Place Published: Braddock, PA
Publisher: Braddock Avenue Books
Date Published: 2023
The author or editor of more than two dozen books—including the monumental and highly acclaimed translation of the Hebrew Bible (2018)—Robert Alter needs no introduction as a scholar, reviewer, editor, and educator. But who is the man behind the many awards and achievements? What sort of life has he led off the page? In this newest, and long-awaited memoir from one of our most probing intellectuals, Alter at last delves into the signal events of his life: his love of language, his early encounters with Hebrew, his experiences within the tumults of academic life, and his moments of friendship and love. And for any of us who have tried reconciling the demands of our personal lives with the demands of the writing life, Alter’s book is sure to become an essential guide.
Traveling from New York to Boston to Berkeley and beyond, Alter brings us on a journey we won’t soon forget as we learn about the lived experiences behind books on Kafka, Nabokov, and the unparalleled pleasures of reading. More than these subjects, however, this memoir is about writing itself as an activity that has brought Alter “intrinsic joy” as he crafts sentences and paragraphs, much as a sculptor works with stone, carefully, precisely, and with attention always to the whole. Through a wide range of rich personal recollections, Alter shows us again and again that writing is not only “something I need to do” but also something absolutely worth doing.
Timeless in its concerns, filled with both life’s joys and disappointments, Robert Alter’s memoir is vital reading for anyone interested in understanding what it means to live a writing life to its fullest.
Praise for Robert Alter
"[Alter’s] accomplishment…is almost absurdly impressive. One wants to call it titanic or Olympian or even heroic, but those are the wrong words―pagan words. Alter will have to settle for one of the God-fearing Hebraic terms of praise that stipple his text: ‘righteous’ or ‘strong’ or, simply, ‘wise.’"
— Adam Gopnik, New Yorker
“The poets will rejoice. Alter's language ascends to a rare purity through plainness that equals the plainness of the Hebrew.”
— Cynthia Ozick, The New Republic
“A godsend. The foundational texts are here given their due in prose at once modern and magnificently cadenced. Immediately readable.”
— Seamus Heaney, Times Literary Supplement