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The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary Hardcover – September 17, 2007
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Alter takes us back to the essence of the meaning. . . . Everything is clearer, seeming to have been rinsed not in the baptismal waters of the New Testament but in the life-giving water of the desert. --James Wood
A considerable achievement. . . . Alter holds me to his darkly economical texts. --Harold Bloom
You think you know these texts . . . until you read Alter, who reignites their beauty in bracing and unexpected ways. --Malcolm Jones"
Alter is musically and poetically sensitive.... [He] takes us back to the essence of the meaning. --James Wood"
Extraordinary.... We never forget, with Alter's Psalms, that the text we are reading is the work of human hands not Holy Writ, but something at once less and more than that, great poetry. --Adam Kirsch"
A considerable achievement.... Alter holds me to his darkly economical texts. --Harold Bloom"
It is impossible to overstate the depth, the versatility, and the value of Alter's contribution. --Barbara Berman"
One of the best outcomes of Alter's translation is a sense of an abrupt, muscular intensity; he restores to the Psalms a kind of strangeness that emanates from an encounter with a culture we recognize yet is distinctly alien to us, far removed in time and frame of mind. --Mark Doty"
Every reader of this translation will be led towards fresh thoughts and will discover favorites that inspire the imagination in new, rich ways. --Walter Brueggemann"
In his compelling and swiftly moving translations, Alter has thrust the reader back to the place where the monotheistic religions were born out of even more ancient beginnings. "
The achievement of this new translation is to present the Book of Psalms as a wonder of ancient literature. " --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Robert Alter's ongoing translation of the Hebrew Bible, the magnificent capstone to a lifetime of distinguished scholarly work, has won the PEN Center Literary Award for Translation. His immense achievements in scholarship ranging from the eighteenth-century European novel to contemporary Hebrew and American literature earned Alter the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Los Angeles Times. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Alter is the Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.
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The translation is great although in some ways quirky, and the notes are brilliant. I'd give it 4 or 5 stars. But the Kindle edition has deficiencies that detract from the reading experience. I'd give it 1 star.
Verse numbers in the psalms land sometimes at the beginning of the verse, sometimes at the end, even sometimes in the middle.
There are detailed and fascinating notes, organized by verse. But there are no links from the verse to the related note. So you have to page through from the verse to the note. Bad when the note discusses that psalm. Even worse when the note cross-references another psalm and you have to go to the table of contents to find that psalm.
By the way, the table of contents lists Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. instead of the customary Psalm 1, Psalm 2, etc.
Also, the table of contents is one long list, so you have to scroll through 150 items to find a specific psalm. Other translations solve this in their Kindle versions by using columns.
I also have other Bible translations in Kindle editions which give a secondary level of contents: the verses. Here for a long psalm (such as 119) there's no way to find a specific verse other than to scroll through the whole psalm.
Talking of Psalm 119, as in most translations there are Hebrew letters to define each multi-verse section of the psalm. But similar to the formatting problem with the verse numbers, the Hebrew letters aren't at the start of the section; they just seem to randomly land somewhere close to the start, sometimes in the middle of a verse.
Also traditionally psalms are organized into 5 books. But the table of contents doesn't show the 5 books, even though the intro discusses them. So there's no easy way to link to say the beginning of book 2.
There are occasional English transliterations of the Hebrew in the notes. The Hebrew gutteral that is customarily transliterated as "ch" is instead shown as an h with a dot below it. That's a common alternative method. Except here the dot is even with the bottom of the other letters and the h is lifted above the other letters, requiring that the line spacing be greater for the line that contains that letter. Visually clumsy.
There is a lengthy and fascinating introduction to the psalms whose utility is severely diminished by a complete lack of links. So if the intro discusses a psalm, you have to find the table of contents, scroll through the long list, find the psalm, then find the verse.
I probably could come up with a few more examples of how bad the Kindle version is, but that's enough. As I said, I'd give it one star for the technical implementation of the Kindle format. If I had to do it over again, I'd buy the dead tree edition. While it has no links, it's far easier to flip around in a traditional book than in this severely limited Kindle edition.
The Kindle format is problematic. First, the (translated) texts of the psalms themselves are reproduced as images rather than type. What this means is that you can't use the Kindle's type-size option to make the texts of the psalms any larger or smaller (although I can't imagine anyone wanting to make them smaller, since they're quite small as it is). Second, the comments on each psalm break up the psalm itself, so that you'll have, say, four lines of a particular psalm, followed by several Kindle "pages" of comments, followed by four more lines of the same psalm, followed by more pages of comments, and so on. This probably reflects the fact that the comments (I imagine) appear as footnotes on the printed page. But it really doesn't work on the Kindle, unless you're using the book purely for study purposes and not with the goal of appreciating the psalms as poetry.
Third, the typeface used for the comments and introductory matter is not the standard blunt-serifed face used in Kindle books. Instead, they used a face that becomes so thin on the curves that it disappears in places, making a lot of letters (especially the lower-case "e") look like they were printed with broken type. Finally (and most bothersome, in my opinion), the free sample that is available for the Kindle doesn't contain any of the actual psalms; all it contains is the introductory essay. This is not good, since a primary benefit of getting samples is that you can see whether the book has any glaring formatting quirks before you order it.
That being said, this is a terrific work, and I'm glad that it's available as a Kindle ebook, however imperfect.
Shipping (India), I chose STANDARD, nevertheless it was a super speed. Thanks to Amazon.