Ravelstein

Written by: Saul Bellow

Ravelstein Book Cover
Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously-and much beyond his means. His close friend Chick has suggested that he put forth a book of his convictions about the ideas which sustain humankind, or kill it, and much to Ravelst Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously-and much beyond his means. His close friend Chick has suggested that he put forth a book of his convictions about the ideas which sustain humankind, or kill it, and much to Ravelstein's own surprise, he does and becomes a millionaire. Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a memoir or a life of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, loves and friends, old and new, and vaudeville routines from the remote past. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the Midwest and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies.

Deeply insightful and always moving, Saul Bellow's heartfelt novel is a journey through love and memory. It is brave, dark, and bleakly funny: an elegy to friendship and to lives well (or badly) lived.
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Ravelstein Reviews

Pedro Varanda
Um bom livro de Saul Bellow, que segue os retratos psicológicos habituais de personagens frágeis, sempre à procura de aceitação e onde a profundidade psicológica e a busca por um entendimento global atravessa todo o livro. Não é o seu melhor livro mas recomendo.
Chris
The novel is best when Bellow's Chick ruminates on memories and tells anecdotes about Ravelstein, a wonderfully intimidating and human character.

Ravelstein is a novel that will likely prompt a bit of research on a great many topics, and readers should expect to come away with considerable, if superficial, incidental learning. At times Bellow can sound off-puttingly affected. For example,Chick and Ravelstein prefer to bask in their knowledge of more precise French and German idioms, and Bellow l The novel is best when Bellow's Chick ruminates on memories and tells anecdotes about Ravelstein, a wonderfully intimidating and human character.

Ravelstein is a novel that will likely prompt a bit of research on a great many topics, and readers should expect to come away with considerable, if superficial, incidental learning. At times Bellow can sound off-puttingly affected. For example,Chick and Ravelstein prefer to bask in their knowledge of more precise French and German idioms, and Bellow loves to show off a little. This can be bothersome, and I found Chick (read: Bellow) to be almost entirely unlikeable.

What kept me reading was the complicated nature of friendship found in the last years of Chick and Ravelstein's late-in-life partnering. Each of us find draw pieces of ourselves from our friends. Chick and Rosemund can't escape the influence of their dead friend and mentor, and walk each day through the cemetery of old friends to the point that Chick Chick fears finishing his memoir will strip his life of purpose.

This is my first taste of Bellow.
Doc Opp
People who know me are aware of my proclivity for random tangents in the middle of conversations. But even I am able to keep on point better than Bellow, who's stream of consciousness meandering left me unsure what the plot of the book was even after finishing. If pressed, I'd say the book was a series of random anecdotes about a fictional character that don't follow any particular timeline or make any particular point. It was also quite repetitive, the same stories were told over and over, and People who know me are aware of my proclivity for random tangents in the middle of conversations. But even I am able to keep on point better than Bellow, who's stream of consciousness meandering left me unsure what the plot of the book was even after finishing. If pressed, I'd say the book was a series of random anecdotes about a fictional character that don't follow any particular timeline or make any particular point. It was also quite repetitive, the same stories were told over and over, and a turn of phrase that was clever the first time I read it was less so the 5th time around.

The book merits two stars instead of one because while I found the writing style grating, it did have some interesting and thought provoking ideas. But I would say that those good ideas could easily be summarized in half a dozen pages, and doing so would greatly improve the experience of reading this book.
To Jerusalem and Back :: The Best American Essays 1988 :: number9dream :: Success Stories :: Brokedown Palace
Rob
A stunning look into the life of an American Don ( in the Professorial sense not the Mafiosi sense). This Roman a clef is supposed to be a portrait of Allen Bloom, friend and colleague of Saul Bellow at the University of Chicago.
Bellow affects a folksy tone that is simultaneously homespun and archly intelligent. We are lovingly swept through the worlds of Philosophy, Sociology, Opera, and the pleasures of the Continent. Further, the endurance of a friendship that lasts a generation and paints t A stunning look into the life of an American Don ( in the Professorial sense not the Mafiosi sense). This Roman a clef is supposed to be a portrait of Allen Bloom, friend and colleague of Saul Bellow at the University of Chicago.
Bellow affects a folksy tone that is simultaneously homespun and archly intelligent. We are lovingly swept through the worlds of Philosophy, Sociology, Opera, and the pleasures of the Continent. Further, the endurance of a friendship that lasts a generation and paints the comforts and horrors of long term intimacy amongst those who are not easily fooled.
It's about having a code, and a hierarchy of what's important. It's about getting old, and about what it may mean to be Jewish. It's about Love, the philosophical kind, like the Love that Plato or Stendhal wrote about. Finally, the voice, Bellow's prose, is mesmerizing, narcotic, and reassuring. What a marvelous writer.
Chris Black
A dreamlike reflection on aging and memory. Ponderous and often extremely repetitive (I wonder if this is simply Bellow's senility, being that he wrote it at such an old age), but still endearing. It alternates between melancholy and good-spirited humor, and concludes in a hallucinatory-reflective mood.
Pablo
La novela final de Bellow, evocando a su amigo, el conservador profesor de humanidades Allan Bloom. Es emocionante y extrañamente triste. Una danza sobre la muerte, la sabiduría y el final.
Nuria
Virginia Woolf famously described "Middlemarch" as one of the few English novels written for grown up people. "Ravelstein" is another, in my view.
Gerry Kelly
Excellent and a fun read by the brilliant Saul Bellow
Nathaniel
Know this: I don't like Bellow's writing. I feel like a Bellow novel is just a series of labored descriptions, even the narrative parts. And it always sounds like Bellow himself who is doing the describing: you are experiencing his train of thought and it is always annoyingly out of sync with your own. Usually the problem is that his train is slower, so you can see what's coming before you read it, and so the act of reading becomes a chore. His authorial presence is stultifying, like someone rea Know this: I don't like Bellow's writing. I feel like a Bellow novel is just a series of labored descriptions, even the narrative parts. And it always sounds like Bellow himself who is doing the describing: you are experiencing his train of thought and it is always annoyingly out of sync with your own. Usually the problem is that his train is slower, so you can see what's coming before you read it, and so the act of reading becomes a chore. His authorial presence is stultifying, like someone reading over your shoulder. It keeps you from getting lost in the story, the way an erratically dripping faucet or a dog barking in the night keeps you from falling asleep. In this one semi-autobiographical instance, it suppose it was tolerable.

