Comments on the Passing of Boston University Professor Emeritus Saul Bellow

Contact: Jon Kniss, 617-353-2240 |

Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow, a university professor emeritus, passed away at his Brookline, Mass. home on April 5, 2005. He also was a professor emeritus of English at the university’s College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Bellow joined the Boston University faculty in 1993 and was named professor emeritus in 2000. Following please find the thoughts of BU President Ad Interim Aram Chobanian, President Emeritus John Silber and colleagues of Professor Bellow on his life. In addition, Boston University will hold a memorial service for Professor Bellow, with details announced when plans are complete.

Aram Chobanian
Boston University President Ad Interim

“Saul Bellow was one of the most distinguished writers in the history of American letters. He illuminated the human condition and grappled with ultimate questions about life through memorable characters in prize-winning books. Boston University was honored by his presence on the faculty. We all mourn his passing.”

John Silber
Boston University President Emeritus

“Saul Bellow was not only a great writer, he was also a superb teacher and friend—a whole and marvelous man. He could lift our spirits, for he reminded us in The Adventures of Augie March that we were not born at the dwarf end of time, but that we too could aspire to greatness.”

Leslie Epstein
Boston University College of Arts and Sciences
Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program

“What pleasure he gave us! What joy! Even reading his words, hearing that voice, in the newspaper this morning was inspiriting, inspiring, invigorating. It was a voice like no other. And though his death is a loss to our students and our university and the entire world of literature, such a voice—as we see this morning—is never lost forever.”

Christopher Walsh
Boston University College of Arts and Sciences
Writing Program Instructor and former student of Professor Bellow

“He was my hero long before I met him, and he remained my hero after meeting him, and I don’t think that’s the usual case. I didn’t discover that his feet were made of clay. I assumed that he would be this incredibly erudite, professorial type, and he wasn’t. He had a great sense of humor and he didn’t put on airs.

“I met him first as a student, and then I worked with him for five years. He was unfailingly generous—a real ‘small d’ democrat. As a teacher, he paid respect to students by not talking down to them, in part because he was suspicious of fancy ways of looking at literature. He encouraged students to read as if the writer were a fellow human being who had something to say to them—to look at the craft of the writing. He was suspicious of the giant apparatus of critical theory that often came between writers and readers that did not bridge them together.

“He’s been cast in the culture wars as an archconservative white European male, but he was much more anarchical than such labels could ever fully reflect.

“After college, I was in the Peace Corps in western Africa, and someone handed me ‘Henderson the Rain King.’ I read the part in which Henderson says, ‘Perhaps I am not the one to make a prediction, Sungo, but I think the noble will have its turn in the world.’ And I remember, sitting in a mud hut, and thrusting my fist into the air after I read that, because, I had this notion, from being a college English major, that literature was supposed to be sort of somber and disaffected. But he took that very idea on and threw it off.”