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Jesus and Yahweh


A transcript of the ageless literary critic Harold Bloom’s October 27 appearance on American television’s Charlie Rose Show follows. Bloom was a guest of this particular show to promote his new book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Riverhead, 2005).

Of course, the interviewer was not adequate to the task. But I suppose that this goes with the turf. Charlie Rose’s wisest course would have been to keep the heck out of Bloom’s excursive way. Instead, Rose kept interrupting Bloom.

Still. Some valuable insights did follow—where Rose permitted them.

For example:

CHARLIE ROSE:….OK, so here`s the central thesis — tell me what the central thesis of this book is?

HAROLD BLOOM: The central thesis of this book is very simple, and is already giving a great deal of offense. There are three very separate figures…

CHARLIE ROSE: Especially to Christians.

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes. But also some Jews. There is a more or less historical personage — Jesus of Nazareth — I say more or less historical because we have no verifiable facts about him.

CHARLIE ROSE: But there was at some point in the history of the world a person, who walked in Bethlehem named Jesus?

HAROLD BLOOM: All quests for the historical Jesus have always failed, but evidently there was such a person, but we have nothing verifiable about him.

There is a theological or Hellenistic mystery, dying and reviving God named Jesus Christ, and there is the non-theological God, the human, all too human original God of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Old Testament…

CHARLIE ROSE: Yahweh.

HAROLD BLOOM: … Yahweh, and he is not theological at all. And the fundamental argument of the book is that it’s not possible to make a coherent statement which links these three highly diverse figures, and if indeed that argument is right, then the religious history of the last 2,000 years is a disaster.

(For more on this 2000-year-old disaster, admittedly from a somewhat different perspective, recall that superb commentary by Giles Fraser in last Christmas Eve’s Guardian: “Empires Prefer a Baby and the Cross to the Adult Jesus.”—After which, the next stop along the line is Nietzsche, folks. All aboard….)

Bloom also once famously wrote (1968): “We are our imaginations, and die with them.”

The very same essay concluded:

Romantic love, past its own Promethean adolescence, is not the possessive love of the natural heart, which is the quest of Freudian Eros, moving always in a tragic rhythm out from and back to the isolated ego. That is the love Blake explicitly rejected:

Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the Infernal Grove
Then shall we return and see
The worlds of happy Eternity

Throughout all Eternity
I forgive you you forgive me…

[Blake's] Infernal Grove grows thick with virtues, but these are the selfish virtues of the natural heart. Desire for what one lacks becomes a habit of possession, and the Selfhood’s jealousy murders the Real Man, the Imagination. All such love is an entropy, and as such Freud understood and accepted it. We become aware of others only as we learn our separation from them, and our ecstasy is a reduction. Is this the human condition, and love only its mitigation?

To cast off the idiot Questioner who is always questioning,
But never capable of answering…

Anyway.

Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine, Harold Bloom (Riverhead, 2005)

Why I Am A Destiny,” Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, 1888
Empires Prefer a Baby and the Cross to the Adult Jesus,” Giles Fraser, The Guardian, December 24, 2005 (as posted to CommonDreams)
Jesus Cristo Libertador? ZNet, April 4, 2005

FYA (“For your archives”):

The Charlie Rose Show
SHOW: THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW 11:00 PM EST
October 27, 2005 Thursday
TRANSCRIPT: 102701cb.111
HEADLINE: Discussing the Withdrawal of Nomination of Harriet Miers to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; Religion and Politics
BYLINE: Charlie Rose

…………

CHARLIE ROSE: We conclude this evening with the renowned scholar Harold Bloom, talking about religion and politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAROLD BLOOM, AUTHOR: There is a more or less historical personage, Jesus of Nazareth — I say more or less historical because we have no verifiable facts about him, but evidently there was such a person, but we have nothing verifiable about him. There is a theological, or Hellenistic mystery dying and reviving God named Jesus Christ, and there is the non- theological God, the human, all-too-human original God of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Old Testament .

CHARLIE ROSE: Yahweh.

HAROLD BLOOM: Yahweh. And he is not theological at all, and the fundamental argument of the book is that it is not possibility to make a coherent statement which links these three highly diverse figures, and if indeed that argument is right, then the religious history of the last 2,000 years is a disaster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

…………

Harold Bloom is here. He is Sterling professor of humanities at Yale. He has written more than 20 books, including “The Western Canon,” “The Book of J,” and “The Anxiety of Influence.” His most recent is “Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.” I am pleased to have Harold Bloom back on — back at this table. Welcome back.

