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Robert Alter: “Modern Bible translators have done a wretched job”

Robert Alter's new translation of the Hebrew Bible draws out the literariness of the text. He speaks to Prospect about why he decided to do a new edition, the act of translation, and what the Bible has to say about character

By Sameer Rahim  

The covers of Alter's new translation are taken by tapestries by Israeli artist Mordecai Ardon. Photo: W.W. Norton

Robert Alter, who was born in New York City in 1935, has had a distinguished career as a translator and literary critic. He is the author of the 1981 The Art of Biblical Narrative and in 1987 with Frank Kermode the edited The Literary Guide to the Bible, key early works in the study of religious texts as imaginative works. 

Over the last 20 years he has been working on the mammoth task of translating the…

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