Budick, Emily. "The Black, the Israeli, and the American Jew in Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet." Blacks and Jews in Literary Conversation. New York: Cambridge UP, 1998: 149–160.
Paints the 1969 background in MSP as a moment of explosive black-Jewish race relations. Additionally, American Jewish identification with a Jewish homeland about to be annihilated by Arab insurgency means Jews were once again threatened with annihilation. The stunning victory for Israeli Jews causes American Jews much pride and reidentification, while Bellow tries to think through his own situation as an American Jew by thinking through the situation of blacks. Thus he differentiates himself from both Israeli Jews and American blacks. He resists the pride involved in identity politics and the rising multiculturalism of the universe. The black pickpocket represents American ethnicity gone wild. The racial implications of using a black man as morally and racially degenerate is serious, when coupled with Bellow's description of New York gone mad as African. While Sammler is only a caricature of Bellow, the racism is, more accurately, Sammler's. Nevertheless, why does Bellow give voice to racist stereotypes? It is a book peopled by black-obsessed Jews and a racist protagonist. Both the black pickpocket and Eisen are examples of virility and potency. Bellow uses the pickpocket not only to construct American Jewish identity, but to portray the Israeli Jewish example American Jews must resist. Underneath the plot, Bellow is asking if suffering produces morally superior human beings. The sheer act of survival with some degree of integrity intact must be granted its status. Sammler preserves tenuous ethical distinctions and through him, Bellow is rejecting Enlightenment thought and its emphasis on individualism. Neither Eisen with his art, nor the pickpocket with his penis provides a path for American Jewry to follow. However, it is the Israeli who is most to be feared. The passivity on the part of the American Jews in the face of the Civil Rights Movement as embodied by Mr. Sammler is highly problematic when considered from the perspective of the African American reader who might construe Sammler as telling the embattled white community it was right all along.
Bus, Heiner. "Saul Bellow: Mr. Sammler's Planet." Amerikanische Erzahlliterature 1950–1970. Ed. Fricder Bush and Rcnate Schmidt-von Bardelcben. Kritische Information 28. Munich: Fink, 1975. 170–85.
Karim, Dr. No Ao (?) "Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet."
Mr. Sammler stands out as comically impressive and tragically significant of the suffering tribe of Bellow heroes who are all condemned to inwardness and alienation. Bellow's characters are all sick and morbid with the virus of the sick society in which they live. But Mr. Sammler is far less morbid than his fictional cousins. The New York he moves through is a disorderly mess for a man neurotically self-absorbed, a metaphysician witnessing the sexual madness of the 1960s. Nevertheless, he transcends his neuroses as he affirms the value of life and his human connection with Elya Gruner.
Kistler, Suzanne F. "Epic Structure and Statement in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Notes on Modern American Literature 2.4 (1978): Item 28.
Sees MSP as a literary epic in the Bowra sense, a pattern exemplified in The Aeneid and Paradise Lost. Sammler as epic hero undertakes an Odyssean journey from nineteenth-century blindness to illumination and wisdom. MSP is a modern epic because of its magnitude, its consecrated hero, and its positive vision of man's potential.
Loris, Michelle Carbone. "Mr. Sammler's Planet: The Terms of the Covenant." Renascence 30.4 (1978): 217–23.
Asserts that for Bellow the essential quest is the spiritual search for humanness in a world that daily assaults and denies such a search. This search informs every novel and MSP is no exception.
Lyons, Bonnie. "Seeing and Suffering in The Pawnbroker and Mr. Sammler's Planet." Yiddish 6.4 (1987): 114–21.
Comments on the lack of successful fictional responses by American writers to the Holocaust and then discusses two of the more successful and finally positive American–Jewish novels making use of Holocaust material, Edward Lewis Wallant's The Pawnbroker, and Saul Bellow's MSP, which both employ the metaphor of seeing as a central organizing principle. Goes on to argue how both books are structured around this metaphor by focusing on what the character sees or doesn't see.
Manning, Gerald F. "The Humanizing Imagination: A Theme in Mr. Sammler's Planet." English Studies in Canada 3.2 (1977): 216–22.
MSP displays Bellow's characteristic preoccupation with the relationship between individual and environment, as well as extensive social and cultural criticism. However, this novel also develops some ideas with aesthetic as well as moral dimensions.
Mesher, David R. "Three Men on the Moon: Friedman, Updike, Bellow, and Apollo Eleven." Research Studies 47.2 (1979): 67–75.
Comments on the responses to space travel of three contemporary novelists, including Bellow. With particular reference to MSP, he discusses what the Apollo Eleven flight symbolized to the human imagination. Sammler rejects Lal's idea that landing a colony on the moon might solve metaphysical problems. The moon becomes a symbol for Sammler of all the deaths and escapes he has known. Yet it does not solve the problem of death or morality.
Murty, M. S. Rama. "The Creative Intransigent: A Study of Mr. Sarnmler's Planet." Journal of English Studies [India] 12.1 (November 1980): 800–11.
Comments that the central quest for Sammler is not personal, nor is it to question the limitations of the self, but rather it is to fulfill the terms of one's contract and to know life. Provides a general exposition of theme and intent in the novel, and concludes that the novel is more concerned with values than with individual adjustment.
Nevius, Blake. "Saul Bellow and the Theater of the Soul." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen [Helsinki] 73 (1972): 248–60.
Generalizes about the theatrical structures of the pre-1969 novel inasmuch as they are dialogic and focused on the individual protagonist's identity. Sampler represents vanished traditions of wisdom and mercy and is busy at work cultivating disinteredness. Yet, he too is dandling between alternatives and suffering from demoralization. MSP is redolent with Bellow's ambivalence about romanticism and radical skepticism. The vision of this world beset by fear, terror of the self, terror of the sublime, and teetering on the edge of madness is unsparing. Theaters and "lifestyles" are also shown to be divorced from human reality, and even dangerous in their sartorial eccentricities. Details the theaters of Rumkowski episode, New York, and death camps as a kind of perverse theater. All this serves as a backdrop for the theater of the soul. In this theater both Sampler and Gruner recognize what they have meant to one another and together they accept their earthly hope and earthly fate.
Ravvin, Norman. "An End to Endings: Saul Bellow's Anti-Apocalyptic Novel." A House of Words: Jewish Writing, Identity, and Memory. McGill-Queens Studies in Ethnic History Ser. 2. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 1997. 124–31.
Clements, James “Bottomless Surfaces: Saul Bellow’s Refreshed Phrenology.” Journal of Modern Literature 33:1 (Fall 2009):75-91
Argues that in MSP the eponymous narrator states that we should concentrate less on explanation and more on distinguishing the goal of that inquiry. This core Bellowian idea suggests that there are intangible truths –morality—for instance, that are not mere human construction, and which do indeed have an objective ontological presence. Points out that Bellow playfully suggests we collapse the false divide between subject and object, accept the troubling idea of “truth in subjectivity,” and distinguish between natural knowledge and self-imposed concepts. Traces this concept in MSP and in Bellow’s mid-period work in relation to his ethical theory. Also traces its roots in MSP to Bellow’s investigations of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his follower, Rudolf Steiner.
Meyers, Jeffery. “Allusions in Mr. Sammler’s Planet.” Notes on Contemporary Literature. 39.5 (2009).
Discusses literary allusions from MSP concerning the collapse of civilization derived from a very wide variety of sources, from Chaucer to Wagner toNietzsche.
Dell’Amico, Carol. “Herzog/Sammler: On the Ethics of Form and Self.” Saul Bellow Journal. 21.1–2 (2005–06): 19–27.
Compares Herzog and Sammler, and the flâneur—tourist, traveller, urban pedestrian—because such a comparison reveals Bellow’s struggle with and investment in the “wasteland mentality,” against which he is said to have consistently written. The flâneur figure is a useful one because it shows the observer struggling with engagement issues. Bellow’s commitment to an inviolate self is worked out through the protagonists struggling with their rejection of an imperfect world often manifest in characters for whom the gap between self and other is never bridged, thus compromising the novel’s claims of ethical communitarianism. The flâneur text and figure highlights Bellow’s compromised project. The figure asks us to pay attention to each moment of a character’s travels, as indeed there might be no particular end to which the flâneur looks forward. Bellow shares what he decries among the “Wastelanders” and therefore we see in these flâneurs just how the gap between affinity for others and the world is not developed meaningfully or closed. Concludes that while Bellow might always successfully write against meaninglessness, he occasionally fails to write convincingly in service of the social, communal superego. While we are habituated to Bellow’s erudition and brilliance, we can still see behind the dazzle to the magisterial egos of so many of his protagonists.
Halldorson, Stephanie S. “Mr Sammler’s Planet. The Hero Accused.” The Hero in Contemporary American Fiction: The Works of Saul Bellow and Don DeLillo. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. 71–85.
Calls MSP a novel that so immerses the reader in contraries that he or she cannot find stable ground. It represents a break in the historical representation of the hero. It begins well past all the lyric endings of Bellow’s previous novels and offers an attack on readers and critics, who, Bellow insists, must stand up and defend their own ideas and their own “painted millstones” (Bellow “Where Do We Go” 212). Sammler believes himself to be a heroic type, but this impulse has been damaged. Sammler is forced by those around him to at least appear not to be dead. Here the forest appears darker, readers and critics are dismayed. Yet Sammler discovers, like Emerson, that “society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not” (Self Reliance 51).
