When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
The more things change the more it stays the same. I live in Johannesburg, I am a minister of religion, I am an Afrikaner and a Policeman. This book deeply moved me. Something resonates with my soul as I see so much of this pre-Apartheid world still alive in the Johannesburg of today. I am astonished that the places (suburbs, townships, shacks, even the Midlands of Kwa-Zulu Natal) as painted by Alan Paton are so easily recognised. It felt as if I walked into the book… a book that was banned by the then Apartheid government.
The story is gripping and lavishly beautiful. Paton sketches the contrasts of South Africa and the opinions of the different racial groups towards living together so accurate that the book has the feel of a documentary on the one hand, but driven by a deeply moving story arranged into three acts which can be summarised like this, act 1: the prodigal son goes to the forbidden place and his father goes in search of him act 2: what if the son wants to return, but he cannot because he is corrupted? ; act 3: a loss of innocence or an opportunity to renew.
I am stunned as how Paton draws you in, let you bleed emotionally with Mfundisi (Reverend) Stephen Khumalo and his ‘opposite,’ James Jarvis. I am amazed how love and understanding is born out of hate. Yet, Paton doesn’t give easy answers – even political answers – to a country deep in pain, but let you cry out with him, “Nkosi Sikeleli Afrika!” (God save Africa!). To say the least, this is heavy and like the chief of Ixopo I am not sure if we as South Africans have the answer yet. But miracles do happen in the same way that the darkest clouds bring the best rain.
This book comes greatly recommended. Everybody should listen or read it at least once in their life. It is also deeply religious and speaks to the soul. It is indeed heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.
The British actor, Michael York reads this story with so much pathos; it feels like an act of love. He grips you and doesn’t let you go. I will therefore forgive him his terrible Zulu and Afrikaans pronunciations… completely.
If you don’t care to let the tears roll and be gay at the beauty of new and true human relationships, this book is for you!
If you want a fairly easy follow-able version of the Gilgamesh epic without the endless repetions in the text, but true in most other aspects to the epic and read by an extraordinary narrator, I strongly recommend Stephen Mitchell's English rendition of "Gilgamesh."
It is not a translation of the Akkadian standard version or the Old Babylonian fragmentary version of Gilgamesh, but a retelling of the story in trimeter stichoi. That said Stephen Mitchell, a poet, translator and reteller of some fame, captures the essence and even the details of the Gilgamesh epic splendidly. He follows the standard Akkadian version of the text, but where it seems too fragmentary he supplements it with the Old Babylonian and Sumerian versions. He has used seven different academic translations of the Gilgamesh epic which he conservatively combined into one text. Thereafter he wrote it over in verse form. This thorough treatment of the story, makes it an excellent version to listen to even as a scholar. It is very accessible. It is meant to feel authentic.
I am of the opinion that George Guidall as choice of narrator is spot on. He is an outstanding narrator whom delivers once again. (I think his performance is on par with his reading of Eli Wiezel's Night.)
After the story of Gilgamesh is narrated an essay by the author is read by another narrator (whose name has slipped me). It is an overview and interpretation of the epic by Stephen Mitchell. Most of the content is rock-solid information, though I am not sure if he is always spot-on with his analysis of the epic. Be that as it may, it is not enough to default him on a single star, as this is truly a magnificent version of the ancient Gilgamesh Epic.
If you are not sure if you should buy it, because it is not a strict translation, I can heartily recommend it. I admire Mitchell's ability to resurrect the ancient epic of Gligamesh so that it can be relevant today.