The Art of Bible Translation

Princeton Univ. Mar. 2019. 152p. index. ISBN 9780691181493. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780691189253. REL
Having just published an English translation of the Hebrew Bible that took over two decades to complete, literary critic Alter (Hebrew & comparative literature; Univ. of California, Berkeley;$SPACE$The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary) here offers a slim companion volume that ruminates on the principle aspects of biblical style. While acknowledging that compromises are a necessary part of any work of translation, Alter forcefully argues that meaning in the Bible cannot be reduced to lexical values alone, as many contemporary versions tend to do, to his thinly veiled irritation. This book focuses on five aspects of Hebrew style that Alter feels translators ought to attempt to reproduce in English, lest they fail to convey the richness of the text: syntax, word choice, word play, sound play, and rhythm. A final chapter examines biblical dialog. The author provides dozens of examples that clearly illustrate the ways in which many translations miss much of what the text expresses owing to obliviousness to the nuance, connotation, diction, and ambiguity that make the Hebrew Bible such a virtuosic literary masterpiece.
VERDICT Students of the Bible, the challenges of translation, and the beauty of language will appreciate this book.
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