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‘Herzog’ portrays resilience through loss

Gregurich is a first-year English major and can be reached at avery.gregurich@drake.edu

Fiction is meant to transport us away from the cruelties of reality. Saul Bellow’s “Herzog” defies this rule of literature, instead immersing readers into the very mind of a troubled human being amidst an incredibly troubled life.

Moses E. Herzog is introduced to us as a man on the edge of insanity, though what exactly constitutes insanity in this world of ours? An incurable over-thinker, worrier, and intellectual, Herzog is not a typical protagonist. He writes a multitude of letters to persons both living and dead, though whether they are actually mailed remains a mystery. The letters range in content from personal matters to grandiose ruminations on life, religion and the shortcomings of human life. Herzog is a self-proclaimed addict with his drug of choice being that of ideas.

Readers learn quite early in the novel that Herzog has a way with the opposite sex. Perhaps it is his intellectual persona, or maybe it is his injured-pride demeanor that beacons to women. Moses has been involved in two marriages, each one ending in divorce. Daisy, his first wife, is not given much thought in the novel, presumably because time has taught Moses his mistake in divorcing her. Madeline, his second wife, is given the majority of his thoughts, and not without just cause. Through an almost unbearable recollection, readers learn what has transpired between Madeline, Moses’s best friend Valentine Gersbach and Moses himself.

Failures of the most common human kind still surround Moses. He is a twice-failed husband, as well as a failing father to his young children, one from each of his marriages. A once respected professor and scholar, even these endeavors have soiled and turned sour for Moses. The only salvation in his life seems to come from the presence of Ramona, his newest lover. Her intentions of marriage are obvious, but she seems to understand Moses in a way that even he himself is unable to.

A complex and often sorrow- inducing story, “Herzog” mirrors the complexities and struggles of our own lives. Through an exceptionally original use of language, Bellow paints a masterpiece of resilience in the dismal face of despair.

A Nobel Prize-winning author, Bellow holds nothing back, making keen and often accurate observations on a strange world through Moses’ rambling voice. Ultimately a tale of revival, “Herzog” takes readers on a journey through a wandering mind, one that undoubtedly reminds us of our own.

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