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策划:邓舒丹 & 唐萧

Falstaff Agonistes


Harold Bloom, literary critic, died on October 14th, aged 89


注:仿Samson Agonistes 中文译《力士参孙》
Agonistes:a person engaged in a struggle or combat

As he slumped in his chair, listening to some interviewer or student, Harold Blood could seem a very picture of gloom. His jowly head leaned lower over his hand; his eyes sank deeper in their dark circles; his impressive belly sagged outward with each breath. Inside that head reposed all Shakespeare’s works, both plays and sonnets; all the poetry of William Blake, including the most obscure; Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, and as much of the Bible as was composed in Hebrew. Besides a good deal else. He was a monument of memory and exposition, a rock round which eager pupils gathered. But to his mind he was also a tired creature who was losing, or had lost, a war. He was Samuel Johnson, best of critics, who nonetheless grappled with “vile melancholy” all his life. And he was Falstaff, the philosopher of Eastcheap, the charismatic larger-than-life spirit of misrule, who was rejected in the end by Prince Hal for simply offering him a teacher’s love.

哈罗德•布鲁姆弓着背坐在椅子上,倾听着某位采访者或者学生,看起来十分忧愁。一只手低低的撑着头,厚下巴,眼睛在黑眼圈的映衬下愈发凹陷。松弛的大肚子伴随着呼吸一起一伏。这个脑袋里装着莎士比亚所有的戏剧和十四行诗;威廉·布雷克的全部诗歌,包括那些最晦涩的诗篇;弥尔顿的《失乐园》,以及大部分希伯来语的《圣经》。加之大量其它文学作品。他是记忆和阐释领域的一座丰碑,他是灵石,赢得求知若渴的学生纷纷前往簇拥。但对他来说自己还是一个疲惫的人,那个人正在输掉一场战争,或者说已经战败。他是另一个塞缪尔·约翰逊,那个最优秀的批评家,却一生与“可憎的孤独”斗争。他是另一个福斯塔夫,东切普塞德的哲学家,魅力非凡, 充满传奇色彩的暴徒,那个向哈尔王子表其师之爱而被拒绝的人。

Goodness knows, he had reason to be discouraged. Over the decades that he had taught English literature, principally at Yale, he had found himself steadily surrounded by enemies. At first it was only the New Critics, F.R. Leavis, T.S. Eliot and the rest with their promotion of dry Anglican Metaphysicals and their hatred of the Romantics he adored: Shelly、Wordsworth、Keats.By the 1960s he managed to install his favorites on the syllabus again. Yet all around him the belief persisted that literature should be studied theoretically and reductively, for its structure and etymologies, as if genius could not appear and astonish out of a clear sky.My dear, as he would sigh to students giving him such piffle for the umpteenth time, that wouldn’t do.


Worse was to come. He watched American universities, even those of name, fall prey to a rabble of Marxists, feminists, pseudo-historicists and cultural-hegemonists, who forced their own programmes on to English deparments. His response, in 1994, was “The Western Canon”, a clarion-call that listed, from Dante to Moliere, from Freud to Neruda, from Chaucer to Beckett, the 26 writers considered central, and at the back the 3000 or so books that everyone should read. His list of writers are all- white and almost all male- inevitably, as he refused to be strong-armed into picking “rudimentary” African-Americans or “sadly inadequate” women. He was now in hot water indeed, especially with those female students he tried to seduce, Falstaff clumsily, with Amontillado sherry; but he ignored it. As a lower-class Jew, the son of a garment-worker, decidedly rare on the faculty of Yale, he needed no lessons in minority-sensitivity. That was beside the point.

更糟糕的还在后头。他眼看着美国大学,甚至那些著名院校,沦为乌合之众的领地:马克思主义者,女权主义者,伪历史主义者以及文化霸权主义者。这帮人将各自的计划强行推入英语学院。为此,他做出的回应是在1994年出版的《西方正典》。作为一种号召,从但丁到莫里哀、从弗洛伊德到聂鲁达、从乔叟到贝克特,书中列举了26位在他看来非常重要的作家,然后在书的背面,推荐了大概3000本必读书籍。他的作者名单不可避免地全为白色人种,并且几乎是男性,因为他拒绝被迫去选那些“不够成熟的”非裔美国作家,或者“可惜能力不足的”女性作家。他现在确实遇到麻烦了,尤其是他那福斯塔夫式的笨拙伎俩— 用雪莉酒去引诱那些女学生;(面对非议)他却不屑一顾。作为出生于底层社会的犹太人,一个制衣工人的儿子,这本身在耶鲁大学教职人员中就非常罕见,他不需要关于少数族裔敏感问题的提醒。种族问题乃非重点。

The list of books caused a furious row too, as to what was on it and what not. His method had been simple: if a book survived a second serious reading, he included it.(He could read 400 pages an hour; it wasn’t so difficult .) People carped about contemporary relevance; but great literature, from Homer on, was always relevant.It reflected eternal verities of human life. A truly great book was not only an aesthetic pleasure; it also expanded cognitive power. It allows an experience of otherness, and the lives of others, that was impossible otherwise. From this the self could take what it found most useful, and grow. As Emerson said- Emerson, with the transcendental Gnostics being his sage, and “Self-Reliance” the creed he most approved of- some words even strike the reader as sublime truth that he had known before. Thus “God in you… responds to God without ”.

