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The Adventures of Augie March
The Adventures of Augie March
THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH, by Saul Bellow
THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH (1953), the third published novel by Saul Bellow, established him as one of the leading writers of American fiction. Told in the rich, at times riotously intricate style that would become the author's trademark, it is a coming-of-age story about a young Jewish American in depression-era Chicago and beyond. Bellow himself was born to a family of Russian Jews that arrived in Chicago in 1924, when Solomon (later Saul) was nine years old. But to the degree that the novel is autobiographical, this is true spiritually far more than literally; indeed, whereas Bellow was born in Canada, in the novel's opening lines, Augie announces himself "Chicago born." The narrative structure is picaresque, embodying a series of wide-ranging incidents and encounters, often in defiance of the expectations of a straightforwardly plotted tale. In one entirely fantastic episode set during World War II, Augie floats partway across the Atlantic on a makeshift raft, accompanied by a madman. But it is the portrayal of urban life -- its seductive madness, its variety of characters and constant capacity for surprise -- that is at the heart of Bellow's mission. And, always, there is the matter of language and its possibilities: we find here an author harkening back to some of the greatest exponents of American English -- Melville, Whitman, Twain -- in order to carve out a new idiom for a new era in the nation's growth.

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The American Novel