"I am an American, Chicago born--Chicago, that somber city--and go at things as I have taught myself, free style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent."
From The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, 1953
Author Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976 and many other national and international book awards for his novels with colorful characters set in the context of Yiddish life in America. His parents emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia to Canada in 1913. Saul's birth name was Solomon and he was one of four children of Abraham and Lescha Bellow. His father worked as an importer of onions and Turkish figs. Saul was born on July 10, 1915 in a suburb called Lachine, that has since become part of Montreal, Quebec.
The Bellow family moved to Chicago in 1924 when Saul was nine years old. That same year his mother died. The family first lived in Humboldt Park, which was then a ghetto for East European Jews. Saul attended Lafayette School, Columbus Elementary School, and Sabin Junior High School. In 1933, Saul graduated from the old Tuley High School at 1300 N. Claremont in Wicker Park. Legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne also once attended Tuley when it was called Northwest Division High School in 1906. Tuley High was replaced by the new Roberto Clemente High School in 1974.
Saul studied English at the University of Chicago for two years from 1933 to 1935 but transferred after his second year. He earned his Bachelor's degree sociology and anthropology from Northwestern University in 1937.
Although he taught at several colleges around the country, Chicago was Saul's home base for most of the next 56 years and Chicago was the backdrop for many of his novels. He joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1963 and stayed there for thirty years. He also taught at Princeton University, Bard College, and the University of Minnesota.
Saul Bellow's first novel was Dangling Man published in 1944. His second was The Victim. During 1948 and 1949, Bellow travelled in Europe with the help of a Guggenheim Fellowship. While in Paris he started writing The Adventures of Augie March which won the National Book Award for fiction in 1954.
One of his most successful books was Herzog which was published in 1964. Bellow became the first American to win the International Literary Prize for that book in 1965. His book titled Humboldt's Gift is filled with a managerie of Chicago characters from writers to gangsters. The book was published in 1975 after Bellow's sadness over one if his failed marriages.
In about 1993, Saul moved from Chicago to the Boston area for his final years. He was married five times. Ironically two of his wives were both named Alexandra. Among the different remarkable facts about Saul Bellow is that he fathered his first daughter when he was 84 years old.
Saul Bellow died on April 5, 2005 at the age of 94. He is buried at a Jewish cemetery in Brattleboro, Vermont. Fans of the books of Saul Bellow might like to read more about him at the web site of the The Saul Bellow Society which is devoted to the study of his life and work.