Quayum, M. A. “Chapter 4: Mr. Sammler’s Planet.” Saul Bellow and American Transcendentalism. New York: Peter Lang, 2004. 131–66. Print.
Describes MSP’s stinging attack on 1960s American counterculture, noisy prosperity, and national demagoguery promoting lawlessness. Bellow is interested in the outward-looking imagination of his aging protagonist musing on the destiny, not merely of his own soul, but that of all humanity. The context here is global—finally gone is the mere introspection demonstrated by the early protagonist. Sammler’s mission is not introversion and individual redemption for himself. Instead he is seeking equilibrium, unity, dialogue, and double-consciousness. He is thus a latter-day disciple of Emerson and Whitman by being equally uneasy with the “cleans” and the “dirties.” Concludes that Dr. Lal, and more particularly, Elya Gruner, are real friends and men with an Emersonian and Whitmanesque sense of inner equilibrium. They encompass prudence and passion, practicality and emotion. Elya is the transcendental model Sammler identifies with and who lies most squarely within the tradition of American Transcendentalism.
Chavkin, Allan and Nancy Feyl Chavkin. “Child of the Holocaust in Mr. Sammler’s Planet.”Saul Bellow Journal. 23 1-2 (2007-2008): 37-52.
Criticizes Sammler’s “forget it and move on formula” for dealing with the Holocaust and focuses on the obvious unresolved Holocaust trauma of Shula Slawa. Examines in detail the methods and clinical symptomology of both father and daughter. Concludes that there is no indication at the end that Sammler can see his daughter’s trauma. Or that he has any intention changing his mind about his own methods for coping.
Alexander, Edward. "Imagining the Holocaust: Mr. Sammler's Planet and Others." Judaism 22.3 (1973): 288–300. Rpt. as "Saul Bellow: A Jewish Farewell to the Enlightenment." The Resonance of Dust: Essays on Holocaust Literature and Jewish Fate. Edward Alexander. Columbus, OH: Ohio State UP, 1979. 171–93.
Describes Bellow's life-long sense of the inadequacy of Enlightenment principles and categories as a means of interpreting modern experience. Alexander argues that in Bellow's mind the holocaust functions as a metaphysical refutation of Enlightenment assumptions. He explicates MSP from this perspective. Argues persuasively that the central intent of MSP is an examination and denunciation of the Holocaust. Beginning with Sammler's attack on ideas of Hannah Arendt's thesis on Eichmann and moving through Sammler's gradual awareness of the insanity of the twentieth-century, the reader reaches the bedrock of Sammler's experience—the death camp sojourn that constantly rises to the surface of his mind and asserts itself as the chief determinant of such life as is left to him.
Alter, Robert. "A Fever of Ethnicity." Commentary June 1972: 68–73.
Comments briefly on MSP in the context of a broad discussion of the history of the American identity crisis issue and the two major alternatives of identity developed in the dissident movements of the late 1960's—submergence of individuality in the paramilitary collective and a flamboyant antinomianism among the proponents of the counter-culture. Sees MSP as a compassionately sad comment on how the programmatic abandonment of modes of self leads to the unwitting imitation of lesser models.
Atchity, Kenneth John. "Bellow's Mr. Sammler: 'The Last Man Given for Epitome.' " Research Studies 38.1 (1970): 46–54.
Complains that MSP is "a plotless, interminable interior monologue, starkly naked in its insufficiency as a structuring agent." The focus of the novel is the implications of the Apollo moon landing. Sammler is "the last man given for epitome" because he straddles two worlds, one dying and one struggling to be born—of the past and the future."
Atwill, William D. "Machines for Going Away: Mr. Sammler and the Labor of Puritanism." Fire and Power: The American Space Program as Postmodern Narrative. William D. Atwill. Athens, GA: U of Georgia P, 1994. 25–44.
Describes the moon-bound, outer reaches of the universe phenomena in American literature and makes brief reference to MSP. Comments that the world Sammler's wastrel nephew inhabits in which he wants to know what old English dance begins with "m," coincides with the year 1969 of the lunar landing. Hence the world that Wallace and Artur inhabit is in Bellow's view astounding and filled with a thousand fantasies, wherein lies its precise danger. Demonstrates Bellow's emphasis on many kinds of flight in MSP and his exploration of what it means to live without limitations. Describes Bellow's views on H. G. Wells, of Sammler's participation in the last days of English cultural and technological imperialism to the present site of geopolitical power, and New York City. Concludes that MSP is a Jeremiad against modernism's socially alienating pull and postmodernism's historical deathlessness. In it, Bellow opts for a return to virtue and puritanical discipline in the face of cultural barbarism. MSP is a conservative, thoughtful, rational examination of what changes of the heart are necessary to achieve justice on this planet before setting off for others.
Austin, Mike. "The Genesis of the Speaking Subject in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow Journal 10.2 (1992): 25–36.
Argues that what Herzog learns by writing letters is something contemporary rhetoricians accept as a philosophical cornerstone, that as Jargen Habermas posits in his Theory of Communicative Action: "Persons acquire their identities through linguistically mediated interaction"(105) In his writing of over eighty letters to friends, acquaintances, former enemies, God and numerous others, Herzog has entered into the discourse of his community and, by the end of the novel, invents and establishes a Self. This self-creation theme in H serves as an excellent introduction to Bellow's follow-up novel, MSP, whose hero moves from a state of alienation and separation, in which he is unable to connect and communicate with members of his community, through to a remarkable rhetorical transformation and healing stage in which he, like Herzog, is able to escape from his role as an object of discourse. But before meriting his rhetorical redemption, Sammler must overcome an acute fear of public discourse and learn to speak and write himself into subjective existence. Observes that Mr. Sammler, unlike most Bellow protagonists, does not write. Despite his trained verbal ability he has suffered a thirty-year-long case of writer's block, as well as a silence in all forms of discourse and public or interpersonal communication. Comments on his propensity for interior monologue and "disinterestedness." Identifies several reasons for Sammler's rhetorical block and its eventual healing, as he begins a dialogue with Govinda Lal and is transformed into a loving relative who finally wants to speak his love to Elya Gruner and other family members. Concludes with Kenneth Burke, that Sammler comes to believe that "individualistic" knowledge, meaning, transcendence, and identity—can be produced only by a symbolically mediated interaction in a community of speaking subjects.
Basu, Biman. "Mr. Sammler's Planet Revisited: Bellow's Comment on Intellectual Life." Saul Bellow Journal 6.1 (1987): 18–27.
Argues that critics are so disturbed by Bellow's ideas they fail to perceive how those ideas are carefully grounded in MSP through subtle handling of metaphor. "The novel investigates the intellectual's preoccupation with overly rationalistic explanations, his perceptions of reality, and his use of language and certain literary devices in that perception."
Bayley, John. "By Way of Mr. Sammler." Salmagundi 30 (Summer 1975): 24–33. Rpt. in Salmagundi Reader. Eds. Robert T. Boyers and Peggy Boyers. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1983. 384–93.
Sees Sammler and Gruner as nineteenth-century bourgcois recreated to see if they can acclimatize to our times. Sees the American–Jewish novel as optimal for the experiment, givcn its roots in the traditions of the Victorian novel. Yet the modern reader probably cannot take its premises about nobility seriously. Hence MSP functions partly as a parody on the techniques, symbolism and egocentric premises of the modern novel. MSP succeeds by being partial and incomplete, by rejecting the modern novel's paradigm of totality in the act of consciousness.
Bell, Pearl K. "American Fiction: Forgetting the Ordinary Truths." Dissent 20 (1973): 26–34.
Bennett, John R. "The Complex Fate of Being an Immigrant American: Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet." Mei kuo yen chiu [American Studies] [China] 10.4 (1980): 77–93.
Invokes Henry James' treatments of the international theme and comments that being an American has turned out to be a far more complex fate in MSP. Points out that with the move of non-native born American narrators to the literary center stage America is under fictional surveillance from the margins. The Jamesian focus now becomes not the American abroad, but he outside as American. MSP is that book in which Bellow is most directly concerned with the immigrant experience, and more dedicated to capturing its complex rhythms and accents. Sammler's encounter is a collision course of national and racial myths as the archetypal wandering Jew meets the all-absorbing democratic melting pot of which the forefathers promised "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Defined by the sheer weight of his past collected experiences, Sammler views the decadence of his adopted land and thinks of Sodom and Gomorrah and the end of the world. America becomes the testing grounds where living history is confronted with his old world values as an eternal outsider or symbolic alien. What elements of social satire reside in the book are transcended by Sammler's metaphysical awareness. Concludes that Sammler's holding fast to his own moral views in this tenuous world illustrates his willingness to grasp his own complex fate and become a pattern for a successful contemporary hero.
Berger, Alan L. "Holocaust Survivors in Anya and Mr. Sammler's Planet." Modern Language Studies 16.1 (1986): 81–87.
Deals with thc psycho-social catastrophe of the Holocaust as Bcrger traces the Holocaustal reactions of Anya, Ninka, Shula and Mr. Sammler in terms of survivor missions intended to clarify identity and recreate a moral universe.
Berger, Alan L. "Judaism as a Secular Value System: Saul Bellow." Crisis and Covenant: The Holocaust in American Jewish Fiction. Alan L. Berger. SUNY Series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture. Albany: State U of New York P, 1985. 96–110.
