2015 will mark the centenary of Saul Bellow's birth as well as the tenth anniversary of his death. The Life of Saul Bellow by Zachary Leader is the first biography since the author's death and the first to discuss his life and work in its entirety. Leader has been granted unprecedented access to Bellow's papers, including much previously restricted material and has conducted interviews with Bellow's relatives, close friends, colleagues and lovers.
The first volume spans the period from Bellow's birth in 1915 in Lachine, Canada, to the publication of Herzog in 1964. Herzog made Bellow rich as well as famous. By the time of its publication, he was probably the most acclaimed writer in America. The critic James Wood has called him `the greatest writer of American prose in the twentieth century'. Leader's biography shows how this American prose, with its exhilarating mix of high culture and low, came into existence. It also traces Bellow's turbulent life away from the desk, as polemicist, teacher, husband, father, and lover. Fierce in his loyalties, Bellow was no less fierce in his enmities, combative in defence of his freedoms. A handsome and seductive man, he was also elusive, with a charm Philip Roth has described as `like a moat so oceanic that you could not even see the great turreted and buttressed thing it had been dug to protect. You couldn't even find the drawbridge.' This biography shows what it was like both to meet Bellow and to be him. It takes the full measure of the man and his work.