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

Just Wonderful!

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.
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- Lisa

Book Details

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