In Memoriam Udo Quast
On December 30, 2005 Udo Quast succumbed to cancer, after a year of fighting
the disease. Between chemotherapy treatments during this period he came regularly
to the Unternehmen to work on his critical edition of the Book of Joshua, as
well as reading proofs of his Ruth edition; the latter should be appearing
shortly. The Joshua volume awaits another editor.
For me the death of Udo is something like losing one’s right arm. Udo was
not only a friend of long standing, but also a colleague who worked with me
faithfully during my many years of preparing the Pentateuch volumes of the
I first met Udo in 1966 when I first visited the Unternehmen and was assigned
the editorship of the Genesis volume. Once I had worked on the collation books
for a year or so, I would visit Göttingen every summer, as well as during my
Sabbaticals. Udo automatically assigned himself full time to my work as long
as I was there. When I arrived at the Hauptbahnhof he and Detlef Fraenkel were
always there to pick me up; when I came to Lagarde Haus, my old slippers were
in place for me. And when I left, he and Detlef were at the Bahnhof to bid
Udo checked every reference which I queried; he read critically everything
I wrote; he was my right hand throughout the years of working on the Pentateuch.
He was really my alter ego, and I grieve his passing.
He was the finest proofreader I have ever met. When proof arrived we both
read everything. Only rarely did I find an error that Udo had not seen, whereas
the reverse was frequent. He had cat’s eyes. On occasion he would check a very
difficult reading and would ask me to check his reading. That was to my mind
almost an impertinence, since he could read things that merely looked like
a smudge or only a faint tiny unreadable something, and I wouldn’t even realize
that there was a reading. But I always agreed that his reading was undoubtedly
correct. The fact that the Pentateuchal volumes are as accurate as they are
is largely due to Udo’s brilliance.
I have never met anyone who could read manuscripts as well as Udo could. And
what amazed me about Udo was his reticence; he never put himself forward; in
fact, he was always deferential, even though we were on Duzen terms.
But Udo did so much more. As long as Prof. Hanhart was the Leiter of the Unternehmen
it was Udo who acted for the Leiter. It was he who was in charge of the student
collators, who assigned them their work, who corresponded on behalf of the
Unternehmen. Prof. Hanhart would come in once a week and Udo would report to
him. When any collator had difficulty it was Udo who came to the rescue; after
all, he was the master paleographer.
Udo spent his life reading manuscripts. He and Detlef rechecked all the manuscripts
that the collators had read, with Udo reading the manuscript and Detlef checking
the collation books. I would suggest that Udo knew more about LXX manuscripts
than any living human being, with the only possible exception of Detlef Fraenkel.
And what made Udo so endearing to me was that he was so self-effacing.
The Göttingen Pentateuch is unthinkable without Udo, and it is only right
that my name as editor should have appended to it “adiuvante U. Quast.” The
Göttingen Septuaginta has lost its chief treasure, and I have lost
a dear friend. May his memory endure as long as the Göttingen Pentateuch; or
better said, as long as the Göttingen Septuaginta.
January 12, 2006