In the ancient city of Uruk, the tyrannical King Gilgamesh tramples citizens "like a wild bull". The gods send an untamed man named Enkidu to control the ruthless king, but after fighting, Enkidu and Gilgamesh become great friends and embark on a series of adventures. They kill fearsome creatures before Enkidu succumbs to disease, leaving Gilgamesh despondent and alone. Eventually, Gilgamesh moves forward, and his quest becomes a soul-searching journey of self-discovery.
Mitchell's treatment of this extraordinary work is the finest yet, surpassing previous versions in its preservation of the wisdom and beauty of the original.
©2004 Stephen Mitchell; (P)2004 Recorded Books LLC
"Stephen Mitchell's Gilgamesh is a wonderful version....This is certainly the best that I have seen in English." (Harold Bloom)
"Here is a flowing, unbroken version that reads as effortlessly as a novel....Vibrant, earnest, unfussibly accesible....The muscular eloquence and rousing simplicity of Mitchell's four-beat line effectively unleashes the grand vehemence of the epic's battle scenes." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Mitchell seeks language that is as swift and strong as the story itself. He conveys the evenhanded generosity of the original poet....This wonderful new version of the story of Gilgamesh shows how the story came to achieve literary immortality: not because it is a rare ancient artifact, but because reading it can make people in the here and now feel more completely alive." (Publishers Weekly)
This is a very good reading of the Epic, which I have read many times in various translations. But rather than say how wonderful the book is, which others have already done, there are some things that should be pointed out:
For some reason Audible called this a "children's" book, which is debatable. The sexuality is quite direct and graphic. However, my mother let me read another version of Gilgamesh as a child and its frankness was fine by her and me. It isn't outright pornography, but it is sexually blunt. In other words, some parents may find this book objectionable - others just honest. You decide.
Also, as far as sexuality goes, another reviewer mentioned how the redactor of this book implies a homoerotic relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The "translator" is actually not making this up: in the 12th tablet of the story, which is not part of this recording for boring academic reasons, the sexual nature of their friendship is explained without mixing words.
Another comment mentions that is book is not a real "translation", which is true. However, that is not without good reason. An actual word for word translation of the epic is unreadable - only compilations are useful to the general public. If you want to see what I mean, find a true translation at your library and count the number of missing lines and unclear words. It's like reading a book where you can only see every tenth word or so.
The essay at the end is hit or miss. The political messages (even the ones I happen to agree with) are out of place and preachy. But occasionally he is insightful. Either way, check this book out, as it's a pleasure to listen to.
This is a wonderful combination of an excellent translation of this epic poem and the exceptional performance of a first class reader. Gilgamesh is the oldest known story in the world. Everyone who considers themselves to be educated should be familiar with it. But up until now, the translations available have been stilted and hard to read. This one captures the passion and intensity of the tale, and the performance makes this a first rate listen.
The essay explaining the work actually follows the reading of the poem, which lets the listener form their own impressions before being exposed to those of the author. An excellent idea, since one enters the tale without any preconceived interpretations.
Don't be afraid of this one. It's an exceptional work.
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.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I've loved Stephen Mitchell's take on the classics since I first read his translation of Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry, and most recently with his update of Homer's Iliad. The strength of Mitchell is that he approaches the text as a poet FIRST and a translator second (and sometimes actually skips the translator role completely). The closest I've come to this in other translators is the husband and wife team of Richard Pevear (poet) and Larissa Volokhonsky (translator) and their amazing translations of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Gogol.
With Gilgamesh, Mitchell doesn't really actually translate, but rather blends and updates. He takes other academic and previous translations (more than six plus other versions by the look of the bibliography) and squeezes, lifts and shapes them into a a new text, and then renews them into contemporary English and sets it all in a 'loose, nonaimbic, nonaliterative, tetrameter'.
His version is robust, manly, and shows that thousands of years before the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Bible there was poetry being written and myths being formed out of fertile Babylonian clay.
fantastic narration, and you get to check one more classic off the endless list of things you should read with very little investment in time or money. I was surprised by how wrapped up in the story I became, given that I really only listened to it because it is "important." Much more fun than Beowolf or The Fairie Queen.
Customers should notice however that only half of the playing length is devoted to the actual story --the rest is an interpretive essay by the translator. It's quite a good essay --I, at least, found it helpful for appreciating a work originating in an ancient culture I know next to nothing about. At an hour and a half though, the essay might be off-putting for anyone who fears anything that reminds them of their University days.
Here is a daring translation of Gilgamesh that is easy to listen to, although strong in language and flavor. It makes you feel like you are getting close to experiencing one of the seminal myth/legends in vivo, that all cultures and peoples have deep in their psyches.
Also, there is a long commentary that follows the translation that is valuable in emphasising the intrepretive role of this translator and giving the listener/reader a way to evaluate his/her own reaction and perhaps judge any possbile bias in this translation.
All in all, very pleasurable and valuable.
I taught History and Humanities at the university-level for 27 years. I've read numerous translations of Gilgamesh, but this one is STUNNING! Brilliant translation/editing, perfect narration.
It "stopped me in my tracks." And the information at the end should be enough to appeal to anyone, no matter how much of a novice in the subject. THANK YOU!
One of the best audio books. I enjoyed essay written on the topic by the writer.
A great book to read, must say that the essay written is a great philosophical narration.
An unknown poet writes the world's oldest known epic poem. (2 hours for story; 2 hours for interpretation and explanation by the editor.) Superbly narrated by George Guidall in what is undoubtedly the way most received the story in its time. Uniquely and appropriately audio. The narrative pace translates beautifully to an easy to listen to story(publisher's notes say that earlier translations are stiff and academic). Fun and Enlightening -- not to worry if poetry puts you off -- this story flows beautifully. The interpretations and explanations of editor are worthwhile. I question his easy-to-ignore comparisons to very current events that can only be judged appropriately in the lens of history and his speculations on a homoerotic relationship between the two main characters. Very worthwhile.
Associate Pastor at a Baptist Church
Having only read portions of this work in College I was impressed the power of the narrative in this version. I was running while listening and found parts strangely inspirational. However, sexual content came as a total surprize. While the influence of this work may be limited in our literature it certainly reveals the universal themes that cause humanking to create art. All this in a short 3 hour program, time well spent. The bonus lecture is very helpful. After listening I felt prepared to lecture on the epic myslef.
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