Calls MSP an indictment of secular humanism and all its forms of individualism. Structurally the novel belongs to a subtype called the survivalist genre. Typical of this genre is Bellow's description of the ancien regime, a descent into the anus mundo, and of postliberation experience. Drawing on Hebrew and humanist traditions, Bellow advocates reverence for the sacredness of life, and rejects apocalypticism. He serves as a warning and an example to American jews whose covenantal amnesia draws them into a vortex of spiritual destruction and physical excess. Unsentimental and alienated, Sammler maps the psychic deformity of the survivors and the psychic deformities and spiritual bankruptcy of American Jewry. The Holocaust has been Sammler's point of entry into Jewish history and human awareness. His second life is less marked by cultural achievements than by moral rectitude. Describes Sammler's invocation of the Kaddish for Elya Gruner in temrs of Jewish theology and mystical traditions, and his rejection of anthropomorphic salvation and rationalism. Describes the sermonic content of Sammler's encounter with Dr. Lal and comments that Sammler's God is neither the living God of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, nor the God of the philosophers. His choices are sainthood or madness. An ambiguously Jewish character, Sammler is more at home in a library than a synagogue. Yet his message is etched with Jewish specificity. However, he is a man whose musings prevent him from acting. Concludes that, in Bellow's view, Judaism has a better chance of surviving in Israel than in America.
Berryman, Charles. "Saul Bellow: Mr. Sammler and King Lear." Essays in Literature 10.1 (1983): 81–92.
Calls in question criticism that has lauded Bellow for his affirmations. Reviews major opinions on Bellow's work and sees criticism reaching "its uncritical height" with the publication of MSP. Sammler is very possibly mad and his bitter views are not those of the author. Sammler is presented with considerable irony and is an unreliable seer and prophet. The plot follows the outline of King Lear. Bellow's version of the play does not reach a full, tragic conclusion because Sammler, though lunatic, eccentric and endearing, is still alive.
Berryman, Charles. "Saul Bellow: Mr. Sammler's Planet." Decade of Novels: Fiction of the 1970s: Form and Challenge. Troy, NY: Whitston, 1990. 5–18.
Reviews critical works about the American novel by such people as Ihab Hassan, Marcus Klein, and Jonathan Baumbach, and suggests it is no wonder critics were disappointed with MSP. For his part, John Clayton, in his seminal work on Bellow, confuses criticism with moral philosophy and sets the same pattern for future critics whose work more resembles semi-religious statements than anything else. Likewise, MSP was hailed as a novel which would reconcile the paradoxical nature of religious faith in its ironic formulas. Bellow's critical difference from the protagonist was not well understood. Criticizes those readings which focus on character and profoundly religious, philosophical voices when all are steeped in irony. Sees King Lear, not Jeremiah, as the proper model for Sammler. Traces the plot with a close eye to Shakespeare's play and searches both characters, Lear and Sammler, for correspondences. Plays up the emphasis on fathers and adult children, and discounts both Lear's and Sammler's final denunciations as guides to the perplexities of the times. Nor does Bellow's version of Lear give full tragic conclusions. Sammler is, after all, still alive and with all of his indestructible, eccentric, endearing lunacy.
Bilik, Dorothy Seidman. "Bellow's Worldly 'Tsadik'." Immigrant Survivors: Post Holocaust Consciousness in Recent Jewish–American Literature. Dorothy Seidman Bilik. New York: Wesleyan UP, 1981. 137–66.
Sammler as a worldy tsadik whose history is synchronous with that of the twentieth-century in its endowment of Western, Eastern, Christian and Jewish thought. He is a man without a real home who has lived as a Jew, as a European intellectual, as a victim of the holocaust, and as an American. His mental world may be seen as a metaphoric diaspora wherein he attempts to see possible relationships between universal and particular, past and present, God and man, in order to find tentative answers as to how one should prepare for death, or conversely, how one should live.
Birnbaum, Milton. "The Aging Process: A Literary Perspective." Currents in Modern Thought (March 1995): 427–39.
Deals with Eliot, Hemingway, Singer, and Bellow–four Nobel Prize winners. Argues that Bellow's view of old age is reined in by the demands of reality. In MSP (1970) Bellow is concerned with twentieth-century civilization and its discontents, especially as found in New York City after WWII. Describes Sammler in detail and concludes that he has come to a position of faith in the ethical obligation to one's fellowman. Concludes with Heraclitus' view that your character is your fate, that life must not be lived in splendid isolation, but in caring community.
Boiling, Douglass. "Intellectual and Aesthetic Dimensions of Mr. Sammler's Planet." Journal of Narrative Technique 4.3 (1974): 188–203.
Defends MSP as a novel whose unreconciled duality is a deliberate artistic invention. Two major patterns inform the novel. One of these controlling patterns is Mr. Sammler's involvement in ethical and philosophical concerns at a primarily speculative and intellectualized level. The second pattern is the controlling rhythm of the protagonist's efforts to recover Govinda Lal's purloined manuscript. The view of the protagonist as lofty contemplator and farcical fool is deliberate. MSP evinces a highly disciplined artistry.
Bonca, Cornel. "Significant Space and the Postmodern in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow Journal 10.2 (1992): 3–13.
Discusses Bellow's use of the metaphor of "significant space" from the mid-1970s on to enact a kind of psychic cloister to protect the soul or the "human" within the individual or self. Argues that in Charlie Citrine, for instance, this is tied to a Wordsworthian faith in the child, and a visionary romanticism designed to justify conspicuous retreats from the postmodern world and reclaim a region about every person through which events must make a decent approach. Argues that in MSP in particular, Bellow is using Baudrillard's notions of "hyperreality," the distortions of mass media, the "ecstasy of communication" and disappearance of the private sphere as the state where the drama of the subject at odds with his objects and with his image is played out. Also invokes Frederick Jameson's epiphenomena of "late capitalism," "commodification," "historicism," and "hyperspace," where individuals can no longer position themselves and cognitively map the space they inhabit. Asserts that while Bellow's views often parallel these, he veers away from Baudrillard's poststructuralist fascination with the ecstasy of communication and Jameson's pessimistic prognoses in favor of the continuing possibility of "significant space," befitting his typically "barrel-chested humanism." Insists that these issues have dominated Bellow's fiction since the 1960s, and that Bellow's fiction is saturated in postmodern ideas. Concludes that in writing Sammler's affirmation of humanistic knowledge, Bellow must have felt he was nurturing that knowledge, but that the novel's dramatic underpinning for that affirmation is lacking because Bellow does not have the sympathy that the affirmation demands. Bellow sets Sammler up in a significant space so thickly guarded that his "we know, we know" commonly echoes within its own walls.
Boyers, Robert T. "Nature and Social Reality in Saul Bellow's Sammler." Critical Quarterly 15.3 (1973): 251–71. Rpt. in Salmagundi 30 (Summer 1975): 34–56; Excursions.' Selected Literary Essays. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1977. 25–46.
Examines the idea of Nature in Bellow and its relation to two others—the idea of social reality, and the idea of character conceived both in their moral and aesthetic dimensions.
Charlson, Joshua L. "Ethnicity, Power, and the Postmodern in Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet." Centennial Review 41.3 (1997): 529–36.
Focuses on the central encounter in MSP between Mr. Sammler and the nameless African American pickpocket. Attempts to draw a connection between the role of the pickpocket and the role of the Holocaust to establish not only their interdependency, but their centrality to the larger themes of the book. Argues that the ethnic body in this novel is a site over which power struggles take place, rather than an "Other" against whom Sammler must define himself. He is a double who allows Sammler to recognize the realities of oppression and victimization, and his own implication in that network. The pickpocket is, therefore, a kind of postmodern agent whom Sammler and Bellow both resist, but whose influence insinuates itself into the very structure of the novel, producing the inconsistencies that have so often bothered its critics. Concludes that the postmodern pickpocket appears in a narrative structure that circles and concludes with an open-ended, ultimately self-defeating, and mysterious position. The Holocaust is that event which shatters all the instruments of knowledge and ushers in this postmodern condition and which results in the breakdown of Bellow's careful realist aesthetic. The postmodern ethnic body, then, is the reminder of that racial difference continually arising from the repressed of the American collective unconscious.
Chavkin, Allan. "Mr. Sammler's War of the Planets." The Critical Response to H. G. Wells. Ed. William J. Scheick. Critical Responses in Arts and Letters 17. Westport: Greenwood, 1995. 33–49.
Argues that MSP is a kind of Wordsworthian discursive meditation done only in "crisis," whose key figure is H. G. Wells. Illustrates how Sammler tries to reconcile his "British world," his "Polish world," and his "American world." Elaborates on the nature of these three worlds from Sammler's perspective and moves on to an elaborate and detailed discussion on H. G. Wells. Discusses Sammler's attraction to Wells' The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. Argues that Sammler's most detailed meditation on Wells is contained in his conversation with Dr. Lal, and suggests that because of this critique Sammler will write a very different book on Wells in this decade than the one that was written in the 1930s. Notes that Sammler's final break with Wells's assimilationist views comes because Sammler is now opposed to such views, as well as Wellsian utopianism, rationalism, sexual views, Zionism, naivete, misanthropy, and literary views. Sammler's Wordsworthian imagination enables him to feel "intimations of immortality," which remain the strongest shaping influence. However, when Sammler abandons his Wellsian utopianism and jettisons his naive, assimilated Jewish Anglophile self, he is influenced by Wells's dark romanticism of The War of the Worlds period. Sammler now abandons his goal of being "perfectly disinterested" and his mystic detachment to become committed to everyday life on Earth, where "doubt, change, and mutability" are inevitable.