这些列举的书籍也引起了很大的争议,关于哪些在名单之列,哪些没有。他的方法很简单:如果一本书经过两次严肃阅读的考验,则可以进入名单。(他每小时可阅读四百页,并且这对他来说并不困难。)人们抱怨这些作品缺乏时代联系;但是,自荷马起,伟大的文学作品总是(与时代)相关。这些作品反映了人类生命的永恒真理。一本真正伟大的作品不仅具有美学价值,同时还拓展人类的认知能力。真正伟大的作品让我们体会在真实生活中无从体会的陌生经历和生活。一个人从这样的书中汲取最有益的养分,继而借之以成长。正如艾默生所说— 他将先验诺斯替教徒作为心中的圣人,且极力推崇“自立”之说—有些话甚至能够穿透人心,说出读者心中已知的崇高真理。因此 “God in you…respond to God without”.

This had happenedto him for the first time when he was swept away by Hart Crane’s poetry in the Bronx Public Library. He was eight, and already perplexing his Yiddish-speaking family by reciting Blake’s “Prophecies” around the place. Now, as he read “O Thou steeled Cognizance whose leap commits/The agile precincts of the lark’s return”, the strange words burned. Eight years later it happened again, when he saw Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” and first met Falstaff in the round flesh, crying out his vitality (“Give me life!”) and his pathos. The writer who could create both Sir John and Hamlet, that quintessential ironist torn between thought and action, could be treated only with awe. He was God. Shakespeare, he wrote in 1998, had invented the modern concept of personality, the first characters who overheard their inner selves and were changed by it. It mattered little what sort of man Shakespeare was, whom the Sonnets were addressed to, what his politics were. His infinite art contained everyone. To the question “Why Shakespeare?” Professor Bloom’s answer was: “My dear, what else is there?”

在布朗克斯公共图书馆里阅读的过程中,他深深地折服于哈特•克莱恩的诗歌,那是他第一次体会此番感情。当他到处吟诵布莱克的《预言》时,年仅八岁,这已让说第绪语的家人充满疑惑。那时,当他读到“ O Thou steeled Cognizance whose leap commits/The agile precincts of the larks return”,这些陌生词句仿佛在炽烈地燃烧。八年后,当他观看莎士比亚的《亨利四世》,第一次亲眼目睹福斯塔夫呐喊出他的顽强(“give me life!”)和悲哀时,此情再现。莎士比亚既创造了约翰爵士又刻画了哈姆雷特,那个在思想与行动中挣扎的经典讽刺者,对于这样的作家,我们必须敬畏。他于1998年写下,莎士比亚是上帝,他创造了性格这一现代概念,在他笔下,人物第一次倾听内心的自我并因之而改变。至于莎士比亚其人、十四行诗为谁而作、他的政治倾向,此类均无关紧要。他的作品广博深远,临摹人世百态。对于“为什么是莎士比亚?”之提问,布鲁姆教授回答:“亲爱的,(除了他)还有别的人吗?

In that thought, the sense of a colossus whose work would never be bettered, lay the impulse for the whole enterprise of literature: for all the books stacked in his study, his shingle house in New Haven and his apartment in Greenwich Village, and laid up in layers in his brain. Each writer, he wrote in 1973, especially each poet, was engaged in an Oedipal agon, or struggle, against the influence of masterly precursors. Shelley had fought against Milton, Whitman against Emerson, Mailer againt Hemingway. Inner anxieties, not outside factors, drove them. Each needed to let their own lustre shine. Only the strongest could manage that clinamen, that Lucretian swerve of the atoms which achieved change. Those were the men and women whose works had to be read.



And where was he on this battlefield? At the forefront in some ways, with his books bestsellers and his name glorious or notorious in the celebrity realm of buzz. He was leading the charge to keep great literature alive: to ensure it was both read and, above all, taught in the universities, where he fretted that syllabuses might soon consist of Harry Potter and Batman comics. The Western canon was still his chief care, a tradition accrued over 3,000 years; let others add on, if they wanted, the Asians and the Africans. He worried, too, about the squandering of short and precious time. Intimations of mortality added to his Johnsonian bouts of sadness. He had great precursors; his successor was not obvious.


Still, another hero, Rabbi Tarphon, provided a motto. “You do not need to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” He was busy teaching at Yale on October 10th.

如另一位英雄犹太教圣人拉比·他耳分所言,“You do not need to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” 十月十日他还在耶鲁忙着授课。


  • 本文原载于 The Economist

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