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Lead book review

Saul Bellow’s fiction: a warehouse of stolen property

According to Zachary Leader’s latest biography, Saul Bellow was a great looter of life, rifling his most painful relationships for material for his novels

2 May 2015

9:00 AM

2 May 2015

9:00 AM

The Life of Saul Bello: To Fame and Fortune, 1915–1964 Zachary Leader

Cape, pp.832, £35

Saul Bellow died in 2005. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976. The first installment of Zachary Leader’s exemplary, scrupulous, dispassionate, detailed, well-read, enthralling biography runs to over 800 pages and takes us only as far as 1964. The length is important. It allows Leader to adjudicate calmly, weigh the evidence — sometimes remaining undecided — and quote Bellow freely, so that the biographical narrative is enlivened by Bellow’s prodigally gifted prose, little injections of bliss.

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