Norman Manea

memories, The Norman Manea author series, Polirom, 2008, 200 pages

Copyright: Represented by The Wylie Agency

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Book presentation

This interview, given by Saul Bellow to Norman Manea in December 1999, is part of the Jerusalem Literary Project’s Words & Images series, in collaboration with the Ben Gurion University of Negev, Israel.

Saul Bellow, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and one of the titans of American and world literature, looks back over the most important moments of his life, in dialogue with his friend Norman Manea. A first-generation American, descendant of a Jewish family that emigrated from tsarist Russia, Bellow worked his way up from the bottom, unloading coal and wood to help support his family. In his youth, he flirted with the Left. He was married a number of times (once to a Romanian, whence his intimate knowledge of the country, reinforced by a visit to Romania in the 1970s, reflected in the novel The Dean’s Winter). He knew Eugène Ionesco and Mircea Eliade, and paints sparkling and unsparing portraits of them. The interview was given a few years before the American writer’s death, old enough then to look back at his past with irony and detachment, young enough still to become a father one last time…
This dialogue treats the accidental and renders the essential in their true depth and importance. If there is anything that unifies the sections of the book – childhood, family and bohemian beginnings ; the artist and intellectual ; Jewishness ; social struggle and ideas, love and death – it is humor, “the placing of all kinds of strange things in an amusing light,” the comical, the relaxed, subtle and profound way in which Bellow answers questions put to him.


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