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93 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally good verse translation
This was the first translation of Gilgamesh that ever really grabbed me. I had waded through plodding, tedious translations (mostly in prose) before, and been left feeling like Assyriologists must be the most bored people in the world.

George's translation, however, is in verse and adds vigor to what appeared to me, for years, to be a bland jumping off point...
Published on May 29, 2006 by Jordan M. Poss

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a great teaching text
This may be a careful and attentive translation, but it's dutiful apparatus keeps interrupting and distracting the reader.Instead of silently incorporating a parallel version to cover a gap in the main text, the translator announces it and breaks the flow. Too many ellipses, too many bracketed passages, and the intrusive chapter summaries are unnecessary (and would tempt...
Published 2 months ago by allthatfall


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93 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally good verse translation, May 29, 2006
By 
Jordan M. Poss (South Carolina, United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This was the first translation of Gilgamesh that ever really grabbed me. I had waded through plodding, tedious translations (mostly in prose) before, and been left feeling like Assyriologists must be the most bored people in the world.

George's translation, however, is in verse and adds vigor to what appeared to me, for years, to be a bland jumping off point for bigger and better epics of later eras. I flew through this translation, hanging on every word, and was almost sad to see it end.

The notes and critical bits were nice as well, and the numerous lacunae showed me just how little of the full story we really have. Heartbreaking, really, and it made appreciate those bored people I used to pity.

If you're new to The Epic of Gilgamesh and want an engaging, readable verse translation of it, this is the one to buy.

Highly recommended.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive, scholarly, for advanced readers, September 24, 2007
I recommend this Penguin Classic, but it offers more thorough scholarly apparatus than usual for the series. This is not meant as a criticism! But, a beginner may find a "version" such as Stephen Mitchell's easier to start with for an overview of the storyline, and a briefer introduction and helpful endnotes. The poem itself is not lengthy, but the ancillary texts and sources, as Andrew George shows us, do take up considerable space which may please enthusiasts but discourage newcomers to this epic poem.

George prepared for Oxford UP in 1999 a two-volume edition, and this Penguin adapts the core of the English translation for a wider audience. It appears ideal for a college classroom or the reader wanting to learn more about the lacunae, the gaps, the language, and the editorial decisions made by George and fellow translators. A fascinating appendix shows how out of grammatical markers, syllabic, and half-syllabic cuneiform incisions the sounds and rhythms and absences that fill this most ancient of narratives turn into what we can understand. To a point.

