Sunday, October 03, 2004

THERE'S A NEW TRANSLATION OF THE TORAH by biblical scholar Robert Alter:
Now a noted literary scholar has produced a fresh translation with accompanying commentary. "The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary" (Norton, 800 pages, $39.95) by Robert Alter, professor of comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley, will be released this month.

Alter has a longstanding interest in the literary character of the Bible and has written several books on the subject, including "The Art of Biblical Narrative" and "The Art of Biblical Poetry." Speaking by phone from his office recently, Alter said his new book is a continuation of a translation of Genesis that he made about 10 years ago. The project was prompted by dissatisfaction with the way the literary characteristics of Hebrew have been brought into English, including the "Tanakh," which Alter said has "a peculiar insensitivity to English style."

"I felt a lot of modern translations are almost totally obtuse about the stylistic effects of Hebrew. The King James is a great translation, but in many ways it's not too accurate, and it belongs to 17th-century understandings of Hebrew," he said. "I thought it was worth an experiment to see if I could do a version in readable modern English that did much more honor to the rhythms and syntax of Hebrew."

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