Corde’s view that “a simple belief innprogress goes with a deformed conceptionnof human nature.” Such echoes arenclearly germane to Bellow’s purposes;nprogress is one of the great issues of modernism:n”the modem consciousness, thatnequivocal queer condition, working withna net of foolish assumptions, and sonmuch absurd unwanted stuff lying onnyour heart.” Richard Weaver calledn”progress” a contemporary “god term.”nThe West with its learned refusal to acceptncatastrophe must believe in the progressiventriumph of good intentions. Tonchallenge “progress” still remains a majornevent in the unending war betweennsanity and madness. While terms liken”conservative” and “liberal” may meannlittle to artists, it is evident that suchnterms evolved precisely because of fundamentalnattitudes toward the notion ofnprogress. Bellow does not wish to be labeled,nand for good reason. Some triednto label him after the publication of Mr.nSamm/er’s Planet in an effort to diminishnhis integrity. He rejected such labelsnthen, and rightly so, saying that he wasnnot interested in the “gumming business.n” Bellow knows where he stands onnthe major issues that confront us andnwith which a responsible novelist is concerned.nIthinklknowwhere he stands. Itnis, in part, the fiinction of this essay tonpoint out the ground on which he standsnas it gives shape and purpose to ThenDean’s December. The good guys willnrecognize the home ground at once.nAlbert Corde, dean of a universityncollege in Chicago and former journalistnof some repute, is married to a Rumanianndefector, Minna Raresh, astrophysicistnand mathematician. Minna receivesnpermission to visit Valeria, her dyingnmother, and Albert joins her for thendeath vigil in Bucharest. Once there, henmakes an assessment of life behind theniron curtain and in memory recounts hisnpresent troubles in Chicago. He is undernfire for various reasons. He pressed thencase against two blacks for the murder ofna white graduate student. “Cra2y withnrage,” he wrote two articles with “apoca­nlyptic emotions” iot Harper’s describingnChicago, the city in front of the iron curtain,nin terms no less acerbic than he wasnto use in describing Bucharest, the citynbehind the iron curtain. Most of the surfacenaction of the novel happens in Bucharest,nwhere Valeria’s death and burialnabout objectivity.” Age and experiencenhave given him a strong preference forndisinterested judgments, although he isnnever unaware of “the monstrous destructionnthe gods had unleashed.” Hensees at first hand the manifestations ofnchaos and takes “a fresh reading fromn”[It] makes it difficult for a reader who does not share Bellow’s obsessions to follownhim or to enjoy his mental celerity.”n—The New Republicna novel as flat as the paper on which it is printed.”ntake place. The deep action, concernednas much with Chicago as with Bucharest,ntakes place in the mind, heart and soul ofnCorde—the center of consciousness.nGetting to know him is crucial, for allnthat is seen depends upon his perception.nHe is “Huguenot and Irish by descent,na Midwesterner flattened out by the prairies,na journalist and a lousy collegendean.” Describing himself initially asnone who cannot find an adequate attimdentoward things and people, he prefersna pose of studied ambiguity. But hendoes act (principally in Bucharest): “Hisnpatience was at an end. He had hadnenough. He was now opening his mouthnto speak, and look out!” He begins to saynwhat is really on his mind. Deciding tonlet everyone have it between the eyes, henwill force everybody to undergo facts innsome form. “Shall I talk? … I’ll talk.”nAnd talk and write and protest he does.nLa Corde sensible, his tender spot, hasnbeen stmck, and he speaks out like Mr.nSammler, the Bellow protagonist henmost resembles, but with more bitternessnand greater anger. “My modernitynwas all used up,” a magnificent expression.nAlthough he does not have Sammler’sn”Godly adumbrations” to put hisnanger in perspective, his outbreak is,nnevertheless, like Sammler’s, a recital innwhich the moral crisis of the West isndefined. “I was speaking up for the noblenideas of the West in their Americannform.” Like Sammler, he has the credibilitynof the journalist who has “a thingnnn-Motherjonesnthem.” One of our contemporaries, he isn”mon semblable, monfrere. ” His suddennawareness of his dependence uponnspectacles forces him to recognize “hownmuch he was organized for observationnand comprehension.” What a man “henwas for noticing! Continually attentive tonhis surroundings. As if he had been sentnto mindxht outer world, on a mission ofnobservation and notation.” Like Hawthorne’snPaul Pry, he had been sent tonmind the world.nHe earns political significance (morenimportant than it should be to him)nbecause his passion for reality as a journalistnenables him to represent it anewn”as art would represent it.” This phrasenhelps greatly to explain Corde and evennmore Bellow, the artist-creator of thenhonest journalist. Both beUeve that thenfirst act of morality is to retrieve reality.nAn understanding of history is the firstnstep by which the dispossessed repossessnthe earth. Rapists, murderers, self-lovers,njunkies, liars, gratuitous vandals, thosenwho urinate or fornicate in public, thosenwho smirk at piety, those who smilenknowingly at the antics of the ape—thesenhave taken the earth away from men. Wenare the dispossessed, mon frere, andnCorde says it is our task to recover thenworld that is “buried under the debris ofnfalse description or evasion.” The truenbusiness of the soul in this age is to facen”anguish beyond the bounds of humanntolerance” without a loss of poise, knowingnthat it knows what it knows. “Forthatnis the truth of it—that we all know, God,nI H ^ M ^ 9nSeptember 198Sn