Stephen Mitchell sent his 1993 book The Gospel According to Jesus to Nobel Prize–winning novelist Saul Bellow, and to his surprise received a passionate response. Mitchell passed the correspondence on to me a dozen years ago, and I will forward it to the Bellow archives. But first some excerpts from Bellow’s reply:
“I have great sympathy with what you have done. Let me explain: I was at the age of eight years a patient at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal—dangerously ill. . . . My people were orthodox Russian Jews. I had a religious upbringing. In those times four-year-old kids were already reading Hebrew, memorizing Genesis and Exodus. Such was my background—the child of a despised people in the Montreal slums.
“I had never been separated from the family. It was a hellish winter (1923-1924), with heavy snows. . . . There were three operations. . . . I understood that I might die. . . .