Looking Back - Son of Nobel Laureate and Salzburg Global Fellow, Saul Bellow returns to Schloss Leopoldskron




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Oct 31, 2017
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Looking Back - Son of Nobel Laureate and Salzburg Global Fellow, Saul Bellow returns to Schloss Leopoldskron

“My first stay at Schloss Leopoldskron was the quintessential magical place in my memory,” recollects Greg Bellow Greg Bellow, 73, recreates a photo from his childhood taken at Schloss Leopoldskron in 1950

When Greg Bellow first attended Schloss Leopoldskron in April 1950, he did so as a five-year-old boy having just spent 18 months in Paris, France. He was accompanied by his mother Anita and his father, Saul – the famous American author and Nobel Laureate. However, at the time, Bellow was a relatively unknown author and was invited to teach at a month-long seminar on American literature at the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies. It was a period Greg would never forget.

Nearly 70 years later, Greg returned to Schloss Leopoldskron in September 2017 to revisit some of his memories with an adult perspective. Speaking to Salzburg Global, he said, “I would say this month that I spent here [in 1950] was sort of the quintessential magical place in my memory, and I’ve always wanted to come back.”

During his first visit, Greg recalls playing with the children of other faculty members, posing for photographs by the seahorse statues, and celebrating his sixth birthday. His stay at the Schloss would continue to have an impact on his life perhaps far more than he knew at the time. He said, “The way in which [the stay] has impressed itself on my mind since then is that there are a number of people who we either knew before we got here or who we met here who then became part of my extended family.”

While Greg had the pleasure of using the palace as a playground, his father Saul was busy not only delivering lectures and leading in-depth seminar discussions, but also working on The Adventures of Augie March, a book which would help launch his career. Greg said, “He was a complete unknown author. He had published a couple of books that nobody ever heard of, and he was writing a book that changed American literature at the same time Ralph Ellison was writing another book to change American literature.” (Ellison, too, would become a member of the Salzburg faculty, four years later.)

Greg remembers Schloss Leopoldskron as “a very magical place” which featured in a “sort of enchanted” childhood. After he left, he talked about his time at the Schloss with others who had visited, particularly when he came to write a memoir later in life. Greg said, “It was a very personal memoir about my relationship with my father and what kind of man he was. The purpose of my writing was to talk about the man rather than the famous author.”

After leaving Salzburg at the end of April 1950, the Bellows continued their European trip in Rome, Positano, and Paris, before returning to the United States. Two years later, Saul returned to Salzburg as a faculty member for Session 17 – American Poetry and Prose. It was the same year he and Anita separated. Saul would go on to have four more wives, two more sons, and a daughter.

Greg said, “I had much more exposure to my father and much more exposure to a young self-questioning ambitious author. My brothers had an experience of having a father who was already famous by the time they were born or certainly had become young men. I like to say I was raised by a starving artist and my brothers were raised by a famous author, and that was a very different experience.”

Following The Adventures of Augie March (1953), Saul wrote a series of novels including Henderson the Rain King (1959), Herzog (1964), Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970), and Humboldt’s Gift (1975). The latter publication won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize. In the same year, Saul was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Greg and his half-brothers, Daniel and Adam, joined him at the ceremony in Stockholm.

Greg said he didn’t like the public aspect of his father’s fame and went as far as shunning it, something which displeased Saul. Recalling the ceremony, he said, “The press wanted to talk to my father all the time. We were on our way in and out of some event, and some very pushy reporter wanted to ask my father a question. I got mad, and I said, ‘My father’s books are in the public domain, not my father.’”

After winning the Nobel Prize in 1976, Saul wrote seven more novels and novellas and five short stories. He died on April 5, 2005. Greg said, “My father was very clear in his own mind that he thought the Nobel Prize had ruined a lot of authors [and] that their work had fallen off dramatically after they became famous. He was bound and determined not to let that happen.”

On whether he ever wanted to be a writer, Greg said, “I knew I would never compete with [Saul], and I ended up being a social worker, which was my mother’s profession.” In particular, Greg trained in child psychotherapy. He still maintains an appreciation for literature, however, something he credits both his parents for.

During his second stay at Schloss Leopoldskron, Greg visited the Salzburg Altstadt, attended a concert featuring the works of Mozart, took a bike ride, and explored Salzburg Global’s archive to learn more about his father’s involvement in the organization. Not only did the trip live up to his expectations, but it also surpassed them. He said, “It’s a storybook place. I remember it being a storybook and I came back, and this is still a storybook.”