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Genesis: Translation and Commentary

de Robert Alter

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Genesis begins with the making of heaven and earth and all life, and ends with the image of a mummy--Joseph's--in a coffin. In between come many of the primal stories in Western culture: Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden of Eden, Cain's murder of Abel, Noah and the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham's binding of Isaac, the covenant of God and Abraham, Isaac's blessing of Jacob in place of Esau, the saga of Joseph and his brothers. In Robert Alter's brilliant translation, these stories cohere in a powerful narrative of the tortuous relations between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, eldest and younger brothers, God and his chosen people, the people of Israel and their neighbors. Alter's translation honors the meanings and literary strategies of the ancient Hebrew and conveys them in fluent English prose. It recovers a Genesis with the continuity of theme and motif of a wholly conceived and fully realized book. His insightful, fully informed commentary illuminates the book in all its dimensions.… (més)
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I have a hardback copy of this for reference on my shelf of Genesis commentaries, but also an increasingly ragged paperback copy that I've been carrying with me everywhere of late. Reading this during any available downtime has proven fruitful, allowing me to reflect again and again on the text.

Robert Alter's translation of Genesis attempts to restore the accuracy, power, and poeticism of the Hebrew text that has been dulled by the stilted, forced, and theologically tendentious renderings of the past. Many versions of the text of Genesis eviscerate it of parallelism and word repetition. Alter lets the Hebrew cultivate both enigma and delight, eschewing *explaining* the text in favour of representing it. Although he is beholden to JEDP theories of source criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis, he is not uncritically so. I was appreciative of the philological expertise shining through here. Alter's running commentary in the footnotes, which often take up half the page, were surprisingly helpful and welcome. Recommended to be read repeatedly. ( )
  wyclif | Sep 22, 2021 |
"... [T]he "Genesis" for our generation and beyond," Robert Fagles (from the cover). ( )
  strawberrycreekmtg | Jan 4, 2014 |
Lovely translation, which balances the gravitas of the old ones with the readability of the new ones. The extensive notes focus mainly on linguistic matters (of the 'this Hebrew word is the same word used to describe Abraham's mustache' variety) and literary form. There's some discussion of source texts and the various strands that went to make up Genesis, but that's kept to a minimum, since Alter wants to foreground the work that someone put into arranging all that stuff into a reasonably coherent narrative. There's also a couple of notes about historical context, but fewer than I, personally, would have liked. In general, though, I was impressed that he managed to make the notes both copious and not too boring. Anyway, this is the one to get for a good translation. If you want detailed historical or theological commentary, you'll need something in addition, but I can't imagine anyone bettering the translation any time soon. Can't wait to get to Alter's Exodus. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
A great read. I enjoy Alter's biblical translations enormously. I find them almost novelistic in their style. Additionally, their differences from the biblical phrasings that are familiar in the KJV or the NRSV make me pause and take my time thinking about the text.

This translation also has an awesomely bitchy introduction about the art of translation, and why Alter makes the choices he does. ( )
  sskwire | Mar 7, 2011 |
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This is a distinct 1996 translation and commentary on the Biblical Book of Genesis by Robert Alter. Please do not combine it with other editions or translations of Genesis. Thank you.
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Genesis begins with the making of heaven and earth and all life, and ends with the image of a mummy--Joseph's--in a coffin. In between come many of the primal stories in Western culture: Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden of Eden, Cain's murder of Abel, Noah and the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham's binding of Isaac, the covenant of God and Abraham, Isaac's blessing of Jacob in place of Esau, the saga of Joseph and his brothers. In Robert Alter's brilliant translation, these stories cohere in a powerful narrative of the tortuous relations between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, eldest and younger brothers, God and his chosen people, the people of Israel and their neighbors. Alter's translation honors the meanings and literary strategies of the ancient Hebrew and conveys them in fluent English prose. It recovers a Genesis with the continuity of theme and motif of a wholly conceived and fully realized book. His insightful, fully informed commentary illuminates the book in all its dimensions.

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