Miraculously preserved on clay tablets dating back as far as four thousand years, the poems of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, is the world's oldest epic, predating Homer by many centuries. The story tells of Gilgamesh's adventures with the wild man Enkidu, and of his arduous journey to the ends of the earth in quest of the Babylonian Noah and the secret of immortality. In addition to its themes of family, friendship and the duties of kings, The Epic of Gilgamesh is, above all, about mankind's eternal struggle with the fear of death.
The Babylonian version has been known for over a century, but linguists are still deciphering new fragments in Akkadian and Sumerian. Andrew George's gripping translation brilliantly combines these into a fluent narrative and will long rank as the definitive English Gilgamesh.
About The Author
Andrew George is Reader in Assyriology at SOAS (the School of Oriential and African Studies) in London, and is also an Honorary Lecturer at the University's Institute of Archaeology. His research has taken him many times to Iraq to visit Babylon and other ancient sites, and to museums in Baghdad, Europe and North America to read the original clay tablets on which the scribes of ancient Iraq wrote.
It is difficult to find words to describe just how good this book is. It's the story of a tyrannical Babylonian king, Gilgamesh, whose people are so aggrieved at his treatment of them that they appeal to the gods for help. The gods fashion a rival for Gilgamesh, Enkidu, who lives in the wild before eventually challenging Gilgamesh. However, Enkidu eventually accepts Gilgamesh's superiority and the two become friends. Enkidu dies after being cursed by a mythical creature that he kills with Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is driven to distraction by his friend's death and his own fear of death, and begins to search for a way to be immortal. After much disappointment he eventually realizes that his search is doomed to fruitlessness, and that he can only achieve a kind of immortality through the deeds he does while he is alive. The Epic itself is one of the most amazing pieces of writing that the reader is ever likely to encounter, and it is made even more so by the fact that it is approximately 5000 years old. The passages that describe Gilgamesh's reaction to Enkidu's death are some of the most emotional, but least melodramatic, that you are ever likely to read: 'Should not sorrow reside in my heart,/And my [face] not resemble one come from afar?' The text of the Epic is at times very fragmented (there are gaps on the stone tablets on which it is written), and this can be frustrating. However, in some respects it is even more stunning that something this incomplete can be so powerful. This translation is by Andrew George, whose introduction is also a masterful piece of writing in itself: he manages to provide enough detail and context to illuminate the text, without being either too scholarly or assuming that the reader knows nothing. This book cannot be recommended highly enough, and it will be a crime if, in this comprehensive and intelligent edition, The Epic of Gilgamesh does not come to be as highly regarded as The Iliad or Beowulf. (Kirkus UK)
Series: Penguin Classics
For Ages: 18+ years old
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 6th March 2003
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.9 x 1.7
Weight (kg): 0.23
Edition Number: 1