HAROLD BLOOM: Thank you, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why are you writing a book about religion? I mean, that`s not — seems to me — are you agnostic or…?

HAROLD BLOOM: I am not a nonbeliever, no. I am not an agnostic. I am a Gnostic — g-n-o-s-t-i-c. I…

CHARLIE ROSE: What`s that mean?

HAROLD BLOOM: Well, that means that there is a true God, buried deep within the rock of the self, and the other aspect of God is lost wandering the outer spaces somewhere. But the God of this world — think of the title of the book, “The Name is Divine.” I`m quoting William Blake…

CHARLIE ROSE: Who said?

HAROLD BLOOM: Who said, “Truly, my Satan, thou art but a dance, and dost not know the garment from the man. Every harlot was a virgin once, nor can`st thou ever change Kate into Nan. Tho` thou art worship`d…

HAROLD BLOOM and CHARLIE ROSE (in unison): … by the names divine of Jesus and Jehovah, thou are still the son of morn in weary night`s decline, the lost traveler`s dream under the hill.

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: Which means?

HAROLD BLOOM: Which means that Jehovah, who was after all just a spelling error for Yahweh, and Jesus, are names that we give something which is beyond all names, and which in fact has abdicated and left our solar system.

CHARLIE ROSE: William Blake is my friend Kris Kristofferson`s favorite poet.

HAROLD BLOOM: He`s been mine since I was a little child, and that`s rather a long time ago now, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: You`re, what, 75 now?

HAROLD BLOOM: Seventy-five, dear, yes. When I first met you, I was a mere 65, and you don`t look a day older. But then, though I don`t say you`ve sold out to the devil, I keep wondering about you, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: What do you wonder about me?

HAROLD BLOOM: Because you don`t look a day older.

CHARLIE ROSE: If only you knew this weary body. OK, so here`s the central thesis — tell me what the central thesis of this book is?

HAROLD BLOOM: The central thesis of this book is very simple, and is already giving a great deal of offense. There are three very separate figures…

CHARLIE ROSE: Especially to Christians.

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes. But also some Jews. There is a more or less historical personage — Jesus of Nazareth — I say more or less historical because we have no verifiable facts about him.

CHARLIE ROSE: But there was at some point in the history of the world a person, who walked in Bethlehem named Jesus?

HAROLD BLOOM: All quests for the historical Jesus have always failed, but evidently there was such a person, but we have nothing verifiable about him.

There is a theological or Hellenistic mystery, dying and reviving God named Jesus Christ, and there is the non-theological God, the human, all too human original God of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Old Testament…

CHARLIE ROSE: Yahweh.

HAROLD BLOOM: … Yahweh, and he is not theological at all. And the fundamental argument of the book is that it`s not possible to make a coherent statement which links these three highly diverse figures, and if indeed that argument is right, then the religious history of the last 2,000 years is a disaster.

CHARLIE ROSE: OK, let`s just stay with two of those. Forget Yahweh for a second, and he`s supposed to be the son of Yahweh, Jesus is the son of Yahweh.

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes, yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: What`s wrong with the historical — why can`t we believe that the historical Jesus and the Jesus of Christ is not the same person?

HAROLD BLOOM: We have seven different versions of Jesus in the canonical Greek New Testament. They cannot be reconciled…

CHARLIE ROSE: Because they wrote years later, so they made a lot of mistakes.

HAROLD BLOOM: They are written in different times. They were all written after the death of Jesus, whoever he was and whenever that was. Not one of them, I believe, is written by someone who could ever have heard him, seen him, encountered him in any way. They are all of them conversionary documents. I cannot put any credence in them whatsoever. And I have been reading them in the Greek original almost my whole lifetime now.

He was a faithful servant of what he called Yahweh alone. Whom he called Abba…

CHARLIE ROSE: He being?

HAROLD BLOOM: … in Aramaic. Jesus. Yahweh being his God.

CHARLIE ROSE: And his father?

HAROLD BLOOM: Well, he never says that.

CHARLIE ROSE: He says…

HAROLD BLOOM: Well, he says Abba, but many Jews have said Abba or father to Yahweh. Nowhere does he say that he is God.

CHARLIE ROSE: Nowhere it says that I`m the son of God?

HAROLD BLOOM: No, no, no.

CHARLIE ROSE: Jesus Christ never said that?

HAROLD BLOOM: No, no, no, that is said for him by St. Paul. That is said for him by later theologians. That is in a sense implied for him in the Gospel of John, which was, however, written 100 years afterwards or so.

