Henderson The Rain King
By Saul Bellow
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Henderson The Rain King by Saul Bellow ranked # 21 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
Henderson the Rain King is a 1959 novel by Saul Bellow. Eugene Henderson is an unhappy millionaire and pig farmer who searches for meaning and purpose in his life. His desperation at home brings him on a pilgrimage to Africa, where he hopes to find a new meaning to his seemingly lacking life.
After his first native encounter ends in disaster, he arrives in a new village that soon declares him Rain King. With a new found friendship with the native king, Dahfu, Henderson is brought unwillingly into the king's ritualistic search of a lion thought to be the reincarnation of his predecessor. During this time, Henderson and Dahfu engage in disscussions that help to fill Henderson's spiritual void. Following another disaster and narrow escape, Henderson returns, planning on becoming a doctor.
Henderson the Rain King (1959) follows a similar theme as Saul Bellow's previous work, the short story Seize the Day (1956). Both feature men in or approaching middle age who are plagued by acute desperation and lack meaningful social contacts. While the first ends in a breakdown, Henderson the Rain King ends on a particularly upbeat note, at least in Henderson's eyes.
The philosophical discussions and ramblings that take place between Henderson and the natives and within himself serve as a precursor to Bellow's next novel, Herzog (1964), which frequently engages in similar inquiries into life and meaning. It was said to be Bellow's own favourite amongst his books.
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