Terms such as "louvre-door," "glacis-slope," "hie to the forge," and notably Ishtar's exhortation to "stroke my quim" give a rather archaic diction to parts of the translation. George aims obviously for precision in such terminology, but this does clash with the more demotic vernacular chosen by Mitchell in his popularization. Mitchell's also considerably more erotic and develops passages that in their original state, reading George, remain terse. Again, George approaches the thousands of fragments that are still being assembled nearly 150 years after their discovery and observes that this epic is still, amazingly and poignantly, one in progress as we await trained Assyriologists able to decipher not only the later Akkadian but the considerably more challenging and often cryptic Sumerian sources. It's a shame that in a region where so many billions have been spent to destroy the area between the Tigris & Euphrates that a few thousands can not be provided for the study and restoration of the oldest story text we have ever found.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Search for Immortality and the Fear of Death, June 2, 2004
By 
Ray Farmer (Concord, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I fully agree with the previous reviewers who praised the qualities of this book and the translations by Andrew George. The introduction and supplementary material that accompany the standard version of the Gilgamesh epic really help to put this story into the proper historical context.
This was my first reading of the Gilgamesh epic and what surprised me most about this story was its humanistic focus, especially considering that most of the literature at that time focused on the gods and how they created the universe and mankind. We learn about the superhuman heroes Gilgamesh and Enkidu, who openly spited the gods by performing deeds that ran counter to their interests. After Enkidu dies, however, Gilgamesh gets a reality check and attempts to avoid a similar fate by searching for the secret of immortality. Instead, he only discovers that even a powerful king like himself will never be able to escape death. But he also learns that instead of performing silly quests like searching for immortality, Gilgamesh should "seize the day" and actively use his time among the living to perform actions that will make a king great to his people. In this way, he will be able to ensure that his name lives on among future generations. Now this is great literature!
As other reviewers have commented, Andrew George's translation of the Gilgamesh epic is very approachable and makes for very entertaining reading, even for the general reader (like me) who is not a serious student of ancient history. However, if you want to study the history of the Western literary canon, you have to start here in Mesopotamia.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The One To Read! (from Ahadada Books), May 17, 2008
By 
This is absolutely one of the best translations of Gilgamesh available. Andrew George gives us a taste of what the original versification was like. He also translates all the extant versions and fragments of versions of the epic, and this is important. Not only do the versions augment each other and fill in the gaps that time and entropy have literally carved, shattered, and eroded into the original tablets, but they key us into the variations that the generations of years of cross-cultural retellings have wrought. Gilgamesh becomes Bilgames, etc. etc. Finally, an appendix at the back of the book discusses the process of translating the text from the tablets. In many ways this is the most fascinating part of this volume. Along with these good points, we are treated to line drawings taken from period artwork illustrating the epic, so we see the gods, goddesses, and strange monsters as they were visualized by the Babylonians. Highly recommended!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fragmentary Visions, August 29, 2007
I recently ordered this version to prepare for teaching Giglamesh in a Humanities I course. I had read the famous Sandars version, which compiles the various tablets into one coherent prose narrative. However, Andrews' new version attempts no similar gloss: the work is revealed as a fragmentary masterpiece, with gripping passages of narrative trailing off into maddening gaps and uncertainties. The Introduction offers a very informative, concise overview of Gilgamesh scholarship and the state of the work itself. It is truly humbling to realize how little we have of this great work, yet what we do have literally changed our understanding of the ancient world. And as Sandars suggested in his Introduction to the earlier Penguin volume, it is amazing that such an old, fragmentary work from a forgotten culture still has the power to move us. This sounds like academic hyperbole, but even in its most authentic state, the work is powerful; we see Gilgamesh's grief, his desperation, and his bitter defeat upon losing Enkidu and the possibility of eternal life. The translation carries some powerful imagery that somehow surpasses the more fluid prose translation; perhaps this is a bit of chiaroscuro (sp?), the lost passages showing the more complete, brilliant ones in greater relief.

Even better, this translation includes all the various fragments of the Gilgamesh story, as well as the ealrier Sumerian version of the epic, which is much different than the Standard version. It's a remarkable volume which is fun to pour through and reconstruct this ancient world on the dawn of civilization. It truly inspired me to teach this work to my students, emphasizing how such a powerful work can rest on only a handful of broken tablets.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love ancient poetry..., March 2, 2005
By 
H. Lim (Carlingford, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
There is something so direct about ancient and mediaeval poetry. The very style of it is clearly designed to be read out aloud, with repeated lines varied, like in modern blues, combined with heavily alliteration.

The vigour of this poem, which is four thousand years old, is astonishing. Literally, modern writers could learn a great deal from this long-extinct style of writing.

My favourite part is where Gilgamesh crosses the ocean at the edge of the world: the poet writes something like: "He rowed one mile. And darkness was before him, and darkness was behind him. He rowed two miles. And darkness was before him, and darkness was behind him. He rowed three miles..." etc. This is magical writing, evoking the style of oral tale-tellers of the time. One gets a real sense of Gilgamesh's trip into the murky and Jungian darkness of the outer ocean.

Also, of course, there is a lot of fine detail of Assyrian life, such as the details of the palaces; also, the mythological monsters are fascinating, such as Humbaba the ogre, who attacks people with somethign called an "aura", which seems related to later Gnostic ideas about the multi-layered universe.

To round things off, we get bits of five even more ancient Sumerian poems about Gilgamesh, or Bilgames, as he was then called. These deal with tales that precede the later Epic. I particularly liked the tale of the captured prince who watches out for the attack of his allies that will liberate him and vanquish his captors.