No, he himself makes no such claim. He is a faithful Jew, and however he lived and died, he dies faithful to the law of Moses and to the worship of Yahweh.

Jesus Christ is an extremely complex theological God, who has almost nothing in common with the more or less historical Jesus.

As for Yahweh, he has a story completely onto himself, and cannot be accommodated to these two figures at all.

CHARLIE ROSE: But he is the story of the Old Testament, right?

HAROLD BLOOM: Well, what the Christians call the Old Testament. I`m never very happy with calling it the Old Testament, because that implies that the — I always like to call them the original testament and the belated testament, Charlie.

Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, does not acknowledge that it has been superseded, though I am well aware and even remark in the book at one point that historically, the Jews long ago lost. There are at this time, Charlie, in the world, 1.5 billion Muslims, 1.5 billion Christians, and perhaps 14 million self-identifying Jews. That`s 1,000 to one ratio. So clearly, either Yahweh has not been on the job, or something else has gone wrong.

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, that`s an interesting question. To what do you attribute the power of Jesus?

HAROLD BLOOM: There are two different ways of getting at this, Charlie, and I`ve spent a lot of my life thinking about this. On the one hand, we must face history and secular power, what one author rightly called the sword of Constantine. The Roman Emperor Constantine enforcing it by the sword, became a Christian, and his authority — that is to say, his military power — enforced it upon everyone.

On the other hand, I cannot deny that the notion that salvation should come from a single individual who has somehow died for one`s sins has always made an enormous appeal in the world.

Here in the United States, it`s a very separate question, Charlie, because as you know, at least as well as I do, we have the American Jesus, just as we have the American Holy Spirit of the Pentecostalists, and they have almost nothing to do with the European…

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, how can you say there`s an American Jesus? I mean, there are Americans who are Roman Catholics.

HAROLD BLOOM: There are indeed. A certain number…

CHARLIE ROSE: They are Americans, and is their Jesus any different than of a Catholic in Italy or a Catholic in Belgium?

HAROLD BLOOM: I believe — I wrote a book called “The American Religion” many years ago, which we need not get into now, but I would say that there is indeed a distinct American religion, and that we would not have the tyranny of George W. Bush without it. But that is so complex a matter that I don`t know if we want to get into that immediately.

I`m a very frightened man. At 75, I find increasingly that I am living in a theocracy.

CHARLIE ROSE: That would be the United States of America.

HAROLD BLOOM: And that is not what — and that is not what the Constitution called for.

CHARLIE ROSE: A theocracy?

HAROLD BLOOM: A theocracy, yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: Now, when you say theocracy…

HAROLD BLOOM: The state of Texas, Charlie, just announced that it was a Christian state in a Christian country. Now, we have Buddhists, we have Muslims, Jews…

CHARLIE ROSE: Wait, how does the state of Texas announce that? Through legislation? Through what? How does a state…

HAROLD BLOOM: The governor announced that he wished the legislature to consider this matter. Obviously, they`re not going to get very far.

CHARLIE ROSE: That`s not an announcement by the state of Texas. If the governor says I wish it this way — there are a lot of people who take their religion and let — and make all kinds of things in which they wish, you know, that everybody would accept their belief, which theirs is the only God.

HAROLD BLOOM: I (INAUDIBLE), but consider how far we have come already in the last five years. Who knows what awaits us in the years to come? Thus I have a nightmare in which it`s January 2009, and Jeb Bush is standing there on the platform, and he is being inaugurated.

CHARLIE ROSE: Do you think that is going to happen?

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes, I do.

CHARLIE ROSE: You do?

HAROLD BLOOM: Oh, yes. Let us not underestimate Mr. Karl Rove. Even if he has to do it from a jail cell, he`ll do it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Now, a lot of people share this…

HAROLD BLOOM: This nightmare vision, shall we call it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, a lot of people do share real concerns about the violation of the separation of church and state, you know, that that line has become blurred.

HAROLD BLOOM: That`s putting it very gently, Charles.

CHARLIE ROSE: But you do seem to end this book to have some real criticisms of Christianity as practiced in America.

HAROLD BLOOM: Oh, yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: Beyond the fact that you think America is becoming a theocracy, and I assume that when you talk about a theocracy, you`re talking about a, quote, “Christian nation.” Are you not?

