Episode 137: Genesis, Note to the Reader 2

In which Rebecca runs back AND forth AND back AND forth AND back AND forth.

Genesis, Note to the Reader 2
(download or listen via this link)

Book Information
  • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
  • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
  • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
  • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
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  1. So far Alter hasn't said too much about how the modern translations fix a single doctrinal interpretation; when the original text has multiple aspects with differing applications, fixing the translation to portray a single credo is doing violence to the original inspired text.

    Incidentally, in modern Hebrew the "and"-conjunctive signified with the letter "vav" gets two different pronunciations, "ve" or "u (ooh)" depending on the phonological context: "ve'ata" - "and you, ma'am", or "u'ze" - "and that thing". Yes, there are a few traps for the uninitiated, but wade right in!


  2. W-A-W is an improper way of pronouncing the name of the Hebrew Letter VAV. If there are other times Hebrew comes up,I am certain there are people who could help you learn to say the words.

  3. Indeed -- I was SPELLING it. :-)

    The Biblical way is pronounced waw. The modern way is vav.

    My comments on Hebrew pronunciation came at the beginning of the first episode and at the end of this one. That is my stand on the subject for the reasons stated there.

    My recommendation to any and all is that reading Robert Alter's book is superior to listening. It is not that expensive considering the years of use you will get from it. And then you may pronounce the Hebrew correctly mentally as you read. :-)

  4. Wow, it's amazing what a difference a little conjunction can make! The passage about Rachel takes on a whole new vividness with all those "and"s. It's amazing (and sad!) how much we are missing in our translations without even realizing it. I think that is true for most, if not all, of our prayer and liturgical texts (the Order of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Lectionary).

    I think that, as Alter mentions, there is a pervasive assumption that most English-speakers can't handle literary language, and/or that the modern English language itself is incapable of adequately expressing the biblical and liturgical languages. I think those assumptions are very unjust.

    I think that in reality most people love and indeed yearn for beautiful, sublime, rich, otherworldly, and yes, challenging, language--especially when it comes to prayer and liturgy! We want it to be something distinctly different from the English we encounter and use in the streets or at work or in the newspaper.


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