Archive for the ‘robert alter’ Category
This afternoon’s Poetry Please was given over to the book of Psalms. Some were read in the King James version, and others in Robert Alter’s recent translation. These latter were particularly fabulous. There was an interesting selection of psalms, beginning with the familiarity of the King James version of Psalm 23, the bookends of 1 and 150, and various others including 22, 19, 13, 65 and 104. The programme ended with both the KJV and Alter’s translation of Psalm 137 which almost had me in tears.
Listen to Robert Alter being interviewed about his new translation of the psalms here.
He explains his choice to avoid the word ‘soul’ in his versions. This gives a strikingly different translation of Ps 23. Where we are used to ‘he restores my soul’, Alter has ‘My life he brings back’. In several places, such as Ps 69:1, he points out that the word should be translated in its non-figurative sense, ‘throat’ or ‘neck’.
Alter has tried to retain some of the Hebrew rhythmic patterns in his translations to give a sense of the poetry, keeping the bicola with approximately equal lengths. He’s used compact English words to try to retain the Hebrew patterns. He illustrates that in the interview with his translation of Ps 8:4, ‘What is man that you should note him?’ rather than the lengthier ‘consider him.’
Alter also has interesting things to say about the mythological background to the psalms, illustrating this with the divine counsel in Ps 82.
There has also been an interesting discussion about Alter’s translations on Ancient Hebrew Poetry.
(HT: Doug Green)