Gilgameshby John Gardner
The story of Gilgamesh, an ancient epic poem written on clay tablets in a cuneiform alphabet, is as fascinating and moving as it is crucial to our ability to fathom the time and the place in which it was written. Gardner's version restores the poetry of the text and the lyricism that is lost in the earlier, almost scientific renderings. The principal theme of the poem is a familiar one: man's persistent and hopeless quest for immortality. It tells of the heroic exploits of an ancient ruler of the walled city of Uruk named Gilgamesh. Included in its story is an account of the Flood that predates the Biblical version by centuries. Gilgamesh and his companion, a wild man of the woods named Enkidu, fight monsters and demonic powers in search of honor and lasting fame. When Enkidu is put to death by the vengeful goddess Ishtar, Gilgamesh travels to the underworld to find an answer to his grief and confront the question of mortality.
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- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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What People are Saying About This
William L. Moran, The New York Times Book Review
"The authors brilliantly achieve the goal of infusing the poem with new life and meaning for the modern reader"
Ronald Bailey, Newsday
"A moving and exceptionally readable version of the poem."
Aaron Shurin, The San Francisco Chronicle
Meet the Author
John Gardner was accorded wide praise for his works of imagination, of criticism, and of scholarship. He was born in 1933 in Batavia, New York. Among the universities at which he taught are Oberlin, San Francisco State, Northwestern, Southern Illinois, Bennington, and the State University of New York—Bennington. The Art of Fiction was completed before his death in 1982.
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The story of Gilgamesh is a timeless epic that deals with the universal theme of šimāt amēlūtim - the fate of mankind: death, amongst other topics. Civilisation versus natural man, the mourning of a friend, the fight against aggressors like the terrible Humbaba, and the Achillian desire to be known to history are just some of the elements explored in the text, providing an interesting look at life's hardest questions through the reflections of the ancient Mesopotamian mind. Regardless of which version (Babylonian, Akkadian, Sumerian), the Epic of Gilgamesh is a must read from the ancient world for any enthusiast of literature, archaeology, and/or philosophy. What stands out in this work of translation is the care taken by the translators in the tablet endnotes to explain the significance of a handful of terms from the original standard Akkadian as well as religious/social gestures, which brings the ancient Sumerian world of Gilgamesh to life. Moreover, the endnotes contain translations of other versions of the epic to fill in the gaps where the comparative columns of the standard Akkadian version are yet lost to time.
While it was an exemplary novel, it should not be read by children with insufficient vocabulary or insufficient reading skills. I reccomend this book to scholars and people with a large intellect only. For the record I am thirteen, and I am the only one at my school, including teachers, who could read the entire novel in a single week and understand it. I still had some trouble with comprehension, however