JOB SPEAKS by David Rosenberg


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David Rosenberg has brought energy and sympathy to his self-appointed task of retranslating parts of the biblical book of Job into modern idioms--and a great deal of sincerity. He has, however, introduced extra difficulties. He has removed the supporting framework of the wager between God and the walking-up-and-down Satan, has scrapped the speeches of Job's friends, and even the voice from the whirlwind of the Almighty. What we are left with is Job's complaints, a tedious and monotonous wail. There is not a great deal of difference between Rosenberg's first lines: ""Rip up the day I was born/ and the night that furnished a bed/ with people to make me,"" and his last: ""let weeds grow/ and cover this page/ instead of words that grow wheat."" Walt Whitman, whom Rosenberg acknowledges as a guiding spirit, nowhere indulges in pure self-pity. Rosenberg claims no knowledge of Hebrew, says he has studied many translations, glosses, commentaries. Perhaps he has treated earlier versions too respectfully, preserving ambiguities. Thus, King James has: ""When I washed my steps with butter and the rocks poured me out fiches (or rivers) of oil""; Rosenberg renders it: ""My walks were bathed in light/in cream/ the heaviest rocks in my way/ smoothed out/ like oil."" (The example comes from the translator's ""Afterword."") Obviously, neither knows what to do about cream-butter, but Rosenberg has missed the point, the overwhelming point, about the rock in the dry land--water for Moses, oil for the prospering Job.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row