Chouard, Géraldine. "Mr. Sammler's Planet: Le funambule mélancolique." Profils Americains (France) 9 (1997): 69–87.
MSP unwinds along a long taut rope stretched between the conquest of space and the nightmare of the concentration camps. While America sets out on its great journey to the Moon pushing forward the frontiers of the continent, Sammler continues to be haunted by his experience of the Holocaust, which exercises a powerful, inescapable hold over his consciousness. The placement of the Genocide at the heart of the novel—a singular event in the work of Bellow—can be seen as a form of tribute to Jewish history. This theme serves as the essential principle for structuring a narrative marked by the notions of deportation, detachment, distance. A survivor of the death camps, a modern-day Lazarus, a somnambulist in the night of oblivion, Sammler adopts an impassive tone and a deliberate literalness in reciting the austere historical truth, without resorting in his testimony to any form of "effect." Going beyond the mere fact of the trauma itself, MSP examines the movement through which life's empty time slips into the fabric of the living experience and exerts its devitalizing influence. Hence, the text is centered on the frustration and vainness of mourning. Torn between silence and speech, detachment and engagement, Sammler displays all the characteristic traits of the melancholic temperament, trapped within the chronic incongruities of temporal existence. Eternally suspended between the void and a pallid will to live, he pursues his perilous walk strung along the path of History. With Sammler (a dangling man), tightrope walking becomes a way of being in the world, and ethic of unstable equilibrium, but above all the vertiginous experience of freedom.
Cronin, Gloria L. "Faith and Futurity: The Case for Survival in Mr. Sarnrnler's Planet." Literature and Belief 3 (1983): 97–108.
Argues that MSP, while it minimizes external action, employs what R.S. Crane has called the "plot of thought." Far from exhibiting a failure of moral energy or faltering design, the novel is centered on a three-way debate between three radically opposed contemporary philosophies: 1) traditional humanism, 2) modernist scientific rationalism, 3) bizarre late romantic individualism. However, instead of focusing on the modernist literary legacy of Joyce, Lawrence and Eliot, his indictment of modernism targets the unleashing of radicalism, perverted individualism, liberalism and hedonism—in short the Nietzschean Dionysiac spirit.
Cronin, Gloria L. "Searching the Narrative Gap: Authorial Self-Irony and the Problematic Discussion of Western Misogyny in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow: A Mosaic. Twentieth-Century American Jewish Writers 3. New York: Lang, 1992. 97–122.
Argues that not surprisingly Bellow uses some of his intellectual protagonists to interpret himself to himself. However, understanding this process hinges on how we view the constantly varying distance he projects between himself and them. Calls this the working space in which critiques, interprets, and even deconstructs his own intellectual acculturation. Within this narrative gap lies the key to his self-irony and his culpability concerning gender issues, since the distance between creature and creator is a sophisticated and shifting one that does not permit easy description. Proceeds to argue that MSP is Bellow's first really focused and searching psycho-social mapping of the phenomenon of misogyny and that it is possible to read Mr. Sammler as Bellow's quintessential wounded misogynist, a "Western Civ" imago in whom converge the misanthropic and misogynistic Western intellectual traditions of Greek, Roman, Jewish, Christian and modern literary cultures. Shows how in this novel Bellow delineates the shape of Sammler's misogyny through: 1) indicating the host of intellectual mentors, 2) providing elaborate accounts of the intellectual age he spans, 3) describing his privileged, upper class childhood upbringing, and 4) delineating his pathological fear of women. Concludes that among other things, Sammler is a useful narrative device because he allows Bellow to take yet another kind of deconstructive measure of his own intellectual milieu, an exercise in which he uses the narrative gap between himself and Sammler in which to do self-irony, mea culpa, a little deconstruction of the less admirable traditions of Western Humanist Culture. Or, perhaps it is an exercise in character delineation which finally took on a life all its own. Concludes that perhaps we should simply celebrate the complex network of conflicting structures and multiple determinants, of which conscious intention is only one, that render this text so rich in its dimensions.
Crouch, Stanley. "Barbarous on Either Side: The New York Blues of Mr. Sammler's Planet." Philosophy and Literature 20:1 (1996): 89–103. Rpt. as Introduction. Mr. Sammler's Planet. Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics. London; New York: Penguin, 1996. vii–xxvii.
Treats MSP as Bellow's expose of the vulgarity of our culture, its terrible children, bad politicians, and rampant sleaze across all classes, races, and religions as viewed by the European immigrant who is obsessed by understanding what makes or breaks a civilization and causes it to embrace ruthlessness and possible collapse. Describes the horrors and shallowness Bellow saw rising up from the sewers of our continental spirit as that which has gotten a more cavalier grip on our national passions. Notes that critics initially failed to see the deeper meanings of the book and dismissed Bellow as a racist fuddy duddy instead of seeing him as a prophetic writer with a rich knowledge of world history. Bellow, like Balzac, gives the reader a thorough grounding in how the literary classes function in a time of corruption. Sees Sammler as a Pere Goriot of the moment, the soul of his circle, and a force for heroic love and civilization.
Cushman, Keith. "Mr. Bellow's Sammler: The Evolution of a Contemporary Text." Studies in the Novel 7.3 (1975): 425–44.
Describes the evolution of the novel with the benefit of all the various holograph, typescript and galley materials available in the Special Collections Department at the University of Chicago Regenstein Library. It is a detailed textual analysis of considerable sophistication.
DeMott, Benjamin. "Saul Bellow and the Dogmas of Possibility." Saturday Review 7 Feb. 1970: 25–28, 37.
Discusses the narrative action, history, and character of Sammler, humorous episodes like the flooding of the Gruner household, and Bellow's informing humanity. Criticizes Bellow for overprotecting his sage and for his gratuitous optimism.
Dittmer, Kurt. "The End of Enlightenment: Bellow's Universal View of the Holocaust in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow at Seventy-five: A Collection of Critical Essays. Studies & Texts in English 9. Tübingen: Narr, 1991. 63–80.
Notes that Edward Alexander's study The Resonance of Dust: Essays on Holocaust Literature and Jewish Fate (1979) entitled its chapter on Bellow "Saul Bellow: A Jewish Farewell to the Enlightenment." Argues that in Bellow's mind the Holocaust functions as a metaphysical refutation of Enlightenment assumptions, not just a Jewish one. Discusses the critical debate which criticizes American Jewish writers for ignoring, avoiding, or obscuring the brutality of Jewish suffering in Europe, and concludes with Irving Howe that American Jewish prosperity and prestige simply could not be reconciled with the six million dead, and that the American novelist, therefore, produced a mixture of personal anguish and self-conscious dissociation in his works. Deals with MSP within this context and comments that it is a book not just about the six million, but about all the millions in the twentieth-century who have gone down in an anonymous collective suffering. Provides a detailed analysis of the book, and concludes that Bellow has refrained from approaching the Holocaust directly because of necessity owing to moral and aesthetic obligations, not by omission.
Ertel, Rachel. "Mr. Sammler's Planet—Roman de memoire et d'Histoire." Delta 19 (Oct. 1984): 155–69.
Discusses MSP as taking a place apart among Bellow's works as a novel of memory and history.
Essex, Ruth. "Bellow's Sammler and Kosinski's Kosky in New York." New Voices in an Old Tradition 13 (1994): 85–92.
A comparison of Jerzy Kosinski's The Hermit of 69th Street and Saul Bellow's MSP (1969). Describes the American literary silence after the events of the Holocaust, a silence which prevents both writers from entering the space of the victims. Then describes how they subsequently locate themselves by omitting the intervening silent years so that now, as older men, they must consider what they have previously ignored. Points out how both Sammler and Kosky recognize each person's responsibility and their disrupted family units, experience the absence of nurturing women, and do their respective tale-telling within a male enclave. Both men are self-enclosed exiles in apartments which promise safety, but exist in the midst of madness where the fates both escaped in Europe await them in a disintegrating West. Describes how both are involved in writing and how both are in danger of having their texts usurped. Suggests that what differentiates their final pages is the varied experiences of their creators–Bellow and Kosinski–each Jewish, but one a native of the American continent, the other a Holocaust survivor who endeavors to narrate his own experience. Concludes that Bellow's Holocaust telling is moral but inadequate and smacks of the Diaspora, which conditioned generations of Jews to be unprepared to shelter themselves. Detects a false note of remoteness and fragility in the book despite the obvious sincerity of the writer.
Finklestein, Sidney. "The Anti-Hero of Updike, Bellow and Malamud." American Dialogue 7.2 (1972): 12–14, 30.
Galloway, David D. "Mr. Sammler's Planet: Bellow's Failure of Nerve." Modern Fiction Studies 19.1 (1973): 17–28.
MSP shows the bankruptcy of Bellow's novelistic imagination. After admitting that the novel is beautifully written, and that its avuncular hero is its greatest asset, Galloway criticizes the novel for its lack of discrimination in what Sammler calls the "sovereign youth-style." Mr. Sammler himself is full of contradictions. He is forced to assume a burden of meaning he cannot bear. The dialogue with Lal is terribly contrived. Sammler ends up as a ventrioloquist's dummy. The facile formula of the typical Bellovian ending found in MSP is awful as is the clumsy handling of symbols.