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes, but of course American Christianity, I repeat, has very little in common with European or traditional Christianity. It is very indigenous to this country. It has been very different, in fact, I think since the great Cane Ridge revivals on the Kentucky-Tennessee border in the year 1801. And the last two centuries, it has exfoliated in the most remarkable way.

CHARLIE ROSE: Let me get to some things you say. You say Hamlet, Kierkegaard and Kafka are all ironists in the wake of Jesus.

HAROLD BLOOM: They certainly are all deeply influenced by the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark, who is a fascinating figure, I must say.

CHARLIE ROSE: Mark?

HAROLD BLOOM: No, Jesus.

CHARLIE ROSE: Jesus, yes.

HAROLD BLOOM: Whoever Mark was, he is a fascinating writer, yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: You find Jesus fascinating.

HAROLD BLOOM: There`s no question about that.

CHARLIE ROSE: What fascinates him about you? What is it you find fascinating?

HAROLD BLOOM: The Jesus of the Gospel of Mark is a man who is always in a hurry. He is moving through crowds. He cannot pause. He is driven. He does not know who he is. He`s perpetually asking his disciples, but who do people say I am? Unlike all the other versions of Jesus, he goes through a night of memorable agony, the last night of his life, in anticipation of the horror he must endure. The next day, he is an extraordinarily rendered and immensely moving figure, I would have to admit.

CHARLIE ROSE: On his last day.

HAROLD BLOOM: On the night before the last day. On the last day, he is swept away by what happens to him.

CHARLIE ROSE: Help me understand more what you find fascinating beyond — in the Gospel of St. Mark.

HAROLD BLOOM: He is an enigma of enigmas.

CHARLIE ROSE: He walks through this life and is always asking who am i?

HAROLD BLOOM: He speaks only in dark sayings, he speaks in riddles and in parables. He is uncertain as to his own identity. He is uncertain as to exactly what his relationship to God is. He has very little in common with the Jesus of the other gospels, particularly of the final gospel, the Gospel of John.

CHARLIE ROSE: How is he different?

HAROLD BLOOM: He`s isolated…

CHARLIE ROSE: No, how — what do they say about him, Luke and John, that are different than what Mark says?

HAROLD BLOOM: John clearly sees him as a supernatural figure, sees him as a violently combative figure. Sees him as someone who is immensely sure of his own identity.

In terms of personality, it`s as far away as you can be from the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark. And is, I must say, considerably less interesting to a mere literary critic like myself.

CHARLIE ROSE: You approached this book as — almost to do it as a kind of literary story.

HAROLD BLOOM: What do we have in relation to Jesus, Jesus Christ, Yahweh, or for that matter, Allah? We have literary texts. All distinctions, Charlie, between secular and sacred texts are ultimately just political. These are literary characters. They are perhaps more than literary characters. They doubtless for most human beings transcend being literary characters…

CHARLIE ROSE: You mean by this Jesus, Mohammed, all religious figures?

HAROLD BLOOM: I mean that we encounter them the way we encounter Hamlet or King Lear.

CHARLIE ROSE: What is written about them.

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes. They are texts. We have no access to them beyond that. There is of course historical theology, but that always comes later. But we encounter them in written text.

CHARLIE ROSE: As historical figures.

HAROLD BLOOM: Not necessarily as historical figures. We do not have more than a handful of verifiable facts, we don`t have even a handful about Jesus. Jesus Christ being a theological formulation, one does not ask for facts. Do not forget that St. Paul, quite beautifully, defines faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Now, that`s a very curious kind of substance, and of course that isn`t evidence.

CHARLIE ROSE: Here`s what I would say. Whatever you believe about Jesus, the message must be — you must find something that is extraordinary in the message that has been attributed to Jesus, because it has won and it has received in time an extraordinary number of believers.

HAROLD BLOOM: So has Islam, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: Absolutely.

HAROLD BLOOM: And there are a billion and a half of them.

CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly. And so that must say something powerful about Islam as well.

HAROLD BLOOM: That there is certainly…

CHARLIE ROSE: There`s something there…

HAROLD BLOOM: There is, indeed, something there, Charlie, and it has remarkable…

CHARLIE ROSE: … that resonates with an extraordinary…

HAROLD BLOOM: It has conversionary power, because, frankly, it offers a great deal in return for rather little. If you`ll pardon my saying so.

CHARLIE ROSE: Meaning that what comes from believing…

HAROLD BLOOM: You`re asked to believe that something is so, and on that basis, you believe and have faith…

CHARLIE ROSE: All religions are based on faith.

