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AMERICAN MASTERS: The Adventures of Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow, 1995
Courtesy of Jill Krementz
Saul Bellow, 1995

Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV / PBS Video app

Explore the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner’s impact on American literature in the first-ever major documentary on the writer. AMERICAN MASTERS "The Adventures of Saul Bellow" illuminates how Bellow transformed modern literature and navigated through the issues of his time, including race, gender and the Jewish immigrant experience, through rare archival footage and interviews with Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie and many others.

The Adventures of Saul Bellow

The film traces Bellow's rise to eminence and examines his many identities: reluctant public intellectual, “serial husband,” father, Chicagoan and Jewish American.


It also sheds light on his willingness to confront social issues, his criticisms of American society and materialism and his provocative political view.

Related: Saul Bellow biography and life timeline

A classic Saul Bellow rant about Chicago
Ernest Hemingway versus Saul Bellow
Salman Rushdie on Saul Bellow's books


  • Martin Amis, novelist
  • James Atlas, biographer
  • Adam Bellow, son of Alexandra Tschacbasov and Saul Bellow
  • Alexandra Bellow, professor of mathematics and ex-wife of Saul Bellow.
  • Daniel Bellow, son of Susan Glassman and Saul Bellow
  • Gregory Bellow, son of Anita Goshkin and Saul Bellow
  • Joel Bellow, nephew of Saul Bellow
  • Stanley Crouch, culture critic and novelist
  • Janis Freedman-Bellow, literary scholar and widow of Saul Bellow
  • Charles Johnson, novelist
  • Vivian Gornick, author and literary critic
  • Philip Grew, activist and former student of University of Chicago
  • Zachary Leader, professor of literature and biographer
  • Katie Roiphe, author and professor or journalism
  • Philip Roth, novelist
  • Salman Rushdie, novelist
  • Margaret Staats Simmons, journalist
  • Leon Wieseltier, literary critic
  • Hana Wirth-Nesher, professor of literature
  • Ruth Wisse, professor of literature
Philip Roth talks Saul Bellow in his final interview

Runtime: 90 minutes

Watch On Your Schedule:


The film is available on demand now for a limited time with the PBS Video App, you can watch your favorite and local station shows. Download it for free on your favorite device. The app allows you to catch up on recent episodes and discover award-winning shows.

Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, a benefit for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Saul Bellow, Janis Freedman-Bellow and their daugher, Rosie Freedman-Bellow, circa 2000.
Courtesy of Private Family Archive
Saul Bellow, Janis Freedman-Bellow and their daugher, Rosie Freedman-Bellow, circa 2000.


A production of Ingenue Productions in association with American Masters Pictures. Directed by Asaf Galay. Naama Pyritz and Rachel Engleberg are producers. Aviva Kempner, Anthony McCarten and Kathryn Dietz are executive producers. Michael Kantor is executive producer for AMERICAN MASTERS.