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The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb (2009)

by R. Crumb

Other authors: Robert Alter (Translator)

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1,2275016,095 (4.03)46
An illustrated adaptation of the entire book of Genesis, providing the biblical accounts of the Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the ark, the Tower of Babel, and other people and events.

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Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
This is one of R. Crumb's masterpieces, whether it is a labor of love or of compulsion. (He worked on it for five years.) I love biblical scholarship and this "R. Crumb Meets Classics Illustrated" version of Genesis is informed by scholarship. Crumb relied on both the familiar King James Version and, more heavily, on Robert Alter's translation which is in modern English but is also extremely conscious of the original Hebrew.

The stories of the first book of the Bible are told at once with imagination yet close adherence to the meaning of the text as best as that can be determined. What is remarkable to me is how clear Crumb's rendition makes the stories. Even the begats become readable when there is a picture of each individual in the genealogy. This made it easier, for example, while reading about Joseph, to flip back to the relevant page and see the illustrated chart of who his brothers were and who the mother of each was. And, believe me, Genesis needs a who's who of characters.

The aptly named Mike Judge of the Christian Institute has predictably denounced Crumb's "The Book of Genesis" as "turning the Bible into titillation." Excuse me? Has Judge not read Genesis with an engaged brain? This ancient text is so full of titillation and ribaldry that to turn it into such would be redundant. There is ribaldry and brutality enough in the King James or any other standard text version of Genesis to warrant this version's warning--"Adult supervision recommended for minors"--being applied to all versions. True, only an illustrated version could show Adam's pizzle or Eve's mound, but not to show the first humans au naturel would betray the earthy spirit of the ancient people who told these stories.

Besides, Crumb never goes overboard. Take Chapter 19 (verse 5 and following, though Crumb does not clutter his illustrated text with verse numbers) where the men of Sodom want to "know" the apparent men (actually angels) who are guests in Lot's home. It is clearly understood that these citizens want to gang rape Lot's guests. The text only gives a clue to this effect. So does Crumb. He does not dwell upon this or try to make the lasciviousness of the situation any more explicit than it is in the traditional text versions of Genesis.

Yes, Crumb shows men lustily taking their wives (and daughters), but only because the original text says that they do these things. If anything, Crumb has toned down his obsession with large breasts, which are apt to be much, much larger in his other works than they are here. ( )
  MilesFowler | Jul 16, 2023 |
This comic book style illustrated presentation of Genesis is very complete. All the incidents of all fifty chapters are included. Crumb claims to have taken only a small handful of liberties with the text (for example: leaving out one line in chapter twenty-four because he was persuaded by a scholar’s arguments that it was a later scribal insertion). There are a small number of added notations, most explaining the meaning of a Hebrew personal or place name, which sometimes involve word play. For the source of his text, he mostly followed the translation of Robert Alter, but also used other sources. For those who like Crumb’s mature drawing style (I am such a one) I would count this among his best work. He describes (in an introduction and final commentary) some of the consultation and research he did in the course of his work, not only to understand the text of Genesis but also to more realistically depict the clothing, buildings, tools, furnishings, etc. of the ancient Near East. This presentation of the first book of the Torah helped me appreciate some of its striking and fascinating highlights: the fact that there are two distinct and separate creation narratives one given immediately after the other, the great importance of agreements / covenants in that world, the genealogies (“these are the sons of…”), the great power of words as shown in changes of personal and place names, oaths, and most of all by the great power of blessings. Other things that this graphic Genesis made striking for me were: how common warfare was in in that long ago world, the strange and repeated “she isn’t my wife she’s my sister” routine (Crumb has something to say about that in the comments at the end), the odd “birth off” in which two wives and two female slaves seemingly compete in rapid fire gestation, and the (perhaps surprising) importance of many female characters. As Crumb points out in a comment, an entire chapter is devoted to the death and burial of Sarah and several women have real agency. Also notable is the obvious political / social importance of the Lord’s repeated promise to Abraham and his descendants concerning their progeny and the land of Canaan. If you enjoy Crumb or have an interest in the Hebrew Bible, I recommend this book.
  qsgb78 | Jul 5, 2023 |
I love the look on Noah's face when God tells him his plans for the earth. God comes off as a nut case. There is certainly some of Mr. Natural in him. I think the riding of camels is an anachronism (chapter 14), but I'm not sure what an anachronism means in this context. I enjoy reading the comic book versions of Shakespeare's plays, because it is closer to performance, and I don't know why, but Genesis comes off very well as a comic. Its absurdity, primitiveness and humanity are brought out. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
Out of any direct biblical adaptations I've read or seen this is probably one of the best. R. Crumb does a good job keeping the story unbiased and faithful to the translations he was using. It's very hard to argue that the Book of Genesis (or any religious text) has made a huge impact on the globe from literature, art, film, politics, and even everyday activities.

With this adaptation you should expect R. Crumbs art style but don't expect anything anti-religious, humorous, or ironic. In the introduction he states himself he wanted to do the best and most accurately possible adaption (it should also be noted that Crumb see Genesis as holy but doesn't believe that every story is 100% true, more metaphors for something else - like how some Bible studies are taught). I highly recommend it to any reader with an open mind who can tolerate Crumb's style and Bible stories.

What I'm always surprised about is how little of Adam and Eve are in Genesis, two or three chapters (I believe); same thing can be said with Noah's Ark. What the Book of Genesis mainly focuses on is Abraham and Joseph (Jacob's/Israel's son). ( )
  Jazz1987 | Aug 27, 2022 |
A whole new way to look at the book of Genesis. This illustrated version shows Crumb's interpretation of these classic stories, of creation, of Joseph, Adam and Eve, and Noah's Ark. I found understanding and insight on many a page, the whole work of 224 pages is clearly a labor of love.

Not for traditionalists, but for anyone with an open mind and curious about alternative explanations. ( )
  Bookjoy144 | Mar 2, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Like Genesis itself, this book is a mix of the sacred and the profane. Not everyone will find that to their liking. However, I sincerely believe it’s worth the effort to read the book, at least once.
For all its narrative potency and raw beauty, Crumb’s “Book of Genesis” is missing something that just does not interest its illustrator: a sense of the sacred.
It's a cartoonist's equivalent of the Sistine Chapel, and it's awesome. Crumb has done a real artist's turn here — he's challenged himself and defied all expectation.
Genesis doesn't need an R. Crumb to provide perversity and failure. It's got enough all by itself. This is one reason that Crumb could play it straight with his art, no cloacal Snoid comedy, no gratuitous sex. Yes, there is sex -- men and women are shown discreetly coupling. But no irony, no joking around here. Just one pen-and-ink panel after another until Joseph -- he of the coat of many colors -- dies and the book ends.

How strange it all is, how ordinary. How biblical, how Crumb.
The power of "The Book of Genesis Illustrated" resides in Crumb's decision to play it straight, to frame this ancient creation myth on its own enduring terms.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
R. Crumbprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alter, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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An illustrated adaptation of the entire book of Genesis, providing the biblical accounts of the Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the ark, the Tower of Babel, and other people and events.

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