Friday, December 07, 2007

long review of Robert Alter's Psalms--

"Yet if Alter's Psalms are not as beautiful as the King James Version, they do not have to be. His goal is not really to replace the texts we know but to estrange them--to remind us that the English Psalter conceals the Hebrew one as well as reveals it. For this purpose, Alter's extensive notes--which take up half or more of every page--are as important as his translation. Rather than gloss over the cruxes and the ambiguities in the Hebrew text, Alter exposes them, at times even allowing his own English to mirror the incoherence of the original. 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..."