Even attempts at dialog became mere descriptions, and these were often embarrassingly bad: like TV-show drama bad. I'll try to document my petty stylistic criticisms as I go along. ("Must needs" was an expression that now had vanished, I told Rosamund.) All of the name-dropping and allusion was similarly gauche, and he's way too on-the-nose with parallelism and metaphor. I'll try to capture this awkwardness in a few parenthetical examples. (The old expression "He has more connections than a switchboard" had now been buried under the masses of data heaped up by the wildly expanding communications technology.) Here's another. (You must not be swallowed up by the history of your own time, Ravelstein often would say. He quoted Schiller to the same effect: "Live with your century but do not be its creature." The architect who put a little Alhambra arcade here, with water pipes and shade plants had much the same idea: "Live in this city but don't belong to it.) Other examples that made me wince, then cringe: Since she didn't love me I had, with innate biological resourcefulness, holed up behind my desk and finished a few long-postponed projects--quoting Robert Frost to myself: "For I have promises to keep /And miles to go before I sleep." At times changing this to: "For I have recipes to bake/ And far to go before I wake." Last one (I hope I'm making my point): He had ideas of decency which went back to the novels of Dickens, but he had wicked REMs--I borrow the term from the sleep specialists--wide-awake rapid eye movements. I could go on and on, but I will leave off here to avoid nauseating you.

The writing itself wasn't all bad: the descriptions of Paris were apt and well-done. And certain things would have been fine, but were ruined after their third of fourth repetition (the fact that Nikki goes to bed at 4 and slept in late was repeated 3+ times). It was like the book was never edited. But I mean I guess he was like 85 and I should be charitable. Still, sheesh. At least the concept was interesting: given the task of writing a book about a friend, Bellow gave us a book about the process of writing a book about him, with biographical flourishes intercalated throughout. Still, I found this less than effective, structurally; like a high school student who doesn't have enough to say about the essay prompt and spends most of the time off-topic.

Why did I even bother, then, if I had sampled his writing and knew what to expect (I seldom abandon a book, but I couldn't bring myself to finish Herzog). This retrial was prompted by my introduction to Allan Bloom, the real-life, thinly veiled basis for Abe Ravelstein, who had written a few personally intriguing books during his lifetime; thus, I was seeking a richer picture of the man as portrayed by one who knew him intimately (he and Bellow were close friends). Well, I sought in vain. The sketch I got was superficial at best, and left me with the distinct impression that its subject was as well. Ravelstein was big, bald, and tastelessly prodigal; he was a Francophile, sybarite, and he had feet of different sizes. A snazzy dresser, a sloppy eater. A social man with many friends and high-up connections, lots of whom were his former students. But beyond these bare outlines, you get nothing of substance, and indeed, little more about Bloom. Instead, you get a half-assed account of one the author's failed marriages and his extended near-death fugue brought on by food poisoning. What bearing or contribution these things had on the story was lost on me. If you pick up this book because you are interested in Bloom, read the last two paragraphs and save yourself the time.
mitch h
In Ravelstein, Saul Bellow’s final work, we get an intimate glimpse into a great and true friendship. This story is a fictionalized meditation on the relationship between between Bellow (who becomes Chick in this novel) and Abe Ravelstein, who is based on Bellow's friend, political philosopher Allan Bloom.

This work focuses mostly on the men's conversations about life, love, women, friendship and big ideas while Bloom is dying from AIDS. He is infected with HIV before the story begins and the int In Ravelstein, Saul Bellow’s final work, we get an intimate glimpse into a great and true friendship. This story is a fictionalized meditation on the relationship between between Bellow (who becomes Chick in this novel) and Abe Ravelstein, who is based on Bellow's friend, political philosopher Allan Bloom.

This work focuses mostly on the men's conversations about life, love, women, friendship and big ideas while Bloom is dying from AIDS. He is infected with HIV before the story begins and the intimate details about his relationships and sexual proclivities are mentioned only in passing.

My favorite part of this work, and the reason why I decided to read it in thee first place, is to learn about Bloom the educator and philosopher. The first thing I read in university as a political theory student was Bloom’s translation of Plato’s Republic. While studying at U of T I heard tales about his matchmaking between his students. He was known to arrange "serendipitous" meetings between students he felt were compatible during his office hours, and for a teacher, took a strange yet genuine of fascination in the private lives of his students. The lengths that he went to to keep himself up on the gossip was legendary.

