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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. " --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Robert Alter's 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 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.
So the kindle edition was poorly formatted; you are not here reviewing the quality of e-books, you are here reviewing the book, not the delivery system. Some people gave Kindle one star and the book five stars.
A friend is Lubavitcher and a rabbi; his comment was interesting, excellent translation, but Alter denies that David wrote all the psalms so my friend lost interest. I get that, Fundamentalism shows up in all religions.
With that same friend i pointed out that Alter translates translates a word in Hebrew in Psalm 23 differently than is the usual usage. He did not; according to Alter the word in the 23rd Psalm does not mean anointed , as in He anointed my head with oil. First Alter points out that the word used used in Samuel when Samuel anoints first Saul and then David is a different word and that the word in the 23rd Psalm means something along the lines of luxurious rubbed olive oil into my hair. It is after all a Psalm of abundance.
Because I can read and understand a lot of the Hebrew I must say to the person who complained that Alter compressed the English in order to make it more like the Hebrew. It is a book of examination, not a get closer to your G-d book.
In Alters translation while some of the poetry is lost, the cadence is much closer to the Hebrew. Yea though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death in Hebrew is only two words, lech tsalmovit. In poetry cadence counts. Alter has also written two books on understanding the bible, one is about understanding narrative and the other is about uderstanding the poetry.