Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King and the Zany Postwar Novel

Annika M. Schadewaldt


This essay argues for understanding Saul Bellow’s 1959 novel Henderson the Rain King as an instance of the zany, a writing style of ‘desperate playfulness’ that is characterized by its ludicrous imitation. While the novel’s formal unevenness, peculiar affective mix of exhaustion and comedy and seemingly unending intertextual references has long occupied critics and scholars alike, approaching the novel as zany not only allows us to piece together these seemingly unrelated elements of the novel but also to shed light on the novel’s negotiation of the changing role of American literature abroad anchored in its satirizing of the Hemingway code here.


postwar; Saul Bellow; Henderson the Rain King; zany; imitation; style; transnational

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