Harold Bloom’s most recent books are The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life and The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible. He teaches at Yale and is at work on a play, To You Whoever You are: A Pageant Celebrating Walt Whitman.
 (February 2012)

IN THE REVIEW

The Grand Comedian Visits the Bible

Cain

by José Saramago, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa
José Saramago (1922–2010), a superb comic novelist, at his best was the peer of Italo Calvino and Gabriel García Márquez. Cain, his last fiction, is a minor work, mostly valuable for its links to such permanent achievements as The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1986), The History of …

Revisiting Isaac Bashevis Singer

The Magician of Lublin

by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated from the Yiddish by Elaine Gottlieb and Joseph Singer
Der Kuntsenmakher fun Lublin perhaps should have been entitled The Trickster of Lublin when it was first published in English a half-century ago. Isaac Bashevis Singer’s second novel established his American audience, which grew until his death at eighty-seven in 1991. Rereading it now in Yiddish and in English (the …

Yahweh Meets R. Crumb

The opening panel of R.Crumb’s The Book of Genesis

The Book of Genesis

illustrated by R. Crumb
Illustrating the Hebrew Bible has been a grand quest for painters, with Michelangelo and Tintoretto perhaps dividing the palm. A cartoon or comic book reduction of Genesis ideally should be the work of an unlikely fusion of Rembrandt and William Blake. That is not a fair criterion to invoke when …

Pilgrim to Eros

Byron in Love: A Short Daring Life

by Edna O'Brien
The ultimate contrast in English poetry is between Byron and Shakespeare. Of Byron the passional man, we know nearly everything, while of Shakespeare’s inwardness we know nothing. Shelley, a superb literary critic, considered Byron’s Don Juan to be the great poem of the age, surpassing even Goethe and Wordsworth. Once …

The Glories of Yiddish

History of the Yiddish Language

by Max Weinreich, edited by Paul Glasser, translated from the Yiddish by Shlomo Noble with the assistance of Joshua A. Fishman
Max Weinreich (1894–1969) was born in the Courland region of Latvia, then Russian, into a family of German-speaking Jews, and learned Yiddish only in his teens. His doctorate in linguistics at Marburg University (he wrote on the history of Yiddish dialects) was awarded in 1923, the year he published, in …

Who Will Praise the Lord?

The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary

by Robert Alter
Biblical style in English carries on it the palpable impress of the Protestant martyr William Tyndale (1494–1536). Strangled and then burned, with the approval of Henry VIII, for publishing an English version of the New Testament despite the opposition of the Church, Tyndale did not have time to complete his …

NYR DAILY

My Favorite Book in the Bible

From Historiae celebriores Veteris Testamenti Iconibus representatae by Caspar Luiken, 1712

It may seem frivolous to speak of a favorite book in the Bible but mine is Jonah, by far. A sly masterpiece of four brief chapters, Jonah reverberates in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick,, where it is the text for Father Mapple’s grand sermon. Tucked away in the Book of the Twelve, with such fierce prophets as Amos and Micah, Jonah is out of place. It should be with the Writings—Song of Songs, Job, Koheleth—because it too is a literary sublimity, almost the archetypal parable masking as short story.

Bashevis Revisited

Jews in Lublin, 1934

Der Kuntsenmakher fun Lublin perhaps should have been entitled The Trickster of Lublin when first it was published in English a half-century ago. Isaac Bashevis Singer’s second novel established his American audience, which grew until his death at eighty-seven in 1991. Rereading it now in Yiddish and in English (the novel has just been reissued in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of its publication) has been a mixed experience. The book set the formula for all his narratives long or short. They are prurient sagas of the flesh and of repentance, marked by the ambivalences of a vegetarian satyr.