Gittleman, Sol. "Mr. Samrnler's Planet Ten Years Later: Looking Back on Crises of 'Mishpocha.'" Judaism 30 (Fall 1981): 480–83.
Represents, as does no other work of American literature, the confrontation between Jewish children of the 1960's generation and their parents. It climaxes a century of Jewish writing about the father who fails.
Glickman, Susan. "The World as Will and Idea: A Comparative Study of An American Dream and Mr. Sammler's Planet." Modern Fiction Studies 28.4 (1982–83): 569–82.
Discusses the distance Bellow creates between himself and his persona. Describes the distance between actuality and the American dream. Makes a variety of comparative references to other works of contemporary American literature.
Goffman, Ethan. "Between Guilt and Affluence: The Jewish Gaze and the Black Thief in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Contemporary Literature 38.4 (1997): 705–25.
The black thief in Bellow's MSP is perhaps the quintessential representation of Jewish–American literature's view of blackness as dangerous, primitive, and very sexual. At the end of the 1960s, anxieties about social breakdown, especially in New York City, were acute and black anti-semitism was rising. The black pickpocket Bellow writes about inflicts violence on a Jewish person. Concludes that in spite of this, Jewish perspective is not the perspective of the novel when it comes to the thief. It is that of the dominant society.
Goldman, Licla H. "The Source for Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet." American Noles and Queries 20.7–8 (1982): 117–19.
Examines the novel as a tribute to Isaac Roscnfeld whose masterpiece short story "King Solomon" provided Bellow with the idea of a satirical King Solomon. Traces the influence of "Ecclesiastes" generally.
Goldsmith, Arnold L. "'More Green Growth Rising from the Burnt Black': Mr. Sampler's Planet." The Modern American Urban Novel: Nature as "Interior Structure." Arnold L. Goldsmith. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1991. 133–52.
Treats MSP and The Pawnbroker as slow American fictional responses to the Holocaust. Sammler, unlike the misanthropic Pawnbroker, has managed to hold on to his ability to love. Tensions in MSP arise from old versus new, thought vs. sex, conservative vs. radical, sane vs. insane, pessimism vs despair. Notes Bellow's celebration of Spring in the novel, and his careful delineation of the dualities in Sammler which show his shadow and his substance with imagery drawn from Nature. Delineates Bellow's focus on 1960s America, prehistory, savagery, animal origins, ape-monkey-baboon imagery, and the general creatureliness of various characters. A novel with the external action, MSP is about old ideas and new. Even the metaphysical ideas are couched in animal imagery and its is also used to describe madness, sexual disorder, and the streets of New York, his wayward daughter, Mrgotte, his landlady, and the wastrel, Wallace. Likewise, a variety of colors trigger memories of mankind in a state of Nature. Images of the moon and ideas of moon colonization, along with the account of biophysics and organism also underscore the earthboundness of mankind. The cornucopia of flowers, animals, birds, vegetation, stars, and planets enriches the novel's coherence, embodies its major themes, and provides solidity of specification.
Goldstein, Laurence. The Flying Machine and Modern Literature. Bloomington, IN: Indiana U P, 1986. 208–11.
MSP assesses the relationship of crisis to the moon landing. Details the intellectual dimensions of Mr. Sammler, his moral issues, his response to the official credo and the space program. Details precisely the dimensions of Dr. Lal's pessimism. Mostly concerns itself with the topic of the moon landing.
Graff, Gerald. "Babbitt at the Abyss: The Societal Context of Postmodern American Fiction." TriQuarterly 33.3 (1975): 3305–37. Rpt in Literature Against Itself: Literary Ideas in Modern Society. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1979. 207–39.
Greenstone, Maryann D. "Saul Bellow and Isaac Babel: A Review of Mr. Sammler's Planet." Jewish Spectator Nov. 1970: 10–12.
Provides a general discussion of theme in MSP based on a comparison between Babel and Bellow. Claims that both arc writing about the nature of man's heart and his future.
Grobman, Laurie. "African Americans in Roth's Goodbye Columbus, Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet and Malamud's The Natural." Studies in American Jewish Literature 14 (1995): 80–89.
Each of these novels portrays a multilayered relationship between a Jewish protagonist and the African American with whom they come in contact. Both members of the encounter are marginalized by the dominant culture, and both are involved in a relationship of mutual identification and mirroring indicative of the fragile Jewish–American and African–American relationship in our society. Describes Sammler and the pickpocket in MSP as parallels in alienation and oppression, and also begs the question of stereotypes. It is Sammler's repeated observations of the African–American pickpocket viewed and filtered through his experiences as a Holocaust survivor that set in motion the events leading to his renewed and enlarged vision of the relationship of their mutual and historically constructed alienations. This victimizer is also a victim and is also human. But he is an emblem rather than a whole human being.
Gross, Beverly. "Dark Side of the Moon." Nation 9 Feb. 1970: 153–55.
Aruges that this book has not earned its perspective as a secular summa. Sammler is dismissed as crotchety, ruminative, and passive. Morally and artistically the book too easily dismisses its own life. The novel is rich with ideas about life, but poor in life itself.
Grubb, Daniel S. "Another Gulliver?" Studies in the Humanities 4.1 (1974): 3–9.
Compares Sammler and Gulliver as subjective-objective observers, as moralists, as travelers, and as collectors. Both arc associated with animal imagery and scatological references; both note the sexual madness of the world, and both are mystical and empirical. Concludes that having described the world in these terms, neither of the men feels a part of it.
Guthridge, George. "The Structure of Twentieth-Century Society: The Concept of the Intellectual in Bcllow's Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow Newsletter I. 1 ( 1981 ): 6–10.
Unlike the situation in H, Mr. Sammler's philosophizing "is coordinated with the novel's physical action, and subordinate to it." Bellow protagonists do nothing and their attempts to understand their experiences are more important to them than the experiences themselves. Yet Mr. Sammler is more than acted upon. Thc mccting ground between intellectuals and actors is a sexual one. Concludes with a series of loosely connected general observations.
Guttman, Allen. "Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler." Contemporary Literature 14.2 (1973): 157–66.
Guttman defends the negative critical reception of MSP by insisting on the ironic distance that exists between the author and his protagonist. He finds many parallels between the two, but concludes that Sammler is older, narrower, more crotchety, and more opinionated than Bellow. Provides a detailed examination of Sammlcr's character as a means of refuting much of the initial criticism of the novel. Concludes that Bellow has created an extraordinary character and not a mouthpiece for the radical right.
Haber, Leo. "Saul Bcllow's Discourse." Jewish Frontier June 1970: 24–26.
Sees Mr. Sammler as a seventy-year-old luftmensch who, after several lifetimes of experience that have culminated in his confrontation with Black Power, sexuality and psychosis in friend and foe, finds himself out of the frying pan and into the fire. Criticizes the novel's lack of real action, and concludes by asking if this is a novel or the "stenographic record of Talmudic debate."
Hadari, Amnon. "Ha-professor Eino Me'uban; Cohav Ha-lekhet Shel Mar Sammler Me'et Saul Bellow." Shdemot 44 (1971): 102–13. Cited in MLA Bibliography, 1971.
Harris, James Nell. "One Critical Approach to Mr. Sammler's Planet." Twentieth Century Literature 18.4 (1972): 235–50.
Finds MSP a profoundly religious work concerned with the process of acquiring faith. It attempts to show that Mr. Sammler's quest, that finally culminates in epiphany, involves a struggle which seems to be the use of irony to finally destroy irony, and to reconcile the paradoxical nature of religious faith through the paradox of the novel's dianoia. The faith finally acquired is an ethical faith. Sammler finally eschews "mere explanation hunting" for the higher activity of distinguishing as a means toward religious faith.
Held, George. "Men on the Moon: American Novelists Explore Lunar Space." Michigan Quarterly Review 18.2 (1979): 318–42.
Discusses the idea that from the beginning the ability of America to absorb infinite space has gripped the American imagination. Sees the American imagination now projecting itself beyond consideration of frontier and into outer space itself. Traces this in many writers, including Bellow, where the discussion centers mainly on MSP.
Hoggatt, Douglas. "Reconciliation and the Natural Knowledge of the Soul in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow Journal 13.1 (1995): 3–21.
Argues that the charge of "didacticism" which has been leveled against MSP represents a misunderstanding of the character of Mr. Sammler. Sammler is actually a heavy-handed moralist whose pedantic nature we should regard ironically in order to establish the main theme of the novel. This is the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that this idea is part of the natural knowledge of the soul. We appreciate human life only when we are in a state of communion with the world around us. Mr. Sammler is didactic because he is alienated from society. Only in his prayer of reconciliation over the body of Elya Gruner does he finally achieve this reconciliation, a reconciliation between himself and humanity, but also between the infinite spiritual world and the finite physical world.
Howe, Irving. "Fiction: Bellow, O'Hara, Litwak." Harper's Feb. 1970: 106, 108, 112, 114, 116–118.
Jones, Roger. "Artistry and the Depth of Life: Aspects of Attitude and Technique in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Anglo-Welsh Review 25 (1975): 138–53.
This is a discursive introductory article arranged under such headings as "Organization and Meaning," "Toward Meaning," "Living with all Combinations of the Facts," "Form and Material," and "The Failure of Artistry."