Bellow does an excellent job portraying Blooms nosy habits in this work. He also does a careful job highlighting how Bellow inspires such a devoted following from his students: he was a highly dedicated teacher in the greatest sense of the word and he brought philosophical ideas to life for his students--pizza parties, Chicago Bulls and Plato all in one night. He Bellow also portrays Bloom as someone how was endlessly fascinated about global political gossip as well, and maintained and active correspondence with his old students who’d risen to the top of the political and cultural establishment in America. He had former students in government, newspapers, magazines ect. all of whom were shaped by Blooms philosophical teachings, and by his unique reading of classic literature and philosophy.

Bloom carried the theoretical torch his teacher, Jewish immigrant, Leo Strauss, who was a proponent of an esoteric reading of the great political thinkers. The main idea of Strauss reading, which went mostly unexplained in Ravelstein, is that since the trial and death of Socrates in Plato’s Apology, there has been an inherent tension between the philosophical and the political life. Given the death of Socrates at the hands of an elected Athenian democracy, all philosophers must tread carefully while expressing their thoughts in writing. It’s dangerous to express oneself freely to the emotionally driven masses, so in Strauss’s view, the true meanings of texts--the authors real intention--is often left unsaid, and/or written in between the lines. There is an esoteric conversation going on between these lines of the works of great philosophers throughout history, and it’s the philosophers job to read in between the lines to figure it all out.

Throughout Ravelstein, Bellow makes reference to Bloom’s most popular work, the Closing of the American Mind, which launched him into the world as a pubic intellectual. In this work Bloom lays down the gauntlet at the current state of the American university education system.

Another common topic throughout this work was death. Ravelstein eventually gives way to AIDS and near the end of the novel, Crick (based on Bellow) develops a terrible and obscure disease (and almost dies) that he got from eating a poisonous fish on a Caribbean vacation that he didn’t even want to go on in the first place.

Overall, I’d only recommend this book to someone truly interested in the life of the man behind Ravelstein. Unless you’re truly passionate about learning more of Bloom’s life, our about his weird idiosyncrasies, I’d say pass on this book. Bellow does a wonderful job honoring the live of his great friend, but I did not leave this short work wanting more, although I have bought a copy of Blooms Closing of the American Mind. I give this one 3/5 stars, but if the option was available, I’d give it 2.5.
Yvonne
Ravelstein consists of Chick’s rambling memories of the last years of Ravelstein’s life, and the significant place that Ravelstein held in his life—and marriages. However, Bellow introduces other minor characters, such as Morris Herbst, who “had a singular connection” with Ravelstein, takes up seven pages. We even get to know about his heart transplant—who cares? Yes, they are brushstrokes that make up the larger portrait of Ravelstein’s personality, but too distracting, take me back to the main Ravelstein consists of Chick’s rambling memories of the last years of Ravelstein’s life, and the significant place that Ravelstein held in his life—and marriages. However, Bellow introduces other minor characters, such as Morris Herbst, who “had a singular connection” with Ravelstein, takes up seven pages. We even get to know about his heart transplant—who cares? Yes, they are brushstrokes that make up the larger portrait of Ravelstein’s personality, but too distracting, take me back to the main plot and characters.
The setting for most of the novel, a Midwestern University, remains a mystery. There are sojourns to Paris and New Hampshire, Boston and Saint Martin. The period is also omitted, you assume by the fact that Ravelstein died of AIDS and Michael Jackson was popular, that it’s the late 80’s or early 90’s.
I found myself disliking Ravelstein, the character, as a person. His excesses, his urging his students to “rid themselves of their parents,” planning their futures; his meddling into Chick’s marriage by disparaging Vela. Although he is supposed to think deeply about his friends, his actions showed him to be an egomaniac. We don’t even know how he feels about Nikki, the person closest to him, we only get Nikki’s devotion to him.
I didn't connect with either of the main characters. Ravelstein, for all his brilliance, seemed cold and afar. He could be “freaky” on social occasions. (Love the idea of an 84-year-old author using that descriptive word). I felt sympathy only when he declines physically and it on the threshold of death, becoming more human. His endless consumerism: Lanvin, Sulka, Gelot the hatmaker, Hermes, Ermenegildo Zegna, a Jeremyn Street shirtmaker, Lalique, Mont Blanc pen, $20,000 wristwatch, Dunhill lighters, $10,000 speakers, Pratesi linens, Versace, Ultimo, Gucci and BMW is reckless and excessive, UNLESS he knew by then he was a condemned man, thus totally understandable. That was not clear to me.
As for the women, Vela, tough as nails, has not one redeeming quality except her physical beauty and brain. Rosamund, on the other hand is the only character who is real, whose feelings you’re allowed to see, thus the only one that I could connect to.
There were too many times that I felt that the author was trying to impress the reader with his erudition through the endless list of intellectuals and celebrities that surround Ravelstein or his intellect, among them-Balzac, Plato, Goethe, Diderot, Rameau, R.H.Tawney, Bertrand Russell, Rakmiel, T.S.Elliot, R.Kogon, Sartre, Machiavelli, Hobbes Pascal, Winston Churchill, Felix Davarr, Thucydides, Caesar, Marc Anthony, Nijinsky, Albert Speer, Michael Jordan, Phillip Gorman etc. Also annoying are the endless French terms, affectations spoken by Ravelstein and Chick.
Chick says he “somehow found myself stuck always in the cautionary role, speaking up for the commonest sort of common sense to people who took pride in brushing off prudence.” He adds, “Ravelstein was aware of this flaw of mine.” The questions this book raises are: Is this a book about an equal friendship or is Chick the caretaker? Does he have a case of hero worship? Is a true friendship between a gay and a straight man possible? Between a man and a woman? As the raconteur of Ravelstein’s legacy, Chick does not come across as a likeable person, again, we don’t know about HIM, his career, his goals, why he married his wives, how he feels about them, the most we get is a feeling of gratitude towards Rosamund, after Ravelstein is gone from their lives and she saves his life.
“The rule for the dead is that they should be forgotten. After burial there is a universal gradual progress toward oblivion. But with Ravelstein this didn't altogether work.”
Bellow achieved his goal of making Ravelstein immortal.
Brendan
Ravelstein may forever remain a mystery to me.

