Harold Bloom reviews Marina Warner’s wonderful new Stranger Magic, and he is as much in awe of it as I am. Below an extract from the book, which he includes in his review.
“It did not seem enough to invoke escapism as the reason for the popularity of ‘The Arabian Nights’ in the age of reason. Something more seemed to be at stake. Magic is not simply a matter of the occult or the esoteric, of astrology, Wicca and Satanism; it follows processes inherent to human consciousness and connected to constructive and imaginative thought. The faculties of imagination — dream, projection, fantasy — are bound up with the faculties of reasoning and essential to making the leap beyond the known into the unknown. At one pole (myth), magic is associated with poetic truth, at another (the history of science) with inquiry and speculation. It was bound up with understanding physical forces in nature and led to technical ingenuity and discoveries. Magical thinking structures the processes of imagination, and imagining something can and sometimes must precede the fact or the act; it has shaped many features of Western civilization. But its influence has been constantly disavowed since the Enlightenment and its action and effects consequently misunderstood.”