Kar, Prafulla C. "What it Means to Be Exactly Human: A Study of Mr. Sammler's Planet." Studies in American Literature: Essays in Honour of William Mulder. Eds. Jagdish Chander and Pradhan S. Narindar. Delhi: Oxford UP, 1976. 97–109.
Argues that this novel defines what it means to be human in a society that tries to destroy all traces of humanity. It is built upon tensions between society and the individual. Through his historical consciousness, Sammler sifts the world for evidence of the human and the humanizing.
Kociatkiewicz, Justyna Maria. "Modern Visions of Death and Apocalypse: Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet and Don DeLillo's White Noise." Anglica Wratislaviensia (Wroclaw, Poland) 33: (1998): 59–70.
Argues that both Bellow and DeLillo seem to be fascinated with the decline of modern civilization, and with the catastrophe brought about this violence. Both MSP and White Noise deal with the problem of death, individual and universal, and with apocalyptic disasters and the human reaction to them. Both aim at communicating the feeling of fear and loss in the face of inevitable destruction. Traces in very close detail the development and transformation of the issues of death, violence, and catastrophe in both novels. Concludes that while Sammler witnesses violence, Gladney has to face the denaturalization of the human and physical worlds. Both writers, however, seem to say that death is an inescapable subject in a declining world, and that we must greet the unavoidable with dignity and resignation.
Kremer, S. Li!lian. "The Holocaust in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow Journal 4.1 (1985): 19–32.
Claims that in Be!low's pre-1970's novels the Holocaust was evoked symbolically and allusively, but that in MSP he deals with the subject by recording the haunting recollections of survivors, and studies the current behavioral and emotional disorders stemming from wartime brutality.
Kumar, P. Shiv. "Yahudim and Ostjude: Social Stratification in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Literary Half-Yearly 21.2 (1980): 53–67.
Examines the pattern of immigration into the USA that brought Yahudim and Ostjude into sociological conflict. Applies these observations to MSP, a novel that tries to vindicate the Ostjude ethic over against the ethic of the from the WASP code. The novel projects this social stratification through Elya Gruner and his wife Hilda.
Kuna, F. M. "The European Culture Game: Mr. Bellow's Planet." English Studies 53.6 (1972): 531–44.
Provides a general overview of the plot and some of the formal elements of the novel. Sees the novel as a vendetta against the "Schopenhauerian-Nietzschean legacy in modernism.'' Condemns it for its unsuccessful attempt to blend art and philosophy.
Langer, Lawrence L. "Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions: History in Holocaust Literature." Reflections of the Holocaust in Art and Literature. Ed. Randolph L. Braham. New York: Columbia UP, 1990. Rpt. in Admitting the Holocaust: Collected Essays. Lawrence L. Langer. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995. 75–87.
Describes the particular dilemmas of authorship when the subject matter is the Holocaust. Concedes, however, that the urgency of the historical event continues to exert its mysterious power over modern consciousness. In this fiction, fact resists symbolic displacement. Reviews a large number of writers of the Holocaust and says MSP is not a typical Holocaust novel because the title figure has had an encounter with mass murder and atrocity, and has been unalterably affected by his ordeal. Mr. Sammler is modest about what he has endured. The novel is the search for some intellectual, emotional, and spiritual "air" to liberate Sammler's consciousness from this stifling heritage. Defeated by history, Sammler is unable to bring his Holocaust experience into the foreground of his own consciousness, and unable to bring it to anyone else either. So he must bear his memories and their consequences alone. Describes Sammler's progressive alienation, and argues that while avoiding the pessimism of Schopenhauer, he develops a internal resistance to succumbing to unseriousness and the fathering momentum of history. Sammler is finally a blend of earthliness and consciousness, thus reflecting the difficulty of maintaining an equilibrium between facts and human decency.
Levy, Paul. "'Black Holes' versus 'Connections': Conflicting Visions of the Holocaust in Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet." Reclaiming Memory: American Representations of the Holocaust. Eds. Pirjo Ahokas and Martime Chard Hutchinson. Turku, Finland: U of Turku, 1997. 131–48.
Argues that the issue of the Holocaust is an ever-present component in Bellow's fiction, and comes to the fore in MSP and BC. Here Bellow explores not the tragedy, but the various modes of response to it. In both novels, Shoah appears as the elusive center, the wide pool of darkness, the narrative keeps circling around, and scrutinizing, in an effort to relate it to present history and experience. Here the Holocaust is presented as an abyss which no theory or discourse can circumscribe, and present too is the urgent need to draw from an event a historical and moral significance that may be salvaged through memory. However, after all the structures and strategies both books hold in common, they differ in perspective and tone. MSP centers on a survivor who tries to overcome his trauma and confront the American present. BC shifts attention from the survivor himself to an obtuse assimilated Jew who represents the American post-holocaust generation. Seeks to explore the questions of what such changes reveal about the evolution of Bellow's post-Holocaust consciousness. Concludes that Bellow is sending a warning to the post-Holocaust generations that they should not be tempted to forget about remembering.
Levy, Paule. "'Words, words, words', rhetorique de la satire dans le rona Mr. Sammler's Planet de Saul Bellow." Configurations de l'ethnicite aux-Etats-Unis. Cahiers Charles V/Universite de Paris VII-Denis Diderot/Institut d'etudes anglophones 15. Paris: Institut de'etudes anglophones de l'Universite de Paris VII-Denis Diderot, 1993.
Maloney, Stephen R. "Half-Way to Byzantium: Mr. Sammler's Planet and the Modern Tradition." South Carolina Review 6.1 (1973): 31–40.
Defines Bellow's anti-modernism not as a reaction against the Eliot-Pound-Joyce movement, but against liberalism, progressivism, and relativism. Traces similarities between Mr. Sammler and the personna of Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium."
McCormick, James. "Two Camusian Existential Variants: Bellow's Sammler and Cheever's Farragut." Saul Bellow Journal 10.2 (1992): 14–24.
Compares Bellow's Artur Sammler (MSP) and Cheever's Ezekial Farragut (Falconer) in terms of Herbert Marcuse's existentialist nations of the essential reprehensibility and irrationality of society. Also bases his argument in Camus's notions of the impossibility of reconciliation between absurdity and rational unity in the world. Argues that for Sammler and Farragut the absurd takes form in the institutions (family, marriage, job, science, religion) and the daily workings of their surroundings. Provides a detailed analysis of both works from within this comparative paradigm. Concludes that at the end of each novel we find both men resembling the profile Camus has given for each existential man. Bellow and Cheever both seem to be asserting that each of us has within us the inclination to truth, that our existence in this world is absurd, but that, as Camus has written, "the point is to live."
Newman, Judie. "Mr. Sammler's Planet: Wells, Hitler and the World State." Dutch Quarterly Review of Anglo–American Letters 13.1 (1983): 55–71.
Newman establishes that in MSP Bellow's primary interest lies in two historical events governing the action: the Holocaust and the Apollo moonshot. Both are governed by a planetary metaphor. The world of the death camps is another planet, as is the world of the future that lies beyond man's comprehension. The novel is structured around the infinite poles of optimistic and pessimistic ideas of history, with the middle gound of the present defined in ethical imperatives. Only one fixed pole emerges from this—the moral imperative. Sees the novel as profoundly moral and carrying both aesthetic and intellectual conviction.
O'Brien, Maureen S. N. D. "Seeing and Knowing in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Chu-Shikoku Studies in American Literature [Japan] 12 (1976): 1–8. Cited in MLA Bibliography, 1979.
Overton, Harvey. "Sharing Mr. Sammler's Planet: Intellect and Conscience in Science and Technology." Journal of General Education 32.4 (1981): 309–19.
Uses a brief passage from MSP as a preface to a worthwhile and erudite article on the subject of science, technology and moral issues. Elucidates a subject that Bellow has discussed fictionally for a long time.
Oz, Amos. "Mr. Sammler and Hannah Arendt's Banality." Saul Bellow: A Mosaic. Twentieth-Century American Jewish Writers 3. New York: Lang, 1992. 21–25.
Describes Margotte Arkin's rendition of Hanna Arendt's central idea of the banality of evil in Eichman in Jerusalem and proceeds to discuss Sammler's perspective in MSP. Notes Ussher Arkin's impatience with this Jewish urge to grant Christian forgiveness to the Nazis, a tendency he calls Weimar Schmaltz. Goes on to expatiate on the concept of Weimar Schmaltz as dealt with in Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah and then returns to Mr. Sammler's view. Describes the sheer creativity of the Nazi bureaucratization of mass murder, and concludes that Mr. Sammler, and Bellow himself seems to pick a fight not just with Margotte or Arendt but with Christ himself, who would forgive them for they know not what they do. For as Mr. Sammler says "the truth of it is–that we all know, God, that we know, we know, we know."
Parini, Jay. "Mr. Sammler, Hero of Our Time." Salmagundi 106–07 (1995): 66–70.
Gives a brief anecdotal account of his 1970s experience of the decade and MSP. Provides a detailed account of Mr. Sammler's views on history as a representative of his age. Calls Mr. Sammler's the kind of alienation experienced by a Polish-Oxonian fascinated by history and H. G. Wells while his West Side neighbors do not care a whit for Sammler, who seems pushy and arrogant. Even Sammler has abandoned H. G. Wells's scientific rationalism for Meister Eckhardt, the Bible, and mysticism. While Sammler broods endlessly on cycles of history, and on the pessimistic theories of Spengler and Toynbee, and on the patterns of violence which recur in cycles, Bellow would seem to suggest here that existential man has it within his grasp to explore the depths of selfhood and find there, through prayer and the operations of grace, some alternative.
