NORTON £13.99 (519pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Book of Psalms, Translated by Robert Alter
Friday 27 November 2009
After tackling Genesis and the Books of Moses, Alter's supple translation moves on to what he describes as "the most urgent, personally present of all the books of the Bible".
Alter explains the reason for his changes to the King James Version. The phase in Psalm 23 becomes "Though I walk in the vale of death's shadow" because it "better approximates the compactness" of the Masoretic origin, which utilised a poetic term for darkness that also punned on shadow and death. If many of Alter's Psalms plunge us into an alien milieu, they remain readable. The description of the wealthy wicked in Psalm 17 is almost palpable while the frolicking cetacean in the 104th Psalm might be from the Gospel According to Attenborough.
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