Word Made Fresh

"Crumb describes his adaptation as being “literal,” a rather loaded word in biblical circles. The idea takes many forms: There is the literalism of the fundamentalist, convinced that the Bible is the inerrant and inspired word of God, but there is also the literalism of modern scholars and translators, who use archaeology and philology to uncover what the words in this ancient text meant. In striving to be literal, Crumb has leaned heavily on Robert Alter’s 2004 translation, which hews to the Hebrew text. Yet in his attempt to mimic the syntax and formal diction of biblical Hebrew, Alter occasionally sounds stilted. Crumb has in some instances wisely rewritten him or reverted to earlier translations in the interest of fluency. Alter’s Jacob rhetorically asks his wife, Rachel, “Am I instead of God, Who has denied you fruit of the womb?” Crumb’s Jacob talks more plainly: “So, then, it’s me, not God, who has denied you fruit of the womb!?” The exclamation mark is a nice touch, in keeping with Crumb’s tendency to use the exaggerated effects of the cartooning tradition (such as the sweat drops that issue profusely from his characters whenever they exert themselves)."

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