BELLOW, Saul. Autograph manuscript signed ("Saul Bellow"), a draft of his story "By the St. Lawrence," May 1995. 38 pages, 4to, on ruled notepaper, numerous emendations, evidently removed from a notebook. [WITH:] BELLOW. Typed manuscript inscribed and signed ("Saul Bellow"), a typescript of "By the St. Lawrence." A fair copy of the story. 17 pages, 4to. Inscribed on top edge of first page, to his longtime friend and attorney: "For Walter Pozen from his old friend Saul Bellow, May 5, '95."
"AT HIS AGE THE REPRIEVE FROM DEATH COULD BE NOTHING BUT SHORT"
An autograph and a typewritten draft of a late story (with an autograph leaf of non-fiction reminiscences about Ralph Ellison included). Set, like many Bellow stories, in his native town of Lachine, Quebec, "By the St. Lawrence" has the protagonist, Rob Rexler, an aged specialist on German intellectual history, revisiting Lachine before delivering a lecture on Bertold Brecht at McGill University. It is a wintry tale in the literal and figurative sense. Much of the familiar landmarks of Rexler's childhood are gone. All but one of his relatives survive, his cousin Albert. Themes of death, loss and burial frequently recur, as Bellow's character ruminates on the fractured, fragile quality of memory and existence. These themes focus on a particularly shocking memory: a distant episode when Albert and Rexler drove past a train accident just after it happened. The train struck a pedestrian, leaving body parts and internal organs strewn along the ground. Rexler is astonished that Albert now has no memory of the ghastly scene: "The things kids will remember," his cousin shrugs.
The autograph draft shows numerous variations from both the typed fair copy included here, and the published story. Bellow makes more of Rexler's deformity: "He fought off the infantile paralysis that attacked him when he was an adolescent--very like FDR--to become as well known in the theatre world as FDR was in politics." The first five pages show Bellow struggling with the opening, as he restarts the story several times. In one opening the character is named Trexler. By page six of the draft he has the opening he wants. But he's still shaping the protagonist, alternating in calling him Rexler and Trexler, shifting his profession from scholar to theatre director (the draft at one point has him planning to stage a Brecht play). Other variations: the handwritten draft also includes this Mosaic passage dropped from the published version: "When Rexler as a child asked his mother where he came from, she said, 'You were in a bucket, floating down the river, and I heard you crying and took you from the water.'" Another interesting passage Bellow later dropped: "He was not a great believer in families yet somewhere he gave it all high importance."
[ALSO WITH:] BELLOW. Autograph manuscript notes on Ralph Ellison, n.d. . 1p., 4to, from the same notebook as the autograph draft of "By the St. Lawrence". Included with the pages of Bellow's draft of "By the St. Lawrence" is a single page, non-fiction reminiscence of Invisible Man author, Ralph Ellison: "Towards the end of the fifties the Ellisons and the Bellows lived together in a Dutchess County house...Writers are natural solitaries and during the day we did not seek each other out. A nod in passing was enough. But late in the afternoon, Ralph mixed the martinis and now and then there were long conversations..." A fascinating survival from the notebook of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Together 3 items. (3)