While reading Saul Bellows character sketch of Allan Bloom I felt a heap of emotions: admiration, pity, envy, and ultimately, a sense of awe. “Ravelstein” had been through hell and back. He possessed questionable habits, a rough exterior, and an aura of respectability that strengthened his hold on others’ lives.

Ravelstein, a mentor to many, always had “disciples” and former students with whom he’d engage, teach, and continue counsel. While he clearl Ravelstein may forever remain a mystery to me.

While reading Saul Bellows character sketch of Allan Bloom I felt a heap of emotions: admiration, pity, envy, and ultimately, a sense of awe. “Ravelstein” had been through hell and back. He possessed questionable habits, a rough exterior, and an aura of respectability that strengthened his hold on others’ lives.

Ravelstein, a mentor to many, always had “disciples” and former students with whom he’d engage, teach, and continue counsel. While he clearly benefited from these relationships, and found meaning in their continuation, it seemed somehow incomplete. I couldn’t help but feel that Ravelstein was an isolated individual, being a mentor to all and mentee to none. Even the author, arguably his closest friend, felt that Ravelstein was more of a teacher to him than anything, and that’s with Bellow being 15 years his senior.

Admirable character or not, it’s worth noting that each and every one of Ravelstein’s maintained relationships functioned on a greater depth than most (if not all) of my relationships. Some of us are lucky to have one or two friends with whom we can discuss anything and everything that’s worth discussing- the things that really matter. Many of us are not so lucky. Ravelstein seemed to surround himself exclusively with people who cared about the greater things in life, and shared his insatiable thirst for truth and knowledge. Philosophy, faith, politics, history have become reserved for the academics, while we laymen speak only of sports, television, or the weather.

Among the keys to Ravelstein’s relationships: Full access. No topic was off the table, and Ravelstein seemed to be 100% open about his thoughts, experiences, history, and feelings. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two.

I can see how one who hadn't yet read "The Closing of the American Mind" would give "Ravelstein" a negative review, as the former provides a backdrop and foundation to complement the latter's narrative. It's only in light of Bloom's revolutionary work that one can appreciate the uniqueness of his character, and construct a clearer image of the man being portrayed. It certainly helps to juxtapose the ideals in the critique with those portrayed in the novel.

In the end, I’m still undecided about Ravelstein, but Bellow’s final words ring true, “You don’t easily give up a creature like Ravelstein to death.”

Key Takeaway: "It was an excellent thing, I thought, to have my faults and feelings pointed out by someone who cared about me," (98). Everyone needs a friend like this. Let’s not forget what Proverbs 27:6 tells us, “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Ignacio
Es lo primero que leo del autor y al parecer no es su novela más popular, pero sí la última. Suele ocurrir que buenos autores se relajen una vez que se han consagrado como tales, dándose el lujo de escribir lo que quieren y cómo quieren. Tendré en cuenta que el Nobel de literatura lo recibió en 1976 y esta novela la publicó el año 2000, cinco años antes de su muerte.
No está muy rigurosamente bien escrito, pero da la impresión de mucha honestidad. Quizás se debe a que el narrador protagonista es Es lo primero que leo del autor y al parecer no es su novela más popular, pero sí la última. Suele ocurrir que buenos autores se relajen una vez que se han consagrado como tales, dándose el lujo de escribir lo que quieren y cómo quieren. Tendré en cuenta que el Nobel de literatura lo recibió en 1976 y esta novela la publicó el año 2000, cinco años antes de su muerte.
No está muy rigurosamente bien escrito, pero da la impresión de mucha honestidad. Quizás se debe a que el narrador protagonista es un escritor judío -al igual que Bellow- que narra en primera y tercera persona revelando intimidades de su experiencia como intelectual judío americano.
El relato gira en torno a la relación de amistad con un filósofo (Ravelstein) al cual el narrador intenta poner en el centro de atención volviéndose a veces excesivamente descriptivo de las características y excentricidades de su amigo, para finalmente dejar ver que es un viaje de autoconocimiento del narrador a través del espejo de Ravelstein y del valor de las relaciones humanas profundas que marcan la historia personal.
Como todo el libro huele mucho a autobiografía, investigué sobre él y encontré datos que indican que Bellow se habría basado para escribirla en su amistad con el filósofo de Chicago Allan Bloom. Lo que reafirma mi teoría sobre que los buenos escritores al final de la vida se dan el lujo de escribir lo que quieren y cómo quieren.
Helen
It was difficult to decipher this book. In fact, it took me a lot of effort to work through it.
Abe Ravelstein (Allan Bloom) was a fascinating character. He delved in his paradoxes, and it could have been really easy to dislike him if Bellow did not represent the amazing amount of humanity Ravelstein had.
He criticized the way the modern world was going and yet he loved gossip and was an avid-consumer on the most expensive of products.
He was highly opinionated and had a huge dislike for nature a It was difficult to decipher this book. In fact, it took me a lot of effort to work through it.
Abe Ravelstein (Allan Bloom) was a fascinating character. He delved in his paradoxes, and it could have been really easy to dislike him if Bellow did not represent the amazing amount of humanity Ravelstein had.
He criticized the way the modern world was going and yet he loved gossip and was an avid-consumer on the most expensive of products.
He was highly opinionated and had a huge dislike for nature and solitude, thinking it as a waste of time.

