Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
Having been brought up on the classics, I’m not sure how I missed Gilgamesh. It was probably because my earliest education was of the Catholic variety and this would probably not be in most Catholic, let alone other Christian, stacks. So why read it now? Partially because it is so classic and I had not read it, but also, and perhaps mostly, it was a Stephen Mitchell translation. Mitchell can take the most arcane and make it understandable, the most seemingly simple and make it fresh and sophisticated for even the most intellectually-challenged among us.
The book is fraught with duality as is often a theme contained in other SM books. The book is about beauty and ugliness, strength and weakness, friends and enemies. The poetry of the narrative is quite beautiful and powerful in its own right but the essay of a critique that follows it is like icing on a cake: delicious. Great books can be read more than once and each time the reader will glean something entirely new or understand something at a deeper level. The essay adds a whole other dimension to the main piece that I certainly would not have appreciated had I not read it. And, given how short Gilgamesh is, it is certainly worth listening to again, this time with a whole new appreciation and understanding.
I can't comment on its fidelity to the original, but this is a very engrossing rendering of the tale. The reader does a great job, and the translation is smooth and listenable. There's also an excellent essay at the end which answered all the questions that I had!
"Gilgamesh" is the story of the king of Uruk and the wild-man, Enkidu, who fight and end up as friends. Gilgamesh and Enkidu go have several adventures, followed by Gilgamesh's solo search for immortality after Enkidu's death. You can think of it as a 4700-year-old "bromance."
The story is timeless, and is one of the oldest works of literature known. More poetry than prose, the story is an epic tale of heroes and adventure, friendship and loss. Written for an age where almost nobody was literate, it was meant to be recited, making it a great option for an audiobook.
Parental warning: there is some blatant sexual content (e.g. intimate body parts are mentioned by name, Ishtar tries very hard to seduce Gilgamesh) in this audiobook. I'm not sure the original Mesopotamian audience would have thought this would be a problem, but modern folk tend to hide such details from younger children.
[I am only reviewing the original story. I skipped the second half of the audiobook, a commentary written by the author/translator.]
What a great experience this version of the epic is! What a pleasure to listen to. Normally I would bemoan the unscholarly treatment Mitchell has given the story; I'd never condone such loose treatment of, say, the Homeric epics. But given the fragmentary nature of the epic as it has come down to us, such a treatment is the only way to enable us modern readers to really dig in to the story, to experience it as a literary work rather than an archeological artifact. And what a wonderful story, and a titanic literary achievement it is!
George Guidall is fantastic as always; one could not ask for a better reading.
Listeners should note that the epic itself is only about half of the audiobook. The second half is an essay about the epic as literature, its discovery, and the editor's process. Not a bad essay, though a little lightweight.
Gilgamesh lends itself to repeated listening, the story is timeless and so moving, the vocal performance captures the rich humanism of the tale. I have enjoyed listening together with my child, and plan to keep this one in our family e-library forever.
When Enkiku faces his curse, first with anger then with heroism, it's so memorable and wonderful, I cried. There are also some laugh out loud moments too, when Gilgamesh resists the seduction of the Goddess there are some hilarious lines. The love between the two heroes is so touching.
His pacing is spot on, it really captures the tone of the action, and he has just the right degree of expressiveness too, he's really just perfect for this story.
The whole book is wonderful, I genuinely did laugh out loud, and cried too. The friendship between the heroes is on par with the brotherly love in Lord of the Rings. Beautiful.
If you are at all interested in the great classics grab this ebook. It's easy for even a child to follow the story, the background notes are ample but not at all overwhelming, a fantastic introduction to a timeless and deeply beautiful story. The language is frankly sensual, vivid, and rich, extremely enjoyable.
But then if you google the word epic it says Gilgamesh. Read the roots to understand the fruit of the tree.. (gee that's eloquent) and true.
This was really a great translation of the oldest story in history! I loved it. Beforehand, I thought Beowulf predated everything else, but I guess not. Plus, this text supports the notion of a Great Flood happening at about the time of the Biblical Noah. However, there are also elements in this text that make one question the ideas of the Bible and make you wonder, "Did the Biblical stuff really happen? Really?!" I mean, certain themes in the Bible seem as if they were drawn from this tale. And as the story of "Gilgamesh" actually predates the writing of the Bible, it kinda makes ya wonder... :)
I loved finally being able to read Gilgamesh. I appreciate that the author had taken existing translations and made a story out of them without having to be distracted by the fragmentary nature of what has been found so far.
From the very start of the story, I was captivated. My imagination was immersed in a long passed civilization existing in a world unimaginably ancient. Gilgamesh was relevant to my life. More so than much of the books and stories, told as movies, produced today.
There is so much depth here. So much intellectual wealth. If you have always wanted to approach Gilgamesh, this may be one of the best ways.
The only downside is the commentary after the epic. For one thing, it is so much less compelling than the epic that I went back and listened to the epic once again before finishing the slog through the commentary. There were some edifying moments but it would have been much better if the author didn't feel the need to get across just how much he disapproved of George W. Bush and the Iraq war. I got it in one. I was also annoyed at how he assigned certain motivations and insights to the poet which he couldn't possibly be able to prove. At times it seemed as if the author was attempting to turn this treasure of the world into some trite piece of propaganda.
But Gilgamesh prevails in the end and Stephen Mitchell should both be congratulated and rebuked.