• Henderson the Rain King

  • By: Saul Bellow
  • Narrated by: Joe Barrett
  • Length: 14 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 13-08-2009
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.3 (3 ratings)

Editorial Reviews

Summoning a deluge from the sky, building an explosive to rid a pond of frogs, forging an intimate bond with a powerful lion — these are just some of the actions undertaken in Africa by the title character in Saul Bellow's astounding, inventive novel Henderson The Rain King.
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and a titan of 20th-century American fiction, Bellow belongs to a select group of skilled American novelists (with John Updike and Philip Roth) best known for their precise examinations of middle-aged, middle-class men yearning for more out of life than two cars or two houses. Bellow's title character in Henderson harbors the same, ceaseless hunger for life, manifested in a voice inside him which cries out day in and day out, "I want, I want, I want." But while Roth and Updike's characters rarely stray far from America's northeast corridor, the voice inside Eugene Henderson compels him to travel to remote corners of civilization in Africa.
A brief summary of the novel's plot sounds preposterous: a middle-aged millionaire travels to Africa, where he becomes The Rain King. But Bellow manages to make such a seemingly far-fetched story sound believable one sentence at a time.
And narrator Joe Barrett's grizzled voice is perfect for bringing to life Henderson's unique perspective and tone. In the beginning, Henderson is like one of those pushy, half-drunk loudmouths you can't wait to get away from in line at an airline counter. Listening to Barrett squawk Henderson's wisecracks and American slang in Africa initially gives the book an absurd, humorous quality. But as this fable-like novel progresses, Henderson gradually — and plausibly — evolves into a God-like figure. Barrett makes the dramatic transformation, as well as the entirety of Henderson's mad-cap journey, sound realistic. —Ken Ross
Show More Show Less

Publisher's Summary

Ranked #21 on Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Novels, Henderson the Rain King's blend of philosophical discourse and comic adventure has helped make it one of Bellow's most enduringly popular works. It is said to be Bellow's own favorite among his books.
Bellow evokes all the rich color and exotic customs of a highly imaginary Africa in this comic novel about a middle-aged American millionaire who, seeking a new, more rewarding life, descends upon an African tribe. Henderson's awesome feats of strength and his unbridled passion for life earn him the admiration of the tribe – but it is his gift for making rain that turns him from mere hero into messiah.
A hilarious, often ribald story, Henderson the Rain King is also a profound look at the forces that drive a man through life.
As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Saul Bellow's book, you'll also receive an exclusive Jim Atlas interview. This interview – where James Atlas interviews Azar Nafisi about the life and work of Saul Bellow – begins as soon as the audiobook ends.
©1959 Saul Bellow (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
Show More Show Less

Critic Reviews

"A kind of wildly delirious dream made real by the force of Bellow's rollicking prose and the offbeat inventiveness of his language." ( Chicago Tribune)
Show More Show Less

Regular price: $35.84

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – love a book or swap it for free
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $16.45/month
Select or add a new payment method

Buy Now with 1 Credit

By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Buy Now for $35.84

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.
No Reviews are Available

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Chris Reich on 07-10-2014

Amazing Book on Many Levels

I hate to write a trite review about a great book so I won't. I won't recap the story.

I will say that if you are male and have 40+ years under your belt, you will enjoy and be deeply touched by this incredible book. All others? You probably like it, maybe a lot.

This, I believe, is a book men need to read. And women? You'll get the inside scoop on the male psyche.

Don't miss this masterpiece.

Read More Hide me

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Michael on 29-04-2015

Funny and Powerful

One review called this racist, colonial, and an absurd farce. Another that Henderson was a Baron Munchhausen. I could not disagree more. This is a humorous book about a man facing his own mortality and fretful desires with incredible energy and love. Henderson’s quest is improbable, adventurous, transformational, and funny, but not absurd or farcical. There is nothing here close to Munchhausen riding a cannonball or taking lunar excursions.

I found the writing quite conversational yet subtly superb. The characters are well written and I found Henderson eminently likeable. He was flawed, but not more so than most, and he had an admirable and indomitable love of life. The book at one level is gruff and oozes manliness, yet under this very thin veneer one finds fear, loneliness, and powerlessness. All this, with humor on every page.

The narration is darn near perfect. It is difficult for me to imagine how it could be better. Barrett is clear and bombastic and uses tone to express the emotions just under the surface.

This is a classic and worthy of it praises. Worth listening to again.

Read More Hide me

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

See all Reviews

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Catherine on 05-03-2012

A new favourite

I hadn't heard of this book, which I now find is on several 'best of ..' lists. And what a treat! It will be my 'desert island' book having comedy, adventure, thoughtfulness and joy. Its wonderful to be old and have your prejudices turned over. During the course of the book I moved from antibodies to the protagonist to recognising him as a force of nature.
And wonderfully read by Joe Barrett.

Read More Hide me

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

See all Reviews