Ravelstein was a character of so many contradictions that what really drew me to him was his true friendship with Chick, and his views on love and fulfillment. A love that "bears it out even to the edge of doom." something nearly impossible to find.

The discussion of the 2 characters about being Jews, was an interesting account on history for me. With all the prejudice and hate that many Jews encountered during Hitler's reign.

This book was an interesting read because it's been rare occasions where I've encountered a character who is so complex, that even a novel about him hardly can define him.
Ravelstein is a character that you can agree and disagree with, and that's what makes him so special.
Laura Harmon
It's hard to say how I feel about this book, in part because it is so caught up in the University of Chicago scene, and having gone there, it's hard to say how I feel about that too. There were parts of this book that I loved only because I identified with them on a personal level (like describing the parakeet colonies in Hyde Park). But the whole focus of the book, to give a portrait of Bloom's personality as a superstar professor, left me kind of turned off. I've had experience with professors It's hard to say how I feel about this book, in part because it is so caught up in the University of Chicago scene, and having gone there, it's hard to say how I feel about that too. There were parts of this book that I loved only because I identified with them on a personal level (like describing the parakeet colonies in Hyde Park). But the whole focus of the book, to give a portrait of Bloom's personality as a superstar professor, left me kind of turned off. I've had experience with professors who sound very similar to him, and in the end, there's just something masturbatory about that whole scene, not to mention the whole other level that comes with writing an actual book about it. Some parts made me smile, but some made me grimace, and I think it's totally based on my close, love-hate relationship to the setting.
Rich
A sadly mediocre book. Bellow, at times, is on the verge of doing or saying something important, but seems to always step past those opportunities.

The book is a fictionalized memoir of Bellow's friend Allan Bloom, who is portrayed in this book as the fictional professor Ravelstein. The most redeeming feature of the book is that it juxtaposes Bloom's criticism of American culture with the love and passion for trivial things, such as designer clothing and stereo equipment. Ravelstein comes across A sadly mediocre book. Bellow, at times, is on the verge of doing or saying something important, but seems to always step past those opportunities.

The book is a fictionalized memoir of Bellow's friend Allan Bloom, who is portrayed in this book as the fictional professor Ravelstein. The most redeeming feature of the book is that it juxtaposes Bloom's criticism of American culture with the love and passion for trivial things, such as designer clothing and stereo equipment. Ravelstein comes across as both sophisticated and childish, critical and gullible, but these opposing kinds of traits convincingly. He's much like the real intellectuals one might encounter, regardless of their political orientation.
Sheila
I read "Closing of the American Mind" long ago, and came away angry at Allan Bloom as an apologist for the conservative ranters of the 1980s-90s Culture Wars. It was only later, with Bloom's last book, "Love and Friendship", that I came to revise my views a bit about the man. Saul Bellow's "Ravelstein" gives us a fictionalised Allan Bloom who's brilliant, maddening, sad, funny, and deeply human--- a character made for a Bellow novel. It's possible to love Ravelstein for his love of learning and I read "Closing of the American Mind" long ago, and came away angry at Allan Bloom as an apologist for the conservative ranters of the 1980s-90s Culture Wars. It was only later, with Bloom's last book, "Love and Friendship", that I came to revise my views a bit about the man. Saul Bellow's "Ravelstein" gives us a fictionalised Allan Bloom who's brilliant, maddening, sad, funny, and deeply human--- a character made for a Bellow novel. It's possible to love Ravelstein for his love of learning and the mind, for his sheer Epicurean pleasure in fine objects and fine foods and wine, for his passionate belief in the powers of Eros and friendship...even if you disagree with his politics. A fine, melancholy, insightful novel, and a clear-eyed tribute to a lost friend.
Douglas Singer
Abe Ravelstein is a decadent, controversial philosopher dying from HIV complications. Saul Bellow writes masterfully about his friendship with Ravelstein (Allan Bloom in real life) and the quirks that made the man a singular figure in American culture. It was Bellow's final novel. Although riveted by the book (Bellow ranks among the best of writers), it gave me a bit of distaste for Ravelstein himself. It's hard to find atheists lovable when they promote a message and lifestyle so contrary to yo Abe Ravelstein is a decadent, controversial philosopher dying from HIV complications. Saul Bellow writes masterfully about his friendship with Ravelstein (Allan Bloom in real life) and the quirks that made the man a singular figure in American culture. It was Bellow's final novel. Although riveted by the book (Bellow ranks among the best of writers), it gave me a bit of distaste for Ravelstein himself. It's hard to find atheists lovable when they promote a message and lifestyle so contrary to your own beliefs.
Jono Balliett
wow. this is the one and only bellow book I have read to date. it was great. The characters were so complex. I did loads of research on the content of their conversations and their ideas. Bellow is truly a sophisticated intellectual. it took allot of work for me to keep up with him but it was worth it. I learned allot from the characters. I think bellow enjoyed slowly killing off abe ravelstein. It must have been like slaying a titan. anyone reading this could tell there was a sort of contempt f wow. this is the one and only bellow book I have read to date. it was great. The characters were so complex. I did loads of research on the content of their conversations and their ideas. Bellow is truly a sophisticated intellectual. it took allot of work for me to keep up with him but it was worth it. I learned allot from the characters. I think bellow enjoyed slowly killing off abe ravelstein. It must have been like slaying a titan. anyone reading this could tell there was a sort of contempt for the dude. I wonder what bellow would say.
Maurizio Manco
"Il bel tempo peggiora le cose. La patina che il sole mette sul paesaggio, il trionfo della vita, per così dire, il rigoglio di ogni cosa mi precipita nella disperazione. Non sarò mai all'altezza della massa di tutte queste ore di vita trionfante." (p. 50)

