Navigate to News section

A Graphic Take on ‘Genesis’

From Robert Crumb, with a little help from Robert Alter

Sara Ivry
September 03, 2009

Bookforum offers one of the first reviews of Robert Crumb’s illustrated version of Genesis, and it sounds like a winner. Crumb’s interpretation departs from other graphic representations of the Torah by not bowdlerizing it, writes Jeet Heer; the legendary artist “doesn’t hide the fact that the holy book is filled with stories of incest (Abraham marrying his half sister, Sarah; Lot being seduced by his daughters), frenzied bloodlust (God’s various acts of mass murder, the terrible slaughter of a village after a young boy seduces Jacob’s daughter, Dinah), and general unsavory behavior (the theme of fraternal violence that runs from the story of Cain and Abel to the concluding saga of Joseph and his spiteful siblings).” In striving for a literal representation of what went down, Crumb relied on Robert Alter’s 2004 translated Five Books of Moses, but tweaked Alter’s prose to make it more colloquial. Alter’s translations have been criticized for a formality born of his desire to remain as true as possible to the Biblical syntax—an idea he discussed with Tablet in 2007.

Meantime, have a look for yourself at Crumb’s version of Eve, who looks a mite like Crumb’s wife, Aline.

Word Made Fresh [Bookforum]

Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.