Alster, Bendt

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Name

Alster, Bendt

Dates

26 July 1946 - 30 April 2012

Birthplace

Denmark

Specialization

Sumerology, Assyriology

Major works

Dumuzi's dream. Aspects of oral poetry in a Sumerian myth. Copenhagen: 1972; Proverbs of Ancient Sumer: The World's Earliest Proverb Collections. Bethesda, MD: 1997; Wisdom of Ancient Sumer. Bethesda, Md: 2005.

Remarks

Bendt Alster studied Assyriology at the University of Copenhagen from 1965 to 1972 and received the doctoral degree in 1975. He spent one year in Rome at the Biblical Institute (1968-69), and another (1970-71) at Harvard University studying with Thorkild Jacobsen. Alster was visiting scholar at the University Museum, Philadelphia, in 1973, 1988-89, 1992 and again in 1993-94, as well as visiting scholar at the British Expedition to Iraq, Baghdad in 1990, and visiting scholar at the Babylonian Collection, Yale University, 1992. Bendt Alster was external lecturer at the University of Copenhagen from 1978 until 2005.

Obituaries

Bendt ranks among the most significant Sumerologists of the past half century. His 1972 book, Dumuzi's Dream: Aspects of Oral Poetry in a Sumerian Myth, remains a poignant example of the potential of using literary criticism in combination with traditional philology to advance our understanding of ancient Mesopotamian texts. Dumuzi's Dream, together with his 1997 Proverbs of Ancient Sumer, and his 2005 Wisdom of Ancient Sumer, stand as the greatest testimonials to Bendt's scholarly achievement. Yet it was another study, his 1992 article on the Early Dynastic proverbs (Archiv für Orientforschung 38, 1-51) that Bendt once mentioned to us, in his modest way, as his best work.

Bendt was a generous teacher, and his interests were wide-ranging. He was well-read in other disciplines, from biblical and classical studies to literary studies and the history of religions. He never approached the study of Sumerian literature as an isolated endeavour, but regarded it as part of the general study of literature and always made reference to a wide array of works from the classical tradition to the New Testament parables, over Quranic literature to modern day classics from Russia, England and Denmark when teaching his students. As one, small testimony to his inspiring intellectual curiosity, he took up Arabic again last year - which he had not used much since his classes with Professor Frede Løkkegaard in his youth.

Bendt was a subtle translator. He always insisted that we should attempt to render all Sumerian texts in modern languages, once mentioning in jest that Sumerian was not yet part of the standard curriculum in high school.

Only among his closer friends and colleagues was it known that Bendt also was an accomplished photographer, with his own dark room, and that he played a very reputable viola.

Bendt died Monday, April 30, 2012, following complications from surgery on a fractured leg. He is survived by his wife, Norma.

A summary of the works of Bendt Alster is being prepared for CDLI's Wikipedia pages.

Bendt will be greatly missed.

Laura Feldt & Jacob L. Dahl

Obituary in Danish

Mindeord for Bendt Alster

Bendt Alster blev født d.26. juli 1946. Bendt var blandt de få, som forsker i verdens ældste litteratur fra oldtidens Mesopotamien. Særligt specialiserede han sig i litteratur affattet på sumerisk og han var en af de mest fremragende sumerologer verden har set i de sidste 50 år. I sit arbejde kombinerede han med succes litteraturvidenskabelige tilgange med traditionel filologi og viste, hvor værdifuldt dette kan være for studiet af oldtidens litteratur fra myter, over ordsprog til visdomstekster, som det fx ses i hans værker (1972, Dumuzi's Dream: Aspects of Oral Poetry in a Sumerian Myth (1972); Proverbs of Ancient Sumer (1997) og Wisdom of Ancient Sumer (2005). På dansk redigerede han bl.a. Gads religionshistoriske tekster (1984, sammen med Christiand Lindtner) og Dagligliv blandt guder og mennesker (1986, sammen med Paul John Frandsen). Bendt var også en meget generøs lærer for sine studerende, med blik for livets og verdens mange facetter. Han var selv en omhyggelig oversætter af sumerisk litteratur, og insisterede altid på, at vi skulle forsøge at gengive sumeriske tekster levende på de moderne sprog, eftersom ”sumerisk endnu ikke er på skoleskemaet i gymnasiet” – og som altid blev pointen leveret med humor. Ydermere var han belæst i flere discipliner, fra bibelstudier og oldtidskundskab til litteraturvidenskab og religionshistorie. Han så aldrig studiet af sumerisk litteratur som en isoleret og støvet disciplin, men anså det for at være en del af det generelle studium af litteratur, ligesom han altid henviste til en bred palet af værker fra den klassiske tradition til de nytestamentlige lignelser, over Koranen og til moderne klassikere, når han underviste. Hans interesser var vidtfavnende, og et lille vidnesbyrd om hans inspirerende intellektuelle nysgerrighed er at han sidste år genoptog studiet af arabisk med stor fornøjelse – et sprog han ikke havde beskæftiget sig med siden han tog timer hos professor Løkkegaard i sin ungdom. Ved siden af sine akademiske meritter var Bendt en dygtig fotograf, han spillede glimrende bratsch, og med sine mange kære minder fra et studieophold i Italien holdt han af sine cappucinoer, ligesom hans og Normas somre i Rørvig var en stor glæde for ham. Bendt døde mandag d. 30. april 2012 efter komplikationer i forbindelse med operationer på lårbenet. Han var en sjældent dygtig sumerolog, en vidtfavnende humanist, og en god ven med et glimt i øjet. Han vil blive savnet.

Jacob L. Dahl og Laura Feldt

Varia
Bibliography
alster_bendt.txt · Last modified: 2016/04/18 13:53 by dahl
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