Genesis: Translation and Commentary

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9780393039818: Genesis: Translation and Commentary

The Book of Genesis is regarded as the bedrock of Western civilization and culture, its stories and language reverberating down the centuries. The author of this translation argues in his preface that English readers have not been well served by existing translations. While the "King James" version is a work of literature in its own right, which has greatly contributed to English literature, its translators did not know the Hebrew society and language well enough to be faithful to the original. Modern translations, on the other hand, tend to simplify the Bible, aiming above all to be easily understood, and thereby losing the ambiguities of the original and its music. This translation seeks to bring the great work to life; it has extensive footnotes which aim to throw light on the language and the world of Genesis. Whereas the "King James" version inevitably changed the ancient society of Genesis into an early English one, this translation tries to convey the subtle shades of its social and familial hierarchies. In it, the characters are portrayed as real human beings, complex and flawed, with bodies as well as voices. In capturing the cadences and meanings of the Hebrew Bible, the author attempts to convey its immense literary power.

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Review:

The Biblical book of Genesis contains some of the most sublime poetry known to man as well as the powerful and bloody history of early Israel. Literary critic Robert Alter here joins the ranks of contemporary authors who have tried to mimic, in English, the sonorous rhythms and parallel constructions of the original Hebrew. He also supplies an insightful, fascinating commentary that emphasizes the dramatic unity of the Genesis story. For believers seeking a deeper understanding of the Bible's first book, or for readers interested in the Bible as literature, Alter's contribution is essential.

About the Author:

Robert Alter is Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of the acclaimed works The Art of Biblical Narrative and The Art of Biblical Poetry, and is co-editor with Frank Kermode of The Literary Guide to the Bible. Alter is the author of many works on modern literature as well, including The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age, available in a Norton paperback. A distinguished literary critic, he is currently the president of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics and is a frequent contributor to The New Republic, Commentary, The Times Literary Supplement, and other journals.

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