‘The Bellarosa Connection’ by Saul Bellow

Maybe a bit of a cheat as this was published as a novella, but it does also appear (and where I first came across it) in Bellow’s Collected Stories (2001), but it is such a great piece of work by… what is that cringey expression that’s currently going around?… the GOAT???… and it also falls in perfectly with this idea of how a short story can find a way into tackling the biggest issues around. ‘The Bellarosa Connection’ is generally regarded as Bellow’s only concerted effort to write about the Holocaust in his fiction. Setting aside the argument that everything Bellow wrote was in the shadow of the Jewish experience, it is telling that even a writer as unflinching and confident as Bellow waited so long before finding a way to take it head on. Even then, it isn’t head on. ‘The Bellarosa Connection’ is as much a story about storytelling as it is about the Holocaust, which is of course a central tenet to the legacy of that event – how do we tell that story? How do we pass it down? How do we make it more than history, slipping further from our technicolour understanding of things with every passing day. It opens with a typically Bellovian sentence – by which I mean almost every Bellow sentence is magnificent, only some are more magnificent than others. “As founder of the Mnemosyne Institute in Philadelphia, forty years in the trade, I trained many executives, politicians and members of the defense establishment, and now that I am retired, and the institute is in the capable hands of my son, I would like to forget about remembering.”

First published as a novella by Penguin, 1989, and then in Saul Bellow: The Collected Stories, in 2001

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