City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Extract from ‘Herzog’, Saul Bellow, 1964

Written in



“He chose the hard top, teal blue, and drove off, trying to find his way under the greenish glare of the lamps and dusty sunlight amid unfamiliar signs. He followed the winding cloverleaf into the Expressway and then joined the speeding traffic – in this zone, 60 m.p.h. He did not know these new sections of Chicago. Clumsy, stinking, tender Chicago, dumped on its ancient lake bottom; and this murky orange west, and the hoarseness of factories and trains, spilling gases and soot on the newborn summer. Traffic was heavy coming from the city, not on Herzog’s side of the road, and he held the right lane looking for familiar street names. After Harlem Avenue he was in the city proper and knew his way. Leaving the Expressway at Montrose, he turned east and drove to his late father’s house, a small two-story brick building, one of a row built from a single blueprint – the pitched roof, the cement staircase inset on the right side, the window boxes the length of the front-room windows, the lawn a fat mound of grass between the sidewalk and the foundation; along the curb, elms and those shabby cottonwoods with blackened, dusty, wrinkled bark, and leaves that turned very tough by midsummer. There were also certain flowers, peculiar to Chicago, crude, waxy things like red and purple crayon bits, in a special class of false-looking natural objects. These foolish plants touched Herzog because they were so graceless, so corny. He was reminded of his father’s devotion to his garden, when old Herzog became a property owner toward the end of his life – how he squirted his flowers at evening with the hose and how rapt he looked, his lips quietly pleased and his straight nose relishing the odor of the soil. To right and left, as Herzog emerged from the rented hard-top, the sprinklers turned and danced, scattering bright drops, fizzing out iridescent veils. And this was the house in which Father Herzog had died a few years ago, on a summer night, sitting up in bed suddenly, saying, “Ich shtarb!”

Herzog (Penguin Classics), by Saul Bellow


One response to “Extract from ‘Herzog’, Saul Bellow, 1964”

  1. beeker Avatar

    I LOVE this book. You’ve reminded me to read it again.


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