US writer, regarded by many as the leading figure in mid-twentieth-century US fiction. Among numerous awards, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature (1977), the Pulitzer Prize (1976), and the US National Medal for the Arts (1988). He was appointed Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur in 1983.
Born in Quebec, Canada, the son of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Bellow moved with his parents at the age of nine to Chicago, where he completed his education at Chicago, Northwestern, and Wisconsin universities. His first novel, Dangling Man (1944), was followed by The Victim (1947) and The Adventures of Augie March (1953), for which he won his first National Book Award (1954). Henderson the Rain King (1959) confirmed his virtuosity as a writer and Herzog (1964), which has been called his most personal novel incorporating many autobiographical features, was critically acclaimed. Other novels include Mr Sammler's Planet (1970), Humboldt's Gift (1975), The Dean's December (1982), More Die of Heartbreak (1987), The Bellarosa Connection (1989), The Actual (1997), and Ravelstein (2000). Among other publications is the collection of short stories Him with His Foot in His Mouth (1984), the volume of essays It All Adds Up (1994), and three ventures in drama – The Wrecker (1954), The Last Analysis (1964), and A Wen (1965), generally considered less successful than his novels.
The overall tone of Bellow's work is both ironic and optimistic. The linking theme of all his fiction is the problem of the alienated individual, who must learn to be reconciled with external reality and the human condition. Bellow was married five times. He combined a career as writer with that of university professor, having been a visiting lecturer at Princeton and New York universities and associate professor at the University of Minnesota.