Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Mr Sammler’s Planet – Saul Bellow 1969

A critique of American society and its legalization (or acceptance)of crimes as long as they make profit for the market.

“Sammler is obsessed with an understanding what causes a civilization to embrace ruthlessness as the best way to realize its ambitions and handle its fears” (Bellow, 1969, p.viii).

“The thing evidently, as Mr. Sammler was beginning to grasp, consisted of obtaining the privileges, and the free ways of barbarism, under the protection of civilized order, property rights, refined technological organization, and so on. Yes, that must be it.” (Bellow, 1969, p.4).

“Power and money of course do drive people crazy. So why shouldn’t people gain power and wealth through being crazy?” (Bellow, 1969, p.52).

“Of course he was rich, but the rich were usually mean. Not able to separate themselves form the practices that had made the money: infighting, habitual fraud, mad agility in compound deceit, the strange conversaitons of legitimate swindling.” (Bellow, 1969, p.61).

Another theme are the endless possibilities in post-war society and how they actually are restricting to people. Bellow constantly opposes these possibilities with finalities
like the death of his nephew and mankind moving to the moon.

Saint Augustine: “”The Devil hath established his cities I the North.” (…) But now Augustine’s odd statement required a new interpretation. (…) The labor of Puritanism now was ending. The dark satanic mills changing into light satanic mills. The reprobates converted into children of joy, the sexual ways of the seraglio and the Congo bush adopted by the emancipated masses of New York, Amsterdam, London.” (Bellow, 1969, p.25).

“the struggles of three revolutionalry centuries being won while the feudal bonds of Church and family weakened and the privileges of aristocracy (without any duties) spread wide, democratized, especially the libidinous privileges, the right to be uninhibited, spontaneous, urinating, defacating, belching, coupling in all positions, tripling, quadrupling, polymorphous” (Bellow, 1969, p.26).

“For what it amounted to was limitless demand – insatiability, refusal of the doomed creature (death beingsure and final) to go away from this earth unsatisfied. A full bill of demand and complaint was therefore presented by each individual. Recognizing no scarcity of supply in any human department. Enlightenment? Marvelous! But out of hand, wasn’t it?” (Bellow, 1969, p.27).

“In their revulsion from authority they would respect no persons. Not even their own persons.” (Bellow, 1969, p.29).

“Humankind could not endure futurelessness. As of now, death was the sole visible future.” (Bellow, 1969, p.60).

“Feffer could not let him go. Feffer could not be quiet. His need was to be perpetually arresting, radiant with fresh interest.” (Bellow, 1969, p.101).

“In a revolution you took away the privileges of an aristocracy and redistributed them. What did equality mean? (…) it meant that all belonged to the elite. Killing was an ancient privilege. This was why revolution plunged into blood.” (Bellow, 1969, p.118).

“This attempt to make interest was, for Mr. Sammler, one reason for the pursuit of madness. Madness makes interest.” (Bellow, 1969, p.119).

“Both the USA and the UDSSR were, for Sammler, utopian projects. There, in the East, the emphasis was on low-level goods, on shoes, caps, toilet-plungers, and tin basins for peasants and laborers. Here it fell uponcertain privileges and joys. Here wading naked into the waters of paradies, et cetera.” (Bellow, 1969, p.129).

“I think we may summarize my meaning in terms like these: that many have surged forward in modern history, after long epochs f namelessness and bitter obscurity, to claim and enjoy (as people enjoy things now) a name, a dignity of person, a life such as belonged in the past only to the gentry, nobility, the royalty or the gods of myth. And that this surge has, like all such great movemets, brought misery and despair (…). As long as there is no ethical life and everything is poured so barbarously and recklessly into personal gesture this must be endured. And there is a peculiar longing for nonbeing. Maybe it is more accurate to say that people want to visit all states of being in a diffused state of consciousness, not wishing to be any given thing but instead to become comprehensive, entering leaving at will.” (Bellow, 1969, p.194).

“Of course at the moment of launching fom this planet to another somethingwas ended, finalities were demanded, summaries. Everyone appeared to feel this need. (…) each accented more strongly his own subjective style and the pracices by which he was known. Thus Wallace, on the day of destiny for his father, roared and snored in the Cessna, snapping photographs. Thus Shula, hiding from Sammler, was undoubtedly going to hunt for treasure, for the alleged abortion dollars. Thus Angela, making more experiments in sensuality, in sexology, smearing all with her female fluids. This Eisen with his art, the Negro with his penis. And in the serie, but not finally, himself with his condensed views. Eliminating the superfluous. Identifying the necessary.” (Bellow, 1969, p.230).

“The best, I have found, is to be disinterested. Not as misanthropes dissociate themselves, by judging, but by not judging.” (Bellow, 1969, p.195).

“It is fearful! Not to be borne! Intolerable! Let us divert each other while we live.” (Bellow, 1969, p.244

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