- Publisher: PENGUIN CLASSICS
- Format: Paperback | 304 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 22mm | 240g
- Publication date: 1 May 2003
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0140449191
- ISBN 13: 9780140449198
- Edition statement: Revised ed.
- Illustrations note: map, glossary
- Sales rank: 9,007
Miraculously preserved on clay tablets dating back as much as four thousand years, the poem 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. Alongside 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.
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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.
"Andrew George has skillfully bridged the chasm between a scholarly re-edition and a popular work"--"London Review of Books" "Humankind's first literary achievement..."Gilgamesh "should compel us as the well-spring of which we are inheritors...Andrew George provides an excellent critical and historical introduction."--Paul Binding, "Independent on Sunday" "This volume will endure as one of the milestones markers...[George] expertly and easily conducts his readers on a delightful and moving epic journey."--Samuel A. Meier, "Times Literary Supplement" "Appealingly presented and very readably translated...it still comes as an exhilarating surprise to find the actions and emotions of the Sumerian superhero coming to us with absolute immediacy over 30-odd centuries.--"Scotsman" "Andrew George has formed an English text from the best of the tablets, differentiating his complex sources but allowing the general reader a clear run at one of the first enduring stories ever told."--Peter Stothard, "The Times" "An exemplary combination of scholarship and lucidity...very impressive...invaluable as a convenient guide to all the different strands which came together to produce the work we now call "Gilgamesh.""--Alan Wall, "Literary Review"
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)