Pifer, Ellen. "'Two Different Speeches': Mystery and Knowledge in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Mosaic 18.2 (1985): 17–32.
Describes a rift in Sammler's consciousness that the author identifies as "the polarization of two modes of consciousness, the analytic and the intuitive." Sammler perceives reality in radically opposing terms. At times he attempts to disengage himself from the world and the claims he intuitively knows it has upon him. These shifting modes of apprehension unfold a continuous dialectic between two modes of speech in his consciousness.
Quayum, M. A. "Finding the Middle Ground: Bellow's Philosophical Affinity with Emerson in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow Journal 8.2 (1989): 24–38.
Compares Bellow and Emerson in terms of their idealistic commitment to optimism, transcendentals, and balance. Mediation, moderation, and the middle ground define Bellow's view. Concludes that Emerson's and Bellow's philosophy is one of grand acquiescence and continuous compromise—the central motifs of the mainstream of American romanticism–a stream beginning with Emerson and ending with Bellow as one of its latter-day descendants.
Reif, Rita. "Bellow Auctioning Off 'Sammler' Manuscript." New York Times 5 May 1988: C30.
Discusses Bellow's selling of the typescript of all the papers relating to MSP. Describes Sotheby's procedure and the anxiety it causes scholars. Reports a telephone interview with Bellow on the matter and discusses the effect on Bellow's attitude toward his manuscripts of the 1970 Tax Reform Act, which reduces an author's deductions on gifts of manuscripts. Suggests the effect this sale might have on escalating the price of such manuscripts. Also contains comments from Bellow about how little he cares for scholarship on his own work, because it makes him feel too important.
Reif, Rita. "Bellow Papers Bring a Record at Auction." New York Times 8 June 1988: C38.
Reports on Sotheby's sale of 16 MSP typescripts, galleys, and manuscripts for a record $66,000. Reports also that the manuscripts have gone to the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library as an anonymous gift.
Russell, Mariann. "White Man's Black Man: Three Views." College Language Association Journal 17 (1973): 93–100.
Examines MSP and several other novels of the 1960's and 1970's with regard to what their white authors have made of black characters within the novels. It illustrates the complexity of Bellow's black character and establishes how far Bellow reaches beyond the traditional stereotypes initially invoked in the novel to develop his character as a meaningful aspect of Mr. Sammler's humanity.
Sacks, June. "Questioning of a Survivor: A Reappraisal of the Role of Mr. Sammler." Unisa English Studies 26.2 (1988): 21–26.
Argues that all the basic questions of mankind shape MSP while tentative.,answers are provided through the thoughts, actions, and moral growth of Sammler himself. Shows how because of his persecuted past, Sammler's perception of fundamental issues has an intensity denied to more fortunate Americans with whom he now associates. Writes that through his Holocaust experiences his former faith in the Enlightenment crystallized in admiration for H. G. Wells but that he has now to reconsider his previous preconceptions about mankind. Points out that these new moral questions are rooted in his combining of the roles of righteous man and wise man until he resembles the Jewish hero of old, the religious sage whose dignity, knowledge, and virtue—not physical valor or material wealth-command universal respect. Concludes that these new questions become centered in an ancient moral response recalling certain tenets of Judaism.
Salter, D. P. M. "Optimism and Reaction in Saul Bellow's Recent Work." Critical Quarterly 14.1 (1972): 57–66.
Sees this novel as an extension of H with a new departure into a sense of affirmation and wisdom embodied in the hero, Arthur Sammler. Sammler is a person who has the kind of sanctity or wholeness which Herzog is beginning to grope for at the end of the book. In this book Bellow more openly functions as a writer with a moral function.
Samuels, Charles T. "Bellow on Modernism." New Republic 7 Feb. 1970: 27–30.
Sees the book as intelligent and beautifully written, but imperfect in its failure to connect between action and idea.
Satyanarayana, M. R. "The Reality Teacher as Hero: A Study of Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet." Osmania Journal of English Studies [India] 8.2 (1971): 55–68.
Unlike previous novels, MSP has a hero who instead of having a separate reality instructor is his own reality instructor. Sensing that the world is mad, Sammler confronts it with disinterestedness. He tries to keep his counsel, to avoid involvement, but the outside world pulls him into its whirlpool.
Scheick, William J. "Circle Sailing in Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet." Essays in Literature 5.1 (1978): 95–101.
Describes Mr. Sammler as possessing an imaginary axis comprised of the emotional extremities of attraction and repulsion, around which axis the self, as it were, rotates, experiencing a cyclic affirmation and despair equivalent to the planetary manifestations of day and night. This is indicated in the lunar symbolism and Sammler's light and dark eyes.
Schneider, Joseph L. "The Immigrant Experience in Prin and Mr. Sammler's Planet." On Poets and Poetry: Second Series. Salzburg Studies in English Literature 27. Salzburg: Institut fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universitat Salzburg, 1980. 37–40.
Schulz, Max F. "Mr. Bellow's Perigree, Or, The Lowered Horizon of Mr. Sammler's Planet." Contemporary American–Jewish Literature: Critical Essays. Ed. Irving Malin. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1973. 117–33.
In MSP Bellow unveils a central character who, unlike previous Bellow characters, is analytical rather than generous, and somehow less optimistic. His vision is essentially more earth-centered than visionary. This novel represents Bellow in retreat. Sammler is a collector of dour prognostications of the imminent collapse of civilization. This philosophical shift may be temporary or permanent.
Sharma, D. R. "Mr. Sammler's Planet: Another 'Passage' to India." Pan jab University Research Bulletin (Arts) 4.1 (April 1973): 97–104.
Provides an overall analysis of the socio-cultural critique in the novel and an explanation of its basic value structure. Clearly sees the novel in terms of E. M. Forster's A Passage to India. Concentrates largely on the exchange between Sammler and Lal in the latter part of the novel. Also expands on the theme of India found in earlier American literature.
Siegel, Ben. "Saul Bellow and Mr. Sammler: Absurd Seekers of High Qualities." Saul Bellow: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Earl Rovit. Twentieth Century Views. Englewood Cliffs, N J: Prentice, 1975. 122–34.
Traces carefully the intellectual climate of the late 1950's and early 1960's that produced cries that the old novel was dead, that a generation of apocalyptic young novelists had arrived, and that post-modernism had triumphed. Shows MSP as an unpopular comment on the failure of this movement to be "more dishevelled than revolutionary." The article illustrates the book's value as a social commentary of the times and as a protest against the failure of 1960's radicalism to produce values, ideas and a lifestyle that can stand the test of history. Points out how Bellow distinguishes in the novel between true radicalism and misused, phony radicalism.
Singh, Amritjit. "Freedom and Failure in Saul Bellow's Seize the Day and Mr. Sammler's Planet."
SD and MSP are good illustrations of Bellow's lasting interest in the twin themes of freedom and failure. In both novels the individual's sense of failure is shaped by his attempts to assert his individuality in the face of successful fathers, domineering siblings or friends, or the prevailing ethic of society, but do so very differently. Tommy withholds himself from individuals and conventions all too eager to remake him in their own terms. Mr. Sammler must hold on to sanity and definitude in a world where individuality seems to have run amuck.
Sire, James W. "Mr. Sammler and the God of Our Fathers." Christianity Today 4 June 1971: 6–9.
Sees MSP as an almost Christian novel, a piece of work that stands out like an oasis in the desert of postwar American literature. Sees the character, Mr. Sammler, as an analogue of seventy tears of Jewish experience. Documents Sammler's intellectual and spiritual strength and his eventual escape from reason. Criticizes Bellow for not taking the last step that would make this a truly Christian novel—belief in the teachings of Meister Eckhart.
Sloss, Henry. "Europe's Last Gasp." Shenandoah 22.1 (1970): 82–86.
Quarrels with the premises behind Sammler's lifestyle comprised of both the wisdom of Europe and the wisdom of the American schools. This wisdom counts the world as something to be understood, given to us to interpret, analyze, and perceive. With this goes hopelessness and a recognition of unresponsive necessity as signs of intelligence. Sammler is a lost man—a troglodyte.
Stafford, W. T. "The Black/White Continuum: Some Recent Examples in Bellow, Malamud, and Updike." Books Speaking to Books.' A Contextual Approach to American Fiction. W. T. Stafford. Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina P, 1981. 71–102. Trilling, Lionel, et al. "Sincerity and Authenticity: A Symposium." Salmagundi 41 (1977): 87–110.
Venkateswadu, D. "Ideology in Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler Planet." Punjab University Research Bulletin (Arts) 21.2 (1990) 125–30. Rpt. in Jewish–American Writers and Intellectual Life in America. New Delhi: Prestige, 1993. 13–23.