"Più invecchi, più brutte sono le scoperte che fai sul tuo conto." (p. 180)
Lin Shuang
Abe and Chick are intriguing characters, so are the many other characters, amusing, charming, and interesting. Then the craft of the language, it gives me incredible delight. The best part of it feels like butterscotch, smooth, pleasant, and thoroughly enjoyable. I keep going back just for the butterscotch feeling, and hold this book as one my golden standard.
Bobby
First book by Bellow I read. Good introduction to his style and sense of humor. And it is apparently a reflection on his mentor, author/academic Allan Bloom from U of Chicago. Bloom wrote The Closing of the American Mind.
Alan
Entertaining book on life, love and frienship. Ravelstein isn't Herzog or Humboldt, but Bellow is mining a similar theme in a minor key. A medium Bellow, though, is still twice as good as most other writers.
Elizabeth
It picked up once Ravelstein's sickness increased and then wound down in a nice way. It took me over 50% of the book to engage though and I was happy to put it aside. Perhaps it was too lofty for me.
Esther
His final book and as sparkling with that unique prose as those he wrote some 40 years previously. A rather structureless narrative however, more a character study than story. But I can only hope to be as creative and energetic when I am pushing 90.
Gregory Milliron
This is the first book by Saul Bellow that I have read. I won't judge his works based on this novel because I have read that it is a poor example of his talent. I look forward to reading something more engaging from this famous author;
Petter
Entertaining, but not my cup of tea. I don't know, it sort of slipped, all the descriptions of prof. Ravelstein and the intellectual references that surrounds the story. Aids, Death and being Jewish are some themes here. Glad to have read Bellow, finally.
Barbara
Lotta bro love going down here. Sort of like Tennyson's In Memoriam - pages of tedium and some occasional brilliance. But it's hard to get excited about it when you don't know the deceased. It is at times thought provoking but I don't think this sort of narrative tribute works well as a novel.
Rosalind
This is very clearly autobiographical - one can tell from the intensity, passion and very touching tributes between too very close friends. That knowledge makes it somewhat uncomfortable reading, in the unvarnished portrait of a previous wife. It is, however an engaging book.
Jp
Bellow fictionalizes Allan Bloom, his friend and U of Chicago professor best known for his polarizing "The Closing of the American Mind". It is an elegy of sorts, something I might have expected Homer to write of a close friend, with both faults and assets in full view.
incipit mania
En pleno estado de gracia y madurez, Bellow vuelve a inventarse una manera de superarse a sí mismo, partiendo justamente de sí mismo, en esta novela que pretende ser la biografía de un erudito profesor universitario, genio rebelde y homosexual.
Danielle Valera
This is a subtle book, and many people aren't going to be willing to hang around sufficiently long to get it. I hung in there and I'm glad I did. It's got some very fine writing, and its subtlety is refreshing in this day and age.
Tom
Bellow is weak on pacing as usual but there's no doubt that, especially in its final moments, this is a warm and moving meditation on friendship, personality and death, written by one of America's finest in the twilight of his life.
Edward
A novel of thoughts and love. I am on a Saul Bellow reading thing at present, this being the third Saul Bellow novel this year. A similar theme runs through his work - the angst of an intellectual. I really did like the characters in Ravelstein, their thoughts and their loves.
Yashar
This semi-biographical novel about the last years of life of Allan Bloom (the neo-conservative intellectual) masterfully transfers him into the character of Abe Ravelstein. A nostalgic journey into the ideas of intellectuals who are searching for utopia in ancient Greek sense.
Kevin Bradshaw
Not good. But it gets an extra star for at least being about a brilliant man, as well as informing us that Mircea Eliade, Celine, and Rudyard Kipling were loathsome anti-Semites.
Mike
It's good, but I don't reread it the way I would with "Henderson The Rain King"
Erik
Bellow is an outstanding writer and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found myself constantly rereading entire paragraphs because they were so brilliantly constructed.
Patrick Fay
Impressive to still be writing this well at his age. I really like his style and thoroughly enjoyed this as I have almost everything he has written.
Dave Moyer
Any Bellow fan who for some reason hasn't read this one should make it their next book.
Will Hubbard
Well-written, full of beautiful descriptions and references. Will read more of this author.
Jack Coleman
I love this man's erudite soul.Not too many writers have his cultural weight.
I love his description for the French Equivalent for window shopping "Leche vitrines" .... licking the plate glass.
Roy Kesey
Enjoyable enough, and very smart in spots, but less exuberant than the books of his I've loved, and less interesting in its language.
Sergiu Pop
Some interesting considerations about society, which got even more applicable in the following years.
Maureen
Bellow provies a very different view of a conservative hero in this thinly veiled bio of Allan Bloom - profligate, gossippy, and unabashedly gay. an excellent read.
Peter Rowe
Read at some point between 14-10-2000 and 04-12-2000.
James O'donoghue
My first of Bellow's books. Brilliant, sordid, nuanced and so real it seems implausible that its fiction.
Apu Borealis
Yes, he may well be the finest novelist of the century. At least I can't think of anyone better.
I read Ravelstein whenever I can, at least once a year for sure. A modern classic.
Jim
Fiction as memoir. Tribute to Allan Bloom.
Colin
Very cynical - but not nearly as down as Philip Roth's Everyman. And extremely well written.
Addie Dietrich
