Robert Alter’s Magnum Opus

If you aren’t familiar with Robert Alter then stop reading this blog post and go look him up. Alter is Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley. Over the last couple of years I’ve come to love Alter’s work, specifically his translation and commentary of the Hebrew Bible. I finished his work on the Torah earlier this year and own his volumes covering 1-2 Samuel and the Wisdom Literature of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

Last night I was searching around on the web to see what new projects Alter may be working on and discovered that in December of this year his complete translation and commentary of the Hebrew Bible will be published by W. W. Norton & Company. At 3,500 pages, this three-volume work will complete his project of translating the Hebrew Bible in its entirety. Here is the blurb for the work from W. W. Norton.

A landmark event: the complete Hebrew Bible in the award-winning translation that delivers the stunning literary power of the original.

A masterpiece of deep learning and fine sensibility, Robert Alter’s translation of the Hebrew Bible, now complete, reanimates one of the formative works of our culture. Capturing its brilliantly compact poetry and finely wrought, purposeful prose, Alter renews the Old Testament as a source of literary power and spiritual inspiration. From the family frictions of Genesis and King David’s flawed humanity to the serene wisdom of Psalms and Job’s incendiary questioning of God’s ways, these magnificent works of world literature resonate with a startling immediacy. Featuring Alter’s generous commentary, which quietly alerts readers to the literary and historical dimensions of the text, this is the definitive edition of the Hebrew Bible.

I’m giddy just thinking about getting this set. I’ll be begging my wife for it for Christmas. Let’s hope she pulls through!

In the mean time, take a look at this video featuring Alter giving a talk on “The Pleasures and Perils of Translating the Bible.” I find him very engaging and likeable. And his love for the biblical text shines through.

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