CONVERSATIONS WITH SAUL BELLOW ON ESOTERIC-SPIRITUAL MATTERS
A Publisher’s Recollections
Stephen E. Usher
“The unending cycle of crises that began with the First World War has formed a kind of person, one who has lived through terrible, strange things, and in whom there is an observable shrinkage of prejudices, a casting off of disappointing ideologies, an ability to live with many kinds of madness, an immense desire for certain durable human goods—truth, for instance, or freedom, or wisdom. I don’t think I am exaggerating; there is plenty of evidence for this.... The intelligent public is...waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, social theory, and what it cannot hear from pure science. Out of the struggle...has come an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are, and what this life is for.” —Saul Bellow, Nobel Lecture, 1976
In 1975, Saul Bellow published his eighth novel, Humboldt’s Gift, in which the main protagonist is occupied with, among other things, the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Although the novel was an immediate success, winning a Pulitzer Prize and leading to Bellow’s Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976, the unapologetic presence of Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy in a work of such obvious cultural importance was, and remains, puzzling for many commentators. A sentence from one contemporary review of the novel is typical: “I am not clear whether Charlie’s devotion to Steiner’s Anthroposophy is one of Mr. Bellow’s more obscure jokes or is meant seriously.”
Readers with more than a passing knowledge of Steiner’s work, however, immediately recognized that, behind Bellow’s artful depiction of Charlie Citrine, is Bellow’s authentic and unbiased effort to come to terms with Anthroposophy.
Stephen Usher, who five years later became the manager of Anthroposophic Press (now SteinerBooks), was one such reader. This small book is a personal account of the conversations and correspondence that followed their meeting through a mutual acquaintance, and includes the foreword Saul Bellow wrote then for a book of lectures by Rudolf Steiner, The Boundaries of Natural Science (included in this book).
22 February 2018; Illustrations: Colour and b/w; SB; 72pp; 20 x 12.5 cm; pb;
£11.99 ISBN 9781621482079