Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review of Alter, Strong As Death is Love

A NEW VOLUME OF ALTER'S TRANSLATION: Found in translation: giving voice to those who wrote ‘Hebrew Bible.’ In his work on many books, Robert Alter aims to translate not just the poem but the poet (Eavan Boland, The Irish Times).
For almost two decades Alter has pushed ahead, bringing out volumes of this translation with dizzying speed. In 1999 it was The David Story, a translation of the first books of Samuel, offering the powerful narrative of a Biblical anti-hero. In 2004 it was The Five Books of Moses; in 2007 The Book of Psalms; in 2009 The Book of Genesis. With hardly time to draw breath in 2010 he added The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. And now comes this new title. Strong As Death is Love covering the books of Ruth, Esther, The Song of Songs, Jonah and Daniel. All the volumes carry as their sub-title A Translation with Commentary.

And the role of the translator? In an interview Alter said, “I want to try to
convey in English what I think were the actual values and mind-sets of the ancient Hebrew writers, which is also, in the poetry, inseparable from the concreteness of their language and the compactness and rhythmic force of the poetry they wrote.”
Background on Professor Alter and his translation of the Hebrew Bible is here with many links.