Moses Harzog is a middle-aged professor who has at least one scholarly book to his credit but is bogged down in trying to write another one. He has been through two failed marriages and fathered two children. He agonizes over his condition with good reason because mentally he is falling apart.
He writes countless letters, some on paper, some in his mind, most of which he never sends. He has dialogues with dead philosophers telling them the points on which he disagrees.
His ethnic Jewish identity is totally ingrained. He has deep love for his deceased mother and a love-hate relationship with his deceased father while recognizing how much of his father is in him.
He seems to get his only relief in sexual encounters with a variety of women, some of whom are trying to lead him to a third marriage. He loves his children but is mostly an absentee father.
He is a brilliant but pathetic character.
The review of this Book prepared by Joan Teague
Herzog is in crisis. His marriages are kaput. His erudite first book has had no successor. He writes manic letters to the ghosts in his past. Down and out, he lives on old bread in what was once the country home of he and his wife, paid for with the money his father left him. The mice share his bread, and tunnel holes through the loaves.
The review of this Book prepared by Damon LaBarbera
Moses Herzog, a philosophy professor whose career started brilliantly but has stalled for some time, has been abandoned by his second wife Madeleine, a former student who took up with his best friend Valentine Gersbach. Through the course of this brilliant 1964 novel, one of Bellow's most admired, Herzog goes over the past (his two marriages, the child from each of them, his academic career, his infidelities) and obsessively writes letters (most of them unsent) to the people in his life as well as the occasional world leader or celebrity. Basically, Herzog has a nervous breakdown while trying to put his life back together and identify a future course. He discusses literature and argues with various philosophers along the way, so this is not light reading by any means, but terrific phrases and passages pop up throughout. "A man may say, 'From now on I'm going to speak the truth.' But the truth hears him and runs away and hides before he's even done speaking."
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus