To Jerusalem and Back: A Personal Account

by Saul Bellow

Book, 1976



Call number

848 BEL



New York : Viking Press, 1976.


This extraordinary book is the result of Saul Bellow's sojourn in Israel in 1975. A personal record of his stay-his experiences and impressions-as well as a meditation, it crackles with wit and controversy on America's relationship with this embattled country. Using quick sketches and vignettes, Bellow captures the personal opinions, passions, and dreams of several Israelis, and he also adds to these his own reflections on being Jewish in the twentieth century. The varying viewpoints of those he encounters and interviews offer a revealing look at the history and challenges of Israel, and Bellow's passionate storytelling draws listeners in to share in his experience.

Media reviews

Palestine Digest
Saul Bellow’s report of his trip to Israel is subtitled “a personal account.” As such, it cannot be faulted. No doubt it reflects his perceptions. But these are alleged to relate to the social and historical reality. Here, some serious questions arise. Bellow speaks of his “American
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even-handedness” and “objectivity,” which so irritate his Israeli hosts. In fact, he is a propagandist’s delight. He has produced a catalogue of What Every Good American Should Believe, as compiled by the Israeli Information Ministry. Everything is predictable. No cliche is missing. Like any collection of random shots, some of Bellow’s comments hit near the mark, though there is no internal evidence to determine which. Argument and evidence are not really his business. In their place, we find snippets from Proust and Baudelaire and Ruskin on Thucydides in a display of world-weary wisdom.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member omegaomega0515
This is a book from the 1970s, covering some of Saul Bellow's encounters in Jerusalem and his reflections on the Arab-Israeli conflict. A lot has changed since then: for example, the Cold War has ended and there is no need to spend that much time conjecturing Russia's stance on the issue. Gone too,
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is the language of imperialism; so are the names of that era, Kissinger, Rabin and Nasser. But more has remained the same, although 30 years have elapsed since the writing of the book. Therefore, Bellow's reflections on the Jews as a people, on the supposed relationship between America and Israel, and on the root of animosity between Israel and its Arab neighbors are still pertinent.

The background of this book may look obscure to a casual reader not sharing any expertise on this topic. However, Bellow's plain yet beautiful language and thoughtful meditations makes it an enjoyable read.
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0670717290 / 9780670717293

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