Harold Bloom’s Anti-Christian, Anti-Jewish, and Anti-Narnia Theory of Fantasy

Forty years ago, the eminent literary critic Harold Bloom published a fantasy novel titled The Flight to Lucifer, which by most accounts—the author’s included—is a poor piece of work. Evident in the book is the influence of David Lindsay’s 1920 novel A Voyage to Arcturus, a work that Bloom claims “infected me personally with more intensity and obsessiveness than all the works of greater stature and resonance of our time.” Michael Weingrad argues that Bloom’s novel might best be seen “not as a weak rewriting of Lindsay but rather as a failed struggle against” another professor of English literature-turned-fantasy writer: C.S. Lewis.

[In a 1982 book], Bloom holds up Lindsay as a counter to the [self-consciously Christian] fantasy writers known collectively as the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. [His] argument amounts to a preference for romantic rebellion to religious tradition. . . .

In The Flight to Lucifer, Bloom, [like Lewis in his Perelandra], attempts a kind of rewriting of Genesis. His planet features versions of the biblical flood, the tower of Babel, and Nimrod the hunter, but with a familiar Gnostic twist: the biblical God is actually a satanic demiurge, and the characters who defy his authority are emissaries of truth. Unfortunately, in Bloom’s hands, these Gnostic inversions are repetitive and dramatically sterile. . . .

Judaism does not come out much better than Christianity, by the way, at least if Bloom’s portrait of Lucifer’s Mandaeans, “this fearful, narrow, aggressive remnant of a people” consumed with “the common quarrel about possession of land,” means what I think it does.

All in all, The Flight to Lucifer is less of an homage to Lindsay than an anti-Perelandra. And yet, despite Bloom’s intentions, it demonstrates that what Bloom calls “Promethianism” is, well, kind of narcissistic. It turns out that Gnostic rebellion is not especially interesting, at least in Bloom’s dramatization; it seems rather adolescent and self-obsessed. . . .

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Arts & Culture, Christianity, Fantasy, Judaism, Literary criticism, Religion


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy