Harold Bloom, at 81 probably the English-speaking world’s most celebrated living literary critic, is the subject of a two-page interview in El País for 4 September 2011 (international edition, pp. 36-37; www.elpais.com/articulo/cultura/Seguire/leyendo/mientras/quede/soplo/vida/elpepicul/20110904elpepicul_1/Tes): ‘Seguiré leyendo mientras me quede un spolo de vida’ (‘I’ll go on reading till my last breath’), interview with Eduardo Lago. The interview was no doubt conducted in English (Lago teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, New York), but I will necessarily have to retrotranslate the quotations in the brief summary that follows.
Bloom has recently published the book which he considers his last and crowning major statement, The Anatomy of Influence. It is described as both a revisiting and development of the “influence anxiety”theory that dominated his earlier career, and a reiteration of the defence of canonic literature that has been Bloom’s hallmark in more recent years. Bloom declares that while he lives he will never stop teaching (he remains the occupant of Yale’s Sterling Chair in literature), and concludes: ‘No puedo poner punto final a este libro, porque tengo intención de seguir leyendo mientras me quede un soplo de vida’ (‘I can’t put a full stop to this book, because I intend to go on reading till my last breath’) (p. 37).
Bloom states: “La anatomía de la influencia es mi summa literaria, mi legado como crítico. El testimonio final de una vida dedicada a los libros. El verdadero asunto es la pasión por la literatura. Para mí, leer es la única manera de dar sentido a la vida” (‘The Anatomy of Influence is my literary summa, my legacy as a critic – the final testimony of a life dedicated to books. The true subject is the passion for literature. For me, reading is the only means of making sense of life’) (p. 36).
Eduardo Lago, meanwhile, affirms of Bloom: ‘Es el crítico literario más importante de nuestro tiempo, por ser el único que ha sabido hacer llegar su portentosa sabiduría al lector normal’ (‘He is the most important literary critic of our time, as the only one who has known how to communiucate his wealth of knowledge to the common reader’ (p. 36).
The Anatomy of Influence will no doubt prove controversial, as always with Bloom. It will certainly not be a book to be ignored. The world of books may consider itself fortunate that one of its most eloquent champions has been able, while he is still with us, to offer us, Prospero-like, his closing words, before, as sooner or later will have to happen, he drowns his book.