Amis on Bellow

Martin Amis has a tribute to Saul Bellow in the December issue of The Atlantic.

The American novel, having become dominant, was in turn dominated by the Jewish-American novel, and everybody knows who dominated that: Saul Bellow. His was and is a pre-eminence that rests not on sales figures and honorary degrees, not on rosettes and sashes, but on incontestable legitimacy. To hold otherwise is to waste your breath.

Amis talks about the preoccupations of Saul Bellow’s characters, and adds:

Of course, the Jewish-American novel subsumes the experience of the immigrant, with an “old country” at one remove; and the emphasis is on the anxiety of entitlement (marked in Roth, too, and in Malamud). It is not an anxiety about succeeding, about making good; it is an anxiety about the right to pronounce, the right to judge