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

Classic literature plus a modern interpretation

Having been brought up on the classics, I’m not sure how I missed Gilgamesh. It was probably because my earliest education was of the Catholic variety and this would probably not be in most Catholic, let alone other Christian, stacks. So why read it now? Partially because it is so classic and I had not read it, but also, and perhaps mostly, it was a Stephen Mitchell translation. Mitchell can take the most arcane and make it understandable, the most seemingly simple and make it fresh and sophisticated for even the most intellectually-challenged among us.

The book is fraught with duality as is often a theme contained in other SM books. The book is about beauty and ugliness, strength and weakness, friends and enemies. The poetry of the narrative is quite beautiful and powerful in its own right but the essay of a critique that follows it is like icing on a cake: delicious. Great books can be read more than once and each time the reader will glean something entirely new or understand something at a deeper level. The essay adds a whole other dimension to the main piece that I certainly would not have appreciated had I not read it. And, given how short Gilgamesh is, it is certainly worth listening to again, this time with a whole new appreciation and understanding.
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- Robert

Book Details

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