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The story of Gilgamesh, an ancient epic poem written on clay tablets in a cuneiform alphabet, is as fascinating and moving as it is crucial to our ability to fathom the time and the place in which it was written. Gardner's version restores the poetry of the text and the lyricism that is lost in the earlier, almost scientific renderings. The principal theme of the poem is a familiar one: man's persistent and hopeless quest for immortality. It tells of the heroic exploits of an ancient ruler of the walled city of Uruk named Gilgamesh. Included in its story is an account of the Flood that predates the Biblical version by centuries. Gilgamesh and his companion, a wild man of the woods named Enkidu, fight monsters and demonic powers in search of honor and lasting fame. When Enkidu is put to death by the vengeful goddess Ishtar, Gilgamesh travels to the underworld to find an answer to his grief and confront the question of mortality.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780394740898
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/28/1985
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 425,298
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

John Gardner was accorded wide praise for his works of imagination, of criticism, and of scholarship. He was born in 1933 in Batavia, New York. Among the universities at which he taught are Oberlin, San Francisco State, Northwestern, Southern Illinois, Bennington, and the State University of New York—Bennington. The Art of Fiction was completed before his death in 1982.

What People are Saying About This

"[Gilgamesh] has never been better served than in this new translation...Maier's contribution is the meticulous scholarship that envelopes the book...John Gardner's the translation itself: lyrical, sinewy, emotionally uncompromising and rhythmically brilliant."

— William L. Moran, The New York Times Book Review

"The authors brilliantly achieve the goal of infusing the poem with new life and meaning for the modern reader"

— Ronald Bailey, Newsday

"A moving and exceptionally readable version of the poem."

— Aaron Shurin, The San Francisco Chronicle

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Gilgamesh 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
AGangi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent translation that provides alot of interesting background on the how the cuniform was translated, the story/myth itself and the culture that produced it. It is also easily accessible to the lay reader, who can jump unto the English prose without having to read all the notes, and still be able to enjoy the story.
keylawk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The last work which Garner completed before his untimely death in a motorcycle accident. Ironically, this translation work develops the coiled truth: that death is inevitable, but works may gain a kind of immortality. Henshaw and Meier had worked on the project for 10 years, lifting the story from the Akkadian cuneiform and comparing other translations of the fragmented Ashurbanipal Library materials. Gilgamesh is a man searching for meaning, against constant remonstrations that the search is futile. After losing his close friend, Enkidu, to an arbitrary death, he compares and interviews men with alternative possibilities -- a Heraklion "heroic" figure, a Noah-like flood-spared "pious" figure, and an Odesseian "cunning" character. By the end of the quest, Gilgamesh is confronted by the fact that Enkidu will not return, and death cannot be escaped. Even though mankind is saved from extermination in the Flood, he must live in a hostile place-- facing immediate threat from wolf and lion, famine, and plague. Gilgamesh, does, however, cast off his primitive skins and returns to civilization to don the raimants of King. He gives obeisance to his goddess Ishtar. The Gilgamesh Epic dates back to 2600 B.C. Writing had not developed until 3000 B.C. This is the rich poetry of the first Epic, with subtleties, lullabies, riddles, and a strong story. The religion is dominated by the Queen of Heaven, a consort of Yahweh [23; compare Jeremiah 44:16-19, Revelation 17:3-6]. Gilgamesh is The One Who Saw the Abyss.
GemmaAthena More than 1 year ago
The story of Gilgamesh is a timeless epic that deals with the universal theme of šimāt amēlūtim - the fate of mankind: death, amongst other topics. Civilisation versus natural man, the mourning of a friend, the fight against aggressors like the terrible Humbaba, and the Achillian desire to be known to history are just some of the elements explored in the text, providing an interesting look at life's hardest questions through the reflections of the ancient Mesopotamian mind. Regardless of which version (Babylonian, Akkadian, Sumerian), the Epic of Gilgamesh is a must read from the ancient world for any enthusiast of literature, archaeology, and/or philosophy. What stands out in this work of translation is the care taken by the translators in the tablet endnotes to explain the significance of a handful of terms from the original standard Akkadian as well as religious/social gestures, which brings the ancient Sumerian world of Gilgamesh to life. Moreover, the endnotes contain translations of other versions of the epic to fill in the gaps where the comparative columns of the standard Akkadian version are yet lost to time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While it was an exemplary novel, it should not be read by children with insufficient vocabulary or insufficient reading skills. I reccomend this book to scholars and people with a large intellect only. For the record I am thirteen, and I am the only one at my school, including teachers, who could read the entire novel in a single week and understand it. I still had some trouble with comprehension, however
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago