Gilgamesh

  • by Stephen Mitchell
  • Narrated by George Guidall
  • 4 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.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.

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What the Critics Say

"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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A defense of this "translation"

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.
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- George

Impressive story with impressive history

"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.]
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- Joel D Offenberg

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-11-2004
  • Publisher: Recorded Books