Monday, 21 December 2009

Book Review: Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh 

Translated by Andrew George

Category: Ancient Literature

Challenge: Really Old Classics Challenge

Synopsis: The ancient story of the King Gilgamesh tells of friendship and heroics and a fear of death.

My Thoughts: I liked the story. I liked what it had to say about the human condition. I would like to in the future read another translation to see what is different. I liked that the language was accessible, I felt like I could fly through it.

However, I am not sure about this translation. Since I have not read The Epic of Gilgamesh before I have no idea if this is how the translations are often done but I found the fact that the volume contained the translations of several tablets annoying. I just wanted to read the story. I didn’t really care to compare the Yale tablet with the Pennsylvania tablet. I did appreciate that in the first part they told you when they, due to missing parts switched tablets but I didn’t really need the tablet translations again in the following parts.

What I also didn’t like was the fact that at the start of each tablet they told you what happened. The language in the translations was so accessible that I had no problems following it. I didn’t need the short synopsis at the start of each tablet. It really just ruined the story for me. I feel that this edition is paradoxically an edition for high school students to lazy to read the whole thing and an edition for the scholar who wants an introduction to the different tablets. Personally, as someone who just wanted to read the story, I was not well served by this edition.

So in conclusion: good story, bad book.


Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

I haven't heard about this book before, but I have only recently realised the importance of finding a good translation. I wonder if there is a better one out there? I do love a good story and have been looking for a really old classic to read.

SariJ said...

I found Stephen Mitchell's translation very basic and modern. I would stay far away from this one.
I wish I could remember which translation I first read as I really enjoyed it. I gave it to a friend. Now all I have is the Penguin Classic and that too is very modern.
The story is one of my very favorite as it speaks to the ages. The heartache is real and the moral of the story can be applied to everyone. I recommend all lovers of classics to give this a try.

Rebecca Reid said...

So sorry that this translation ruined the experience for you! I've also heard good things about Stephen Mitchell. Are you ever going to try again?

Thanks for joining the really old classics challenge and reading along!

LifetimeReader said...

I know I am out of date, but I love Mitchell's introduction for his translation of Gilgmesh. His introduction is extensive and inciteful. I also really like the Ferry translation--although there are almost no supporting introduction.