HAROLD BLOOM: Not Judaism, oddly enough. It`s based on trust. I am myself…

CHARLIE ROSE: Trusting in one?

HAROLD BLOOM: In the covenant. That supposedly has been, as we say, cut with you by Yahweh. I do not trust in it because it seems to me he has never kept his terms. But we are asked for amuna, we are asked to trust in the covenant. Now, that isn`t believing that something is so. I happen not to trust in the covenant because it does not seem to me that Yahweh, who is the most fascinating literary figure I have ever encountered, has ever done anything which would cause anyone to trust him at all.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yahweh is a more fascinating literary figure than Jesus?

HAROLD BLOOM: Ultimately, yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: Ultimately.

HAROLD BLOOM: In the same way that King Lear…

CHARLIE ROSE: But you see, ultimately is a hedge word.

HAROLD BLOOM: In the same way…

CHARLIE ROSE: Ultimately is a hedge word.

HAROLD BLOOM: Let`s forget the hedge word. King Lear is finally — let`s get rid of finally — King Lear is more fascinating to me even than Hamlet. Yahweh is more fascinating to me even than Jesus.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why?

HAROLD BLOOM: Because the enormous range of significant emotion seems to push at the outward limits of human imagination.

CHARLIE ROSE: But the conceit of Christianity is you`re getting both. And I mean by conceit a positive word. Yes? Yes?

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes and no, Charlie. I don`t want to get into a theological argument…

CHARLIE ROSE: But that is the idea is — that — you help me.

HAROLD BLOOM: Yahweh is greatly diminished into something called God the Father.

CHARLIE ROSE: Ah, but it is in the…

HAROLD BLOOM: It is not exactly the original Yahweh, because when…

CHARLIE ROSE: No, I`m saying in the mind of Christians…

HAROLD BLOOM: One (INAUDIBLE) that Yahweh…

CHARLIE ROSE: … not…

HAROLD BLOOM: … committed suicide, in effect Christianity tells us that God the Father, by making himself in some complex way one with his Son, sacrifices himself — in effect, commits suicide. It`s inconceivable for Yahweh, and is unacceptable also to Muslims.

CHARLIE ROSE: That God gave his only begotten son.

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes, but no such doctrine — I mean, that violates strict monotheism, according to both Islam and Judaism.

CHARLIE ROSE: And you have said that Christianity as practiced today is essentially polytheistic.

HAROLD BLOOM: I think so, yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: Meaning?

HAROLD BLOOM: Meaning that we have the Son of God, we have God the Father, and we have that fascinating figure, the Holy Spirit, for whom there is actually very little New Testament evidence, but who now in the United States I think is the true spirit of what is abroad, because Pentecostalism is the most rapidly spreading faith in the United States. In fact, it has become the faith of the disinherited.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why do you think that is?

HAROLD BLOOM: Well, I think that the Christian right has so severely compromised any kind of traditional Christianity, that when Hispanics come here and many blacks and many poor whites and so on, they naturally turn to Pentecostalism, to the Assemblies of God and the like groups, because Jesus Christ CEO is not to their taste. And the Jesus Christ whom George W. Bush says is his favorite philosopher I would indeed call Jesus Christ CEO. He is not someone who believes that it is poor who will easily find entrance into the kingdom of heaven. I know this is offensive, what I`m saying. But the offense is surely not mine. The offense is George W. Bush`s.

CHARLIE ROSE: When somebody says something about religion that they say and it comes from their heart, I give them a pass on that.

HAROLD BLOOM: I`m not saying anything from my heart.

CHARLIE ROSE: No, I`m saying from their heart.

HAROLD BLOOM: From their heart.

CHARLIE ROSE: George Bush says that his most influential philosopher is Jesus Christ, I say, you know, that`s fine. I don`t — I just…

HAROLD BLOOM: It leaves me a little speechless, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: I know. I know it does, what George Bush said?

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes, dear. I think there`s a kind of effrontery in it.

CHARLIE ROSE: To say that?

HAROLD BLOOM: Yes, dear.

CHARLIE ROSE: Can I turn to Shakespeare, only because…

HAROLD BLOOM: Certainly.

CHARLIE ROSE: … I like to have, every time you come to this table, at least something that we can get our hands around with respect to Shakespeare. You believe Shakespeare has contributed more to this world than Jesus Christ has…

HAROLD BLOOM: I think that…

CHARLIE ROSE: … or any religious figure.

