Where is everybody? Inside your breast and skin, the entire cast.

Saul Bellow

“And now here’s the thing. It takes a time like this for you to find out how sore your heart has been, and, moreover, all the while you thought you were going around idle terribly hard work was taking place. Hard, hard work, excavation and digging, mining, moiling through tunnels, heaving, pushing, moving rock, working, working, working, working, panting, hauling, hoisting. And none of this work is seen from the outside. It’s internally done. It happens because you are powerless and unable to get anywhere, to obtain justice or have requital, and therefore in yourself you labor, you wage and combat, settle scores, remember insults, fight, reply, deny, blab, denounce, triumph, outwit, overcome, vindicate, cry, persist, absolve, die and rise again. All by yourself? Where is everybody? Inside your breast and skin, the entire cast.”

– Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow (1915 – 2005) was a Canadian-born American writer. He was born in Lachine, Quebec and died in Brookline, MA.  For his literary contributions, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts. He is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest authors.  Bellow grew up as an insolent slum kid, a “thick-necked” rowdy, and an immigrant from Quebec. As Christopher Hitchens describes it, Bellow’s fiction and principal characters reflect his own yearning for transcendence, a battle “to overcome not just ghetto conditions but also ghetto psychoses.  The author’s works speak to the disorienting nature of modern civilization, and the countervailing ability of humans to overcome their frailty and achieve greatness (or at least awareness). Bellow saw many flaws in modern civilization, and its ability to foster madness, materialism and misleading knowledge. Principal characters in Bellow’s fiction have heroic potential, and many times they stand in contrast to the negative forces of society. (Source: Wiki)

Credits: Image – Flavorwire. Quote: WhiskeyRiver


  1. When life is tough, you get tougher


  2. Interesting quote, David, though I’m not sure I concur that “none of this work is seen from the outside.” Try as we might to conceal things, I’ve found that internal struggles manifest themselves externally in one way or another. As Shakespeare so wisely noted, “Murder will out.”


    • Yes, I agree with that Lori. Although my view is that if we ascribing proportionality, it feels like an iceberg (more underwater) or a volcano (a lot more bubbling underground where that came from)


  3. I believe that is true…it’s ongoing, we are affected in little and big ways, by all we encounter and all who arrive in our lives. It’s the ongoing work of “becoming”…that is what I believe.


  4. WLS…and I can’t help but feel the sweat of such labor, for before it presents itself externally, the effort is ongoing and sometimes it is a slog.


  5. He makes it sound like hell on earth waged within. No wonder people’s emotions can make them physically ill.


  6. He’s exactly right.


  7. Have to think about this one..wow. But I think I agree with Lori…that all that work, is often seen by others on the outside, which still surprises me, because I keep thinking it’s not so detectable.


  8. Thank you. I learned something new about a wonderful human. Sheri


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