A book about an influential political philosopher (gay) from Chicago. I liked Henderson the Rain King and Herzog better.
Pedro Varanda
Um bom livro de Saul Bellow, que segue os retratos psicológicos habituais de personagens frágeis, sempre à procura de aceitação e onde a profundidade psicológica e a busca por um entendimento global atravessa todo o livro. Não é o seu melhor livro mas recomendo.
Neil Clarke
The master. Love is true friendship. A lesson in rising above.
Brendan
A touching memoir on friendship and old age. Not quite as serious as Bellow’s “serious” novels, not quite as funny as his humorous ones. An excellent read either way.
Herzog
Saul Bellow is among my favorite novelists (see nom de plume). I eagerly anticipated Ravelstein and read it when it first came out 10 years ago. I just finished rereading it and came away disappointed. I agree that the best parts of the book are Chick's descriptions of Ravelstein and his mannerisms. The other characters in the book mostly make cameo appearances with a few exceptions like Vela. I thought that the final 25% of the book was especially week dealing with Chick's illness in the Caribb Saul Bellow is among my favorite novelists (see nom de plume). I eagerly anticipated Ravelstein and read it when it first came out 10 years ago. I just finished rereading it and came away disappointed. I agree that the best parts of the book are Chick's descriptions of Ravelstein and his mannerisms. The other characters in the book mostly make cameo appearances with a few exceptions like Vela. I thought that the final 25% of the book was especially week dealing with Chick's illness in the Caribbean, return to Boston and ultimate recovery. I'll have to be satisfied with Bellow's earlier novels.
Rowland
Saul Bellow here explores the common themes of his heroes, larger-than-life, gastronomic conversationalists all, and Ravelstein is a kind of ultimate, because he has made a surprise million or two with a book of his ideas, suggested by his pal Chick, the "author" of this book. It's hard to say exactly what this novel is about, it's as much about Chick as about Ravelstein, and contains hundreds of gnomic observations about life, both in particular and in general. Bellow is a stylist whom you can Saul Bellow here explores the common themes of his heroes, larger-than-life, gastronomic conversationalists all, and Ravelstein is a kind of ultimate, because he has made a surprise million or two with a book of his ideas, suggested by his pal Chick, the "author" of this book. It's hard to say exactly what this novel is about, it's as much about Chick as about Ravelstein, and contains hundreds of gnomic observations about life, both in particular and in general. Bellow is a stylist whom you can read without worrying what the text is actually about. This book is not for everyone, probably not for the ladies and not for anyone under about 65. Otherwise, highly recommended.
Danae
Ravelstein lives his life in academia but fulfills it through the progeny he has set out on the world stage. He is lusty, opinionated, irreverent. When his old pal Chick encourages him to write about his philosophy, the book becomes an unlikely best seller and is quoted by academics and politicians alike. For a while, Ravelstein's life gets fast tracked until personal tragedy catches up.
Bellow wrote this roman a clef in honor of his late friend and colleague, Alan Bloom. A tender read of a belov Ravelstein lives his life in academia but fulfills it through the progeny he has set out on the world stage. He is lusty, opinionated, irreverent. When his old pal Chick encourages him to write about his philosophy, the book becomes an unlikely best seller and is quoted by academics and politicians alike. For a while, Ravelstein's life gets fast tracked until personal tragedy catches up.
Bellow wrote this roman a clef in honor of his late friend and colleague, Alan Bloom. A tender read of a beloved friend It was to be Bellow's last novel. A quick engaging read by a Nobel prize winning American author.
John
A bit tedious, Ravenstein's main appeal would seem to the fact that it is probably the most blatant roman a clef masquarading as a novel. All of the characters are based on actualy people, many of whom taught at the University of Chicago. Ravenstein is the late American scholar and literary critic Allen Bloom. Bellow himself is a model for one of the main characters. There is even one character based on Paul Wolfowitz, the neo-conservative Washington insider who fashioned George W. Bush's Iraq p A bit tedious, Ravenstein's main appeal would seem to the fact that it is probably the most blatant roman a clef masquarading as a novel. All of the characters are based on actualy people, many of whom taught at the University of Chicago. Ravenstein is the late American scholar and literary critic Allen Bloom. Bellow himself is a model for one of the main characters. There is even one character based on Paul Wolfowitz, the neo-conservative Washington insider who fashioned George W. Bush's Iraq policies. Bellow could easily have assigned the actual names and passed this book off as a memoir.
B. R. Reed
This is a book about friendship, death, philosophy and other matters of the heart. It is not a plot driven book but rather a book about two old friends and one is dying. The one dying, Ravelstein (Allan Bloom), requested that his friend, Chick (Saul Bellow) write a memoir and the product is this book. It's an intelligent book because one of the men is a famous and well respected academic and the other is a Nobel Prize winning writer. Very entertaining book containing both sadness and humor. Saul This is a book about friendship, death, philosophy and other matters of the heart. It is not a plot driven book but rather a book about two old friends and one is dying. The one dying, Ravelstein (Allan Bloom), requested that his friend, Chick (Saul Bellow) write a memoir and the product is this book. It's an intelligent book because one of the men is a famous and well respected academic and the other is a Nobel Prize winning writer. Very entertaining book containing both sadness and humor. Saul Bellow's last novel published when he was about 84. I enjoyed it very much.
