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Vendetta

Gerald Hammond: The story of David, 7 September 2000

The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel 
by Robert Alter.
Norton, 410 pp., £19.95, October 1999, 0 393 04803 9
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... Robert Alter established a whole school of literary appreciation of the Bible some twenty years ago with a pioneering book on Biblical narrative. Now he gives us his own translation and commentary on the most literary of all the Bible’s narratives, the story of David. The translation is conservative, fully in line with the Authorised Version (and all the better for that ...

Excessive Guffawing

Gerald Hammond: Laughter and the Bible, 16 July 1998

Laughter at the Foot of the Cross 
by M.A. Screech.
Allen Lane, 328 pp., £30, January 1998, 0 7139 9012 0
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... Have you heard the one about the children who laughed at the prophet and called him ‘slaphead’? A bear tore 42 of them to pieces. Or the one about the maid, expecting her master’s child, who then laughed at her mistress’s infertility? The mistress got a double revenge: she had the maid kicked out into the desert, then had a son herself and called him ‘laughing boy ...

Diary

Gerald Hammond: At the Races, 3 July 1997

... When W.B. Yeats imagined his ideal society, an aristocratic world where poets would be celebrated, and surrounded by ‘hearers and hearteners of the work’, the one place where it could be glimpsed was the racecourse: ‘There, where the course is,’ he wrote in ‘At Galway Races’, ‘delight makes all of the one mind.’ A peculiarly Irish vision maybe, with a racecourse seemingly around every bend in Ireland, but it holds true to an extent in this country, too ...

Diary

Gerald Hammond: Taiwan and China, 3 September 1998

... As Henry James never tired of noting, the real thing turns up rarely, in unpredictable places and unexpected guises. I have now encountered it and, marvellous to relate, stamped on it are the words most redolent of the cheap and gimcrack, ‘Made in Taiwan’. Just north of Taipei is the National Palace Museum of the Republic of China, as Taiwan officially calls itself, one of the four great museums of the world ...

Saucy to Princes

Gerald Hammond: The Bible, 25 July 2002

The Book: A History of the Bible 
by Christopher de Hamel.
Phaidon, 352 pp., £24.95, September 2001, 0 7148 3774 1
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The Wycliffe New Testament 1388 
edited by W.R. Cooper.
British Library, 528 pp., £20, May 2002, 0 7123 4728 3
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... Julia Kristeva was in Manchester in March to give a lecture. One of the pleasures of her visit, for me, the day after the lecture and en route to the Manchester United superstore, was to accompany her on a tour of the Deansgate branch of the John Rylands University Library. Mrs Rylands, the extraordinary founder of the collection, was particularly keen on Bibles, and among the many Biblical treasures is a tiny triangular fragment of the text of St John’s Gospel, catalogued as Gr ...

Yes, die

Gerald Hammond, 23 May 1996

The Five Books of Moses 
translated by Everett Fox.
Harvill, 1024 pp., £25, March 1996, 1 86046 142 5
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... When William Tyndale had completed his 1526 New Testament he set about learning Hebrew and translated from the original, with the aid of Luther’s version, the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch, which he issued in 1530. The signs are that Tyndale’s immersion in its patriarchal narratives and legal codes transformed his doctrinal views – in contrast to Luther, who tended always to regard the Old Testament as an embarrassment at best and a Jewish conspiracy at worst – and inaugurated that strange elevation of the Old Testament which still marks English and American culture ...

Close Shaves

Gerald Hammond, 31 October 1996

Thomas Cranmer: A Life 
by Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Yale, 692 pp., £29.95, May 1996, 0 300 06688 0
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... The last few years have seen a remarkable surge in studies of the Reformation period and this book by Diarmaid MacCulloch is the piece which completes the jigsaw, putting at the centre of the first half of the 16th century Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop with the beard who created the Church of England. Cranmer’s beard dominates the cover. Instead of the familiar Flicke portrait of a clean-shaven prelate, MacCulloch or his editor (I’d bet it was MacCulloch’s choice) has preferred the inferior and much less attractive portrait preserved at Lambeth House, where his white beard is so emphasised that Cranmer looks more like an Orthodox rabbi than an Archbishop of Canterbury ...

Footpaths

Tom Shippey, 26 July 1990

England and Englishness: Ideas of Nationhood in English Poetry, 1688-1900 
by John Lucas.
Hogarth, 227 pp., £18, February 1990, 0 7012 0892 9
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The Englishman’s England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism 
by Ian Ousby.
Cambridge, 244 pp., £45, February 1990, 0 521 37374 3
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Fleeting Things: English Poets and Poems, 1616-1660 
by Gerald Hammond.
Harvard, 394 pp., £24.95, March 1990, 0 674 30625 2
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... of countryside one can see still everywhere from Emmerdale Farm to Last of the Summer Wine. What Gerald Hammond’s book on Fleeting Things adds to this perspective is the strong sense that no matter how far back you go, there is always a Golden Age just out of reach in the past, to contrast with the ...

Reading the Bible

John Barton, 5 May 1988

The Literary Guide to the Bible 
edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode.
Collins, 678 pp., £20, December 1987, 0 00 217439 1
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... professes himself. There is also an unusually good piece on English translations of the Bible, by Gerald Hammond: a rare example of an admirer of the Authorised Version who does not rubbish modern translations, though he shows all too clearly how and why recent translators have failed to provide an authoritative modern version to match that of King ...

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