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The Song of Songs: A New Translation Paperback – August 7, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ariel and Chana Bloch's new translation of the Song of Songs--the most sexually explicit and sensually rich book of the Bible--is pure delight from beginning to end. Its introduction is an accessible, sophisticated, entertaining, and comprehensive orientation to the literary and religious history of the Song of Songs. The Blochs say the speakers in this poem "don't suffer love, they savor it." Their translation, overflowing with full--almost to the point of florid--feeling ("Feast, friends, and drink / till you are drunk with love!"), arrives at a time when many Jews and Christians are opening themselves to the religious dimensions of sexuality and human love. Song of Songs has a great deal to teach us; this translation is sure to attract many eager students. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Library Journal

The Blochs, he a professor of Near Eastern history and she a poet, have teamed up to render a strikingly beautiful translation of this oldest of Western erotic love poems. The Blochs' translation captures the frank sensuality and rich erotic lyricism that earlier translations have often missed. The poem is accompanied by a splendid introduction that traces the social, historical, and literary contexts of the poem. The afterword, by biblical scholar Robert Alter, praises the Blochs' translation by comparing it with older ones, while an exegetical and expository commentary offers readers a chance to see why the translators made certain choices in rendering their version. Evocative lyrics and lucid expositions make the Blochs' offering one of the best of recent versions. Highly recommended.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 263 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (August 7, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520213300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520213302
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,513,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Esther Nebenzahl on April 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Reading "The Song of Songs" directly out of the Bible and reading the work of Ariel and Chana Block is a complete different experience. The later enriches the first! An academic approach providing a first rate translation of "The Song of Songs," an in depth study and analysis of the poem itself, will broaden your understanding and enjoyment of this forever lasting and debated love poem. Its love transcending sexual imaginary!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Davies on September 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
The best translation, hands down, is this Modern Library Classics by Bloch and Bloch. The layout is very user-friendly, with the original Hebrew on one side, with the English translation on the other. Anyone who knows or is studying Hebrew will appreciate this feature. Also the Song jumps between voices and narration without the typical "he said"/"she said" obtrusions that are common to modern writing. Using context clues it is not too challenging to figure out if the lines belong to the Lover or the Beloved, but the translators' use of italics and bold, makes this distinction clear and renders a very smooth reading.

What makes this translation supreme is Bloch and Bloch's great command of Biblical Hebrew combined with their artistry in maintaining the poetic beauty of this text. They took great care to translate this text as closely as possible to the original Hebrew, but still made some artistic adjustments when a too literal translation would be awkward.

This edition includes a wonderful introduction which discusses the various historical interpretations of this text, as well as their own take. A detailed commentary follows which explains in minutiae the justifications for various translation decisions. For example the word "love" in 5:1, Bloch and Bloch argue has in Hebrew really the specific meaning of "love-making" as opposed to other Biblical terms for love such as the NT Greek "philos," or "agape," or the OT Hebrew "chesed" all of which can have meanings quite different from the act of coitus implied in "love-making." But the Blochs are careful to point out that the same Hebrew word used for love in 5:1 is used elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, and in those instances is very clearly in the context of romantic lovers spending the night together.

The Bloch translation manages to capture the mystery, the beauty, the sensuality of the language, in a way that is fresh, readable, and true to the Hebrew.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
As love poetry in the midst of theology and prophecy, The Song of Songs (or "of Solomon") is an often-ignored book of scripture. This translation celebrates its important place in our faith traditions. While it is aimed for the Jewish reader, as a Christian in love I found this a moving book, and as a scholar I found the commentary useful. Thank you for showing this to me, Rebbe!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lois P. on March 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
My comment is not about the Song of Songs, nor do I write to praise this beautiful translation. I write to complain about this Modern Library edition, which is inferior in two ways to the edition published by the University of California Press. First, the University of California edition contains the entirety (two pages) of the authors' Acknowledgments. Since this is what we would routinely expect, it would not be worth mentioning, except for the fact that the Modern Library edition omits the first page almost entirely: this first page is completely blank except for the word "Acknowledgments." Upon turning this page, the reader encounters the second page of the Acknowledgments, the text merrily rolling along in midstream and mid-sentence. I believe this happened because standards of proofreading today are so low, with some famous publishers considering proofreaders expendable. Second, the University of California Press edition is printed on high-quality paper; this makes for a pleasant reading experience, because when reading one side of a page the reader does not have to contend with text bleeding through from the other side. Again, this is so taken for granted that it would not be worth mentioning, except for the fact that the Modern Library edition is printed on cheaper, thinner paper, so that the text from the other side of the page does bleed through. This is yet another reflection of the lowering of standards by publishers who once stood for quality. Modern Library, modern times.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jack Washington on January 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
How wonderful you are, O Love,

how much sweeter

than all other pleasures!

But to try to quote from the Song is like hunting for a rabbit's foot. Or trying to cook only a spoonful of soup. The lovers are stoked with the such desperate passion, that no matter the circumstance, the politic, or the law, they bestow on themselves and, now, thanks to the translation, on us, a profound innocence. In that split moment before tears begin to well. Before pain is translated into reaction. Or desire hits the brain. No wonder the Song flaunts such a pure animal presence. The lovers living between the heartbeats. I can see the Shulamite stealthing around the city at night. Silent, almost rolling, footsteps. The lovers collision always in the softlight of dawn. The air cold.

Hurry, my love! Run away,

my gazelle, my wild stag

on the hills of cinnamon.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sauropod on December 29, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Blochs' translation is concise, elegant, and strikes the right balance between contemporary explicitness and classical reserve. Some of the textual choices are debatable, and the translation often departs from literalness, sometimes omitting entire lines -- but the overall result is fresh and exciting; this nuanced rendition really brings the Song to life.
One thing to be aware of is that, other than the poem itself, a brief introduction, and some brief remarks by Robert Alter, the text consists mostly of very detailed translators' notes analyzing the verses line by line, even word by word. This material will be of interest to scholars of ancient Hebrew but perhaps not to the general reader. I read the book (sans notes) in about forty minutes -- and I have to wonder if I should have paid [amt] for the privelege. Nothing against the Blochs or their fine work, but I would have preferred more supporting material of more general interest.
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