagine the kind of you know hark back to your previous question a little I can
- World of the Paperback
- Saul Bellow's "Herzog"
- Producing Organization
- University of Chicago
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program features Salvatore R. Maddi discussing Saul Bellow's "Herzog."
- Series Description
- This series is dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and of the publication of significant paperbound books.
- Broadcast Date
- Talk Show
- Media type
Guest: Maddi, Salvatore R.
Host: Albrecht, Robert C.
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-23-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “World of the Paperback; Saul Bellow's "Herzog",” 1966-06-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-jw86nj1t.
- MLA: “World of the Paperback; Saul Bellow's "Herzog".” 1966-06-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-jw86nj1t>.
- APA: World of the Paperback; Saul Bellow's "Herzog". Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-jw86nj1t