Patrick McCoy
Ravelstein is Saul Bellow’s last novel published in 2000, when he was 85. It has a certain affinity with Philip Roth’s Everyman in that it is preoccupied with old age, sex, and death. The narrator comes across a cranky and cantankerous using outdated slang and descriptions of modern life. Ravelstein is an undisguised Allan Bloom, who comes off as a pompous blow hard. All in all, I found it a bit disappointing since it doesn’t have the vigor of earlier work like Augie March nor the poetry and pat Ravelstein is Saul Bellow’s last novel published in 2000, when he was 85. It has a certain affinity with Philip Roth’s Everyman in that it is preoccupied with old age, sex, and death. The narrator comes across a cranky and cantankerous using outdated slang and descriptions of modern life. Ravelstein is an undisguised Allan Bloom, who comes off as a pompous blow hard. All in all, I found it a bit disappointing since it doesn’t have the vigor of earlier work like Augie March nor the poetry and pathos of Herzog.
Stuart
“Saul Bellow is one of my favourite authors, and what can I say, he has done another brilliant job in Ravlestein. I loved this book and of all the subjects that it touched. At first I thought it was a bit difficult, but I came to fall in love with the story. Perhaps my only complaint is that some of the French that is used in the dialogues is not very well explained. Overall, it is another beautifully written novel by Saul Bellow, and I highly recommend it, perhaps I will take my own recommendat “Saul Bellow is one of my favourite authors, and what can I say, he has done another brilliant job in Ravlestein. I loved this book and of all the subjects that it touched. At first I thought it was a bit difficult, but I came to fall in love with the story. Perhaps my only complaint is that some of the French that is used in the dialogues is not very well explained. Overall, it is another beautifully written novel by Saul Bellow, and I highly recommend it, perhaps I will take my own recommendation and reread it.”
Maya Lang
I adore Bellow, but this novel falls flat. The prose is redundant, with none of the artistry and verve of Herzog. While I appreciate the tribute to Allan Bloom, the character portrait is accomplished in the first thirty pages. The novel then stalls, limps, huffs, puffs, wheezes, meanders, repeats itself like poor Ravelstein himself. To me, this is a stark reminder of why fiction writers should never "write what they know." The life of the imagination is more fertile, more productive ground.
Michael
Bellow has always been a tough read for me; I read Mr. Sammler's Planet in college and didn't get very far in Herzog some time later. I enjoyed Ravelstein, but I can't say that I "got it." Probably in the context of a literature class I would have loved it and written a paper about it, but as a casual read without guidance, I felt like I was only skimming the surface. Yet another reason I'm glad I quit grad school when I did.
Ronald Wise
A story of the relationship between the successful college professor Abe Ravelstein and his close friend Chick. Many interesting references to philosophers and other thinkers throughout history. Through tangential research of my own, I learned that the distinction between biography and fiction are blurry with this book. Some reviewers have speculated that this story is a veiled account of Bellow's relationship with his late friend Allan Bloom at the University of Chicago.
Erik
Worth reading for the chapters near the end after Bellow eats a fish in the Caribbean that gives him cigueatera toxin poisoning and makes him go insane. The UofC gossip is pretty juicy as well. Here's your cracker jack decoder ring: Ravelstein = Bloom; Chick = Bellow; Nikki = Michael Wu; Rakhmiel Kogon = Edward Shils/Leszek Kolakowski; Felix Davarr = Leo Strauss; Morris Herbst = Werner Dannhauser; Radu Grielescu = Mircea Eliade. I'd heard that Tarcov's in there too but I couldn't find him.
Frederick Gault
With Bellow I find that I need Wikipedia open on my laptop to follow the rollcoaster trajectory of this incredible mind. I often take hours-long detours into the arcane because Bellow's breezy style makes me really want to find out what the hell he enjoys so much. This means that a quick review of Plato's Symposium might be followed by reading the poetry of Delmore Schwartz before I can turn the page!
Josh Kellar
Maybe not the best introduction to Bellow. That being said, I thought the book was a little disjointed and the parts that I liked were tempered by a difficult-to-ignore misogyny.

If I discount those episodes, however, I can see bits of Bellow's brilliance peeking out in a few paragaphs here and there, and the end was disturbing, but effective.
Andrew Langridge
This is a curious novel about the nature of friendship and love, their value augmented by approaching death. Art and love as embodiments of Eros is a central theme.
It is certainly a masterful portrayal of Ravelstein as a character, but owing to the fact it really just consists of a series of anecdotes, the work feels to me a little half-baked.
Sam Snideman
I thought it was a tremendous book. I think Bellow is a fascinating story-teller, and I thought he painted a lovely and intimate portrait of his dear friend, despite the somewhat fictionalized accounts. I told my wife that I hope that when I die, I have as capable a friend to commemorate me as Dr. Bloom did in Mr. Bellow.
Vicki
I know it's against the law not to like Saul Bellow, but I thought this book was pretentious and the character not likable even a LITTLE bit. Boring....I want to read other Bellow, but I think this book got such acclaim because Bellow was near the end of his life when he wrote it, if I recall correctly. If a woman had written this book, it would not have even been COVERED by the press.
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