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Mark

Chevy Chase, MD, USA | Member Since 2003

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  • Gilgamesh: A New English Version

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Stephen Mitchell
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    Overall
    (634)
    Performance
    (288)
    Story
    (288)

    This brilliant new treatment of the world's oldest epic is a literary event on par with Seamus Heaney's wildly popular Beowulf translation. Esteemed translator and best-selling author Stephen Mitchell energizes a heroic tale so old it predates Homer's Iliad by more than a millennium.

    George says: "A defense of this "translation""
    "Yes, it's great . . . but is it Gilgamesh?"
    Overall

    I enjoyed this selection as much as the other reviewers, or perhaps almost as much. However, I think it should be noted that the "author" (or perhaps "editor") calls this a "version" of Gilgamesh rather than a translation. He says in his essay that he does not know anything of the language in which our existing fragments of the Gilgamesh epic or the earlier Gilgamesh poems are written. Instead, he has taken existing English translations, laid them side by side, and written a new English epic based on existing translations. In the process, he has added details where he found the action a little flat or the transitions a little abrupt. It seems to me that what he has done is not unlike someone writing a screenplay based on a novel -- or perhaps the somewhat less common act of writing a novel based on a screen play, as with the Star Wars books.

    In dramatic terms, the project succeeds; it is indeed a very powerful version. And its earthiness does have the effect of making one think that people in the ancient near east were very much like people today. However, the force of that observation was considerably diminished when I learned (at the end) how freely the author/editor had handled the text. In particular, the author/editor's essay draws some comparisons between one of Gilgamesh's adventures and recent U.S. policy in Iraq, and it's impossible for the reader to know whether those points of similarity were always there or whether they were put there by the essayist himself.

    That doesn't sour me on the book -- I enjoyed it and I'm giving it four stars. But I think people should know that this is a little bit like reading Edith Hamilton's Mythology, which is a fine book but is not The Iliad.

    22 of 24 people found this review helpful

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