HAROLD BLOOM: … all of us, whoever we are — and I tell this to my students every week — I think that it`s positively astonishing to us that what we like to think are our own deepest emotions were in fact initially Shakespeare`s thoughts, and there is no other writer of whom you could make so extraordinary a statement.

CHARLIE ROSE: You mean — repeat what you just said.

HAROLD BLOOM: You and I experience fierce emotions, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes.

HAROLD BLOOM: Those emotions, which we would like to feel are indigenous to us, which emerge from our own hearts, are in fact Shakespeare`s thoughts. We wouldn`t feel…

CHARLIE ROSE: Nobody before Shakespeare?

HAROLD BLOOM: I cannot think of any representation in Western literature of a young woman overwhelmingly and generous in love before he writes Juliette in “Romeo and Juliette.”

CHARLIE ROSE: No one expressed that emotion, a woman being overwhelmingly in love before…

HAROLD BLOOM: No one expresses that profound…

CHARLIE ROSE: … William Shakespeare wrote that…

HAROLD BLOOM: No one expresses…

CHARLIE ROSE: … in “Romeo and Juliette?”

HAROLD BLOOM: No one expresses so profound a sense of being unselfishly in love with another human being.

CHARLIE ROSE: No one, no one in your judgment?

HAROLD BLOOM: In some deep sense, in some deep sense, our relationship, our sense of what the — the ratio is between language, thought and feeling owes more to Shakespeare than to anyone else who has ever written, be it a philosopher…

CHARLIE ROSE: Language, thought, and what else?

HAROLD BLOOM: Feeling.

CHARLIE ROSE: Feeling. And…

HAROLD BLOOM: He has educated us.

CHARLIE ROSE: And no one has even raised a single solitary doubt when they have questioned the authorship of William Shakespeare.

HAROLD BLOOM: Ah, it fascinates me that this is one of our major modern madnesses, this desperate need to prove that someone, anyone, except Shakespeare, wrote Shakespeare. Every month, Charlie, I am sent by a society in London — and I don`t solicit this — their literature. They`re wholly devoted to proving that all of the writings of Lewis Carroll were in fact written by Queen Victoria herself. That`s I think — that`s my — I also like to point out that it was only last year that the founder of the American Flat Earth Society passed into the great beyond.

CHARLIE ROSE: What do you think of Harold Pinter getting the Nobel Prize for literature?

HAROLD BLOOM: When you consider that their last several choices were unbelievable, I hadn`t even heard of the two before him, I would say that it`s a perfectly gorgeous choice. “The Caretaker,” “The Homecoming,” “The Birthday Party” are remarkable plays. They are very indebted to Samuel Beckett. He could never get Samuel Beckett out of his head. But he does exploit stage silence, perhaps more powerfully than anyone, except Samuel Beckett does.

CHARLIE ROSE: He can`t get Beckett out of his head when he writes?

HAROLD BLOOM: No, I think the influence is always there, but still, Beckett was a very great writer.

CHARLIE ROSE: You said Cervantes and “Don Quixote,” Shakespeare`s only rival…

HAROLD BLOOM: In terms of…

CHARLIE ROSE: … for the highest aesthetic…

HAROLD BLOOM: In terms of Western literature, since at least Dante, and that is a long way back there, then only Cervantes is a true rival to Shakespeare. Shakespeare give you 100 major characters and 1,000 minor characters. Each of them has a personality and a voice of her or his own. Cervantes gives you only two, the knight and the square, Sancho, but they are on such a huge and magnificent scale that he almost matches Shakespeare.

CHARLIE ROSE: Who was the greatest American person of letters?

HAROLD BLOOM: Walt Whitman, beyond any question, which in a strange way can take one back to Jesus and Yahweh again, because though Whitman was not a Christian and made clear that he was not a Christian, he has, I think, profound affinities to the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark. There`s something forlorn and solitary about the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark, like Walt Whitman, he`s always up ahead of you, waiting for you to catch up. There`s something isolated and splendid.

But Whitman, in my judgment — and it`s taken me a long time to arrive at this view, Charlie — in the four centuries in which imaginative literature of the Western thought has existed in our hemisphere, whether in Spanish, French, Portuguese, or English — Whitman is much the finest writer, the most original, the most comprehensive, the one who has most changed the world.

CHARLIE ROSE: This book is called “Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.”

Harold Bloom. It`s always great to have you here.

HAROLD BLOOM: Thank you, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: Good to see you.

HAROLD BLOOM: Thank you, dear.

CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you for joining us. We`ll see you next time.

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