I found its plot entirely believable - and you know, a LOT of outlandish things seem ENTIRELY credible to an old guy like me, after all Ive been through. True, because weve all forgotten were only human and were all castaways in life. Benn and Kenneths story, though, may seem to you a bit TOO human and lost. But Bellow downplays the sorrow - and because he sees Benn and his nephew as such decent, lost souls, and because all their close calls seem stage-managed by their Guardian Angels, Life seems to let them off lightly. And you may recover a bit of your lost, more human, side too, when you savour the gooey centre of the chocolate!
Un giovane intellettuale lascia la Francia e raggiunge l'America per stare accanto allo zio, celeberrimo botanico, che pare bisognoso di protezione. Il più maturo zio, da anni vedovo, deve districarsi, impacciato com'è, nella vita sentimentale, spesso intrappolato da donne scaltre e bellissime. Fra le signore che ruotano intorno allo zio, Caroline è colta ed evanescente, forse era il litio a darle quest'aria di lontananza, una donna "che se avesse il baule del corredo, sarebbe pieno di cocaina".
It is a story of two modest savants an uncle and his nephew According to one of his colleagues, and colleagues are generally the last to say such things, Benn was a botanist of a high level of distinction. Thats an uncle a shy widowed botanist. Like my father before me, I do lots of traveling. Less than Uncle Benn, who is a demon traveler himself, but far too much. When he traveled around the world, his professional cover was roots, leaves, stems and flowers, but actually there was a rival force of great strength. Part of his Eros had been detached from plants and switched to girls. The world of corrupted love, the world of corrupted morals, the world of corrupted politics: the scientists find themselves in the alien milieu they are like a pair of katydids fallen into a pond full of frogs.
Education and book knowledge goes only so far (hide spoiler)
He feels more of a kinship with his Uncle Benn, a botanist at a midwestern university, and moves to the same school. The focus of the novel is Uncle's failed romantic relationships after his wife's death, in particular his marriage to the much younger, beautiful and wealthy Matilda Layamon. You've got no truth to life if you omit such masculine conjectures, and you will see that even Uncle, for all his vegetable reveries, had entertained similar pictures." Matilda's father, a doctor, had also given her anatomy a great deal of thought. At an expensive lunch he tells Uncle: "I've always been curious about Matilda's biology. Matilda's father puts him in a white lab coat and takes him on rounds, where all his elderly female patients with hip injuries obligingly reveal their "mounds of Venus." Uncle begins to have arrhythmia as a result of Layamon's prank. But several months later he cries to Kenneth, "Why are Matilda's breasts so far apart!" It turns out that perhaps Uncle isn't ready for love.
Since this is Bellow we're talking about, both are intellectuals: Benn is a famous botanist whose only truly passionate relationship is with plants. The central plot deals with Benn's relationship with his younger, beautiful second wife, Matilda, who seems to have married him primarily for his celebrity -- she envisions herself presiding over a salon -- but also because there is a chance that he can become a millionaire. Everybody in the novel wants something -- Kenneth wants to marry the mother of his daughter -- except Benn, who just wants to be left alone with his plants.
The plot, which doesn't emerge until about halfway through the book, has to do with the two women they've become entwined with, the uncle with a rich, younger wife, whose family is using him in a get rich (get richer, really, they already have money) quick scheme, the nephew with a young woman who has had a child with him but prefers men who beat her up.
Both Herzog and Mr. Sammler's Planet were awarded the National Book Award for fiction. Mr. Bellow's first non-fiction work, To Jerusalem and Back: A Personal Account, published on October 25,1976, is his personal and literary record of his sojourn in Israel during several months in 1975. In 1965 Mr. Bellow was awarded the International Literary Prize for Herzog, becoming the first American to receive the prize.