Summary

"Mr. Artur Sammler, a survivor of the Holocaust, haunted by memories of his literal escape from the grave, is living out his days in New York City. An intellectual who once thrived on the great works of Western literature and philosophy, he now occasionally lectures at Columbia University. A "registrar of madness," he records the degradations of city life while looking deep into the sufferings of the human soul. While the world anticipates the first lunar landing and visions of utopia vie with predictions of imminent apocalypse, Sammler finds himself intrigued by the possibilities of the future, and edges closer toward empathy with his fellow mortals."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Mr. Artur Sammler, Holocaust survivor, intellectual, and occasional lecturer at Columbia University in 1960s New York City, is a “registrar of madness,” a refined and civilized being caught among people crazy with the promises of the future (moon landings, endless possibilities).  His Cyclopean gaze reflects on the degradations of city life while looking deep into the sufferings of the human soul.  “Sorry for all and sore at heart,” he observes how greater luxury and leisure have only led to more human suffering. To Mr. Sammler-who by the end of this ferociously unsentimental novel has found the compassionate consciousness necessary to bridge the gap between himself and his fellow beings-a good life is one in which a person does what is “required of him.” To know and to meet the “terms of the contract” was as true a life as one could live.  At its heart, this novel is quintessential Bellow: moral, urbane, sublimely humane.

  • Winner of the National Book Award