Begins with Althusser's definition of idealogy or worldview as not necessarily corresponding to reality, Marxist notions of ideology as false consciousness, and Adorno's notions of ideology meaning society as an "appearance" or "system of interested deceit." Wonders how a social realist writer like Bellow grapples with these imaginary relations as he tries to perceive truth and social reality. Comments on how all realistic writing pretends to reflect a particular social ambience, and embodies such complexities as imaginary relations, and then poses the question about how much caution the implied reader should exercise in disentangling Bellow's personal idealogy. Discusses MSP with special reference to his portrayal of the New Left and other related matters. Shows how Bellow exemplifies reality and traces how these are refracted through both the ideological and creative process, through a deconstruction of the superstructure, and through the creative impulse in the novel. Sees Bellow's debunking of the New Left in terms of the Nazi Holocaust as problematic, and concludes by asking what the status of deliberately ideological works of art should be.
Vernier, Jean-Pierre. "Mr. Sammler's Lesson." Les Americanistes: New French Criticism on Modern American Fiction. Eds. Ira D. Johnson and Christiane Johnson. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1978. 16–36.
Provides a thorough analysis of the value system implicit in the text through an examination of narrative technique. Establishes that Bellow's fiction is extremely sophisticated and extremely modern in that it questions the capacity of literature to convey truth and stresses the autonomous quality of the world of the imagination. But, on the other hand, Bellow apparently refuses to be concerned with the various problems connected with the creation of artistic illusion by means of writing. His ontological quest bypasses the level of fictional representation in order to refer directly to a metaphysical question. Bellow is not unaware of or uninterested in the problems raised by his own medium: for him no novel can find itself sufficient justification and raison d'etre. Ultimately the novel is a lesson to the reader that each reader must decipher for himself.
Walden, Daniel. "Rejecting Romanticism, Rejecting Nihilism: The Pickpocket in Mr. Sammler's Planet as a Symbol of Equilibrium and Coherence." Profils Americains (France) 9 (1997): 59–68.
Asserts that Saul Bellow, by refusing to subscribe to alienation and negativism has long believed in a radical reconstruction of society. To the question: "How should a good man live?" posed in DM, he answered that one should become a mensch, one who lives according to moral precepts. In MSP the exposure scene is usually connected with Schopenhauer's dictum that "the seat of the will in human beings is . . . the organs of sex." But another explanation is offered. To his nephew Wallace Gruner's question doubting Mr. Sammler's eyesight, Sammler quotes Tolstoy to the effect that "you don't kill another human being with whom you have exchanged such a look." As Bernard Malamud has put it, this is a case exemplifying that the role of literature was to keep civilization from destroying itself. It is an example of what Sidney Richman called "redemptive suffering" or "creative suffering." Concludes that it is no wonder MSP is called a novel in which the errors of the past and present are revealed and the extremes of both romanticism and nihilism are denied.
Weber, Ronald. "The View from Space: Notes on Space Exploration and Recent Writing." Georgia Review 33.2 (1979): 280–96.
Weber finds that both serious and popular contemporary fiction uses space exploration in significant ways such as Bellow does in MSP, to explore its "triumphs and possibilities.., in ironic counterpoint to the messy yet human concerns of the earthbound."
Weinstein, Mark A. "The Fundamental Elements in Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow Journal 1.2 (1982): 18–26.
Weinstein demonstrates that the fundamentals with which MSP concerns itself are communicated by means of elaborate image patterns from the four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Analyzes these patterns in considerable depth.
Wethington, Dirk. "Re/Establishing Boundaries in Bellow: Postmodernism and Mr. Sammler's Planet." Saul Bellow Journal 13.2 (1995): 3–18.
Suggests that MSP, though linear and modernist in form, can be conceived of in two parts: one in which the business of progressing through narrative events and dialogue is carried out, and a second that functions as something of an academic diary, in which the protagonist of the novel reacts to the shift from modernism to postmodernism. Consistent with Frederic Jameson's suggestion that postmodernism is nothing more than another step in the march of capitalism. MSP reflects this unique paradigm shift and Mr. Sammler's realization that he is indeed a product of the modern tradition. Concludes that Bellow deconstructs this dilemma by suggesting that at certain times, despite our pretensions and pretending, we are only human and must ultimately share certain worlds and planets.
Wirth-Nesher, Hana, and Andrea Cohen Malamut. "Jewish and Human Survival on Bellow's Planet." Modern Fiction Studies 25.1 (1979): 59–74; Rpt. in Saul Bellow: A Symposium on the Jewish Heritage. Eds. Vinoda and Shiv Kumar. Warangal, India: Nachson, 1983. 56–74.
Sees MSP as Bellow's best Jewish novel because it deals directly with the Holocaust, the state of Israel, and American Jewry's relation to both. The value system in the novel also is essentially Jewish, with its unwavering belief in survival under any circumstances, an emphasis on reason and human intellect. It is part of a long tradition of interpretation and commentary on scripture; a preference for good deeds and actions over contemplation; the concept of mitzvoth. All of these values constitute a rejection of despair.
Sullivan, Walter. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" Sewanee Review 78.4 (1970): 654–64.
Wright, Derek. "The Mind's Blind Eye: Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet." International Fiction Review 22.1–2 (1995): 21–24.
Claims that in MSP, as in other books, the pressures of mass society force the thinker to retreat inwards into his own private intellectual center, where the furious mess of the world can be converted into something he can handle. At the same time he struggles to prevent this inward movement from cutting him off entirely from the human community around him. However, Sammler discovers, too late, that he has been so preoccupied by book-learned ideas about solidarity fed him by the reading eye that he misses the chance to encounter, with the observing eye, the thing itself, as it actually happens in the world. He has the idea but misses the experience.
"In Search of Order." Times Literary Supplement 9 July 1970: 749. Rpt. in T.L.S., Essays and Reviews from The Times Literary Supplement. London: Oxford LT P, 1971. 38–43.
"Saul Bellow: Seer with a Civil Heart." Time 9 Feb. 1970: 81–84.
Bayley, John. "More Familiar than Novel." Listener 9 July 1970: 51–52.
Braine, John. "Bellow's Planet." National Review 10 Mar. 1970: 264–66.
Broyard, Anatole. "Mr. Sammler's Planet." New York Times Book Review I Feb. 1970: 1, 40.
Edelman, Lily. "Saul Bellow's Planet—and Ours." Jewish Heritage Sept. 1970: 3–4, 67.
Epstein, Joseph. "Saul Bellow's Messenger of Ill-Tiding." Chicago Tribune Book Week I Feb. 1970: 1, 3.
Fein, Richard J. "Bellow's Turf." Judaism Sept. 1970: 252–54.
Fletcher, Janet. "Mr. Sammler's Planet." Library Journal Feb. 1970:51 I.
Frank, Mike. "The Travail of Being Human." American Zionist Dec. 1970: 41–42.
Gray, Paul Edward. "New Novels in Review." Yale Review 59.3 (1970): 430–38.
Katz, Phyllis R. Best Sellers I Feb 1970: 409–10.
Kazin, Alfred. "Though He Slay Me..." New York Review of Books 3 Dec. 1970: 3–4.
Kiely, Robert. "Saul Bellow's Balanced Man." Christian Science Monitor 5 Feb. 1970:11A.
Lindroth, James R. "The Proper Study of Mankind Is..." America 21 Feb. 1970: 190.
Lurie, Alison. "The View From the Moon." New Statesman 10 July 1970: 19.
Oates, Joyce Carol. "Articulations." Critic: A Catholic Review of Books and the Arts May–June 1970: 68–69.
Opdahl, Keith M. "An Honorable Old Man in a World of Obsessed Young Adults." Commonweal 13 Feb. 1970: 535–36.
Pinsker, Sanford. "Few Real Surprises." Reconstructionist 29 May 1970: 20–22.
Pritchard, William H. "Senses of Reality." Hudson Review 23.1 (1970): 169–70.
Sissman, L. E. "Uptight." New Yorker 31 Jan. 1970: 82, 85–87.
Sokolov, Raymond A. "West Side Lear." Newsweek 2 Feb. 1970: 77.
Stock, Irvin. "Man in Culture." Commentary May 1970: 89–94. Rpt. in Critical Essays on Saul Bellow. Ed. Stanley Trachtenberg. Critical Essays on American Literature. Boston: Hall, 1979. 41–48.
Walden, Daniel. "Rejecting Romanticism, Rejecting Nihilism: The Pickpocket in Mr. Sammler's Planet as a Symbol of Equilibrium and Coherence." Profils Americains (France) 9 (1997): 59–68.
Asserts that Saul Bellow, by refusing to subscribe to alienation and negativism has long believed in a radical reconstruction of society. To the question: "How should a good man live?" posed in DM, he answered that one should become a mensch, one who lives according to moral precepts. In MSP, the exposure scene is usually connected with Schopenhauer's dictum that "the seat of the will in human beings is . . . the organs of sex." Then re-evaluates this scene not as a sexual humiliation but as an act of human communication involving eye contact—a kind of begging both visually and psychologically. To his nephew Wallace Gruner's question doubting Mr. Sammler's eyesight, Sammler quotes Tolstoy to the effect that "you don't kill another human being with whom you have exchanged such a look." As Bernard Malamud has put it, this is a case exemplifying that the role of literature was to keep civilization from destroying itself. It is an example of what Sidney Richman called "redemptive suffering" or "creative suffering." Concludes that it is no wonder MSP is called a novel in which the errors of the past and present are revealed and the extremes of both romanticism and nihilism are denied.
Wohlgelernter, Maurice."Don't Stop the World: Sammler Wants to Stay On." Congress Bi-Weekly 25 Dec. 1970: 17–21. Rpt. in Jewish Writers/Irish Writers:? Selected Essays on the Love of Words. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2000. 61–67.
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