Sunday Afternoon Book Group

Humboldt's Gift is a 1975 novel by Saul Bellow. It won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and contributed to Bellow's winning the Nobel Prize in Literature the same year.

The novel, which Bellow initially intended to be a short story, is a roman à clefabout Bellow's friendship with the poet Delmore Schwartz.  It explores the changing relationship of art and power in a materialist  America. This theme is addressed through the contrasting careers of two writers, Von Humboldt Fleisher (to some degree a version of Schwartz) and his protégé Charlie Citrine (to some degree a version of Bellow himself). Fleisher yearns to lift American society up through art but dies a failure. In contrast, Charlie Citrine makes quite a lot of money through his writing, especially from a Broadway play and a movie about a character named Von Trenck - a character modeled after Humboldt.



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  • Maria C.

    Stimulating discussion

    January 6, 2013

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