Charles Citrine is a successful writer and playwright. He is also starting to feel old. His life is a tight web of relationships, entangled between his ex-wife suing him to get all of his money, his demanding young lover, Renata, and a petty gangster who has taken a bizarre interest in him. His intellectual life is turbolent and problematic, with his current investigation of Steiner and anthroposophy, the value and mission of the artist, and his constant study of his American fellow countrymen and their spirit. What’s more, his dearest friend, the late poet Von Humboldt Fleisher, keeps making Charlie feel ungrateful and depressed, and with the feeling that he should’ve been a better, closer, more supportive friend. But an unexpected posthumous gift is about to change everything.
This is the premise (maybe a bit pompous, I must say) of this book by Saul Bellow, an author that I loved long ago after reading Herzog, a great book. Humboldt’s Gift, besides its title being very hard to spell, is a very entertaining read, full of diverse and memorable characters. Bellow is a very profound observer of the human condition, but sometimes I’ve felt that the language and the long trains of thought were a bit less enjoyable than when I read it the first time around, back in 2011. Definitely recommended but I’m not sure you’ll love it.