Unfortunately, the Epic of Gilagmesh and most of these poems are fragmentary. I'd like to have known what exactly happened to the Scorpion-People that Gilgamesh encounters; or what the nature of the Stony Ones was.

We will probably find out some day, as there are plenty of tablets either waiting to be excavated, or awaiting study. Unfortunately, many of these tablets, read and unread, were kept in museums in Baghdad. No doubt some shady dealer in antiquities is trying to flog them off even now, unable even to read what he is selling!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The oldest written story known to man, remains one of the greatest stories ever told - everyone should read this!, September 8, 2010
Before the Bible and long before Beowulf, before Hesiod and Homer, more than 4500 years ago, in ancient Mesopotamia, in a place called Uruk (and in a region now known as Iraq) they told the story of a great and powerful king. Gilgamesh, created by the gods and more powerful than any man, was once an unstoppable force. He took what he wanted, and the people feared him. They pleaded with the gods to control him and so the gods created another man, Enkidu, who was his match in wisdom and cunning and was yet different than him in many ways. Whereas Gilgamesh was a ruler over men, Enkidu roamed freely with the beasts of the fields. Where Gilgamesh lived to conquer, and took advantage of his people, Enkidu protected the beasts from their enemies the hunters. Somehow, though, opposites attract, and these men became fast friends - and Enkidu helped to soften his friend, redirecting his ambitions and channeling his strength, helping him to become a protector and shepherd of his people who would eventually be heralded as a great and heroic king who had established the foundations of a great nation.

It's a wonderful story, that can be read on a number of levels. It is a heroic story, that can be read like the heroic stories from various mythical cultures. It is a parable that explores what it is to be human, and how one can accept one's fate and that one will die. It is a story with many intriguing parallels to other great stories, that have defined cultures and beliefs - there are parallels here, for example, to the creation story of the Bible, to the story of the Fall, and to the story of Noah and the great flood. It is the story of a journey, through which a number of themes can be explored: the nature of man, the significance of gender, death and immortality, friendship, memories, and the character of the hero. Finally, it can be read as a kind of anthropological document in which the peoples who wrote it are coming to grips with the importance and meaning of the shift from a hunter-gatherer type people to an agricultural-based civilization. Enkidu can be thought of as a nomadic group that joined forces with, or was assimilated into an agriculturally based community, and then this is the story of how they, together, conquered or destroyed a forest-dwelling people, but came to see as a result that their own civilization could some day be lost as well. From that perspective the epic can be seen to carry a kind of unwitting ecological message about the impact and costs of civilization: that in order to maintain itself, an agricultural-based, military civilization must constantly be in search of resources outside of itself, and destroy those who claim those resources. Then, of course, we'd have to ask questions about a culture (not so far from our own) that tells just this story about itself and treats its own founders, the plunderers of other nations, as heroic and godlike.

A rich book, and rewards re-reading and reflection. It's short and you could read it in a couple of hours - but it rewards study. This translation reads well and feels fresh, not like some old dead book. The historical introduction is useful, too, for after you've read the actual book a few times, even if it's a bit dry in comparison to the liveliness of the text itself.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most accurate version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, August 30, 2013
Andrew George is without a doubt the finest scholar to work on these ancient tablets. While I personally prefer Peter Dyr's version for easy reading. Dyr's version has been heavily modified to be accessible to the layman, while George's version is the most updated and unmodified rendition of what the ancient tablets actually say. George's book represents the most accurate version of the Epic of Gilgamesh that exists today. I highly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of George's Gilgamesh Translation, March 5, 2009
The translation here reviewed is lucid and readable, yet never deviates from the spirit of a text in transition, from scattered tablets to complete work. However, George does a wonderful job of maintaining the flow within this patchwork epic. In some sense it feels as though you're reading the tablets themselves under his guidance and assistance. There is also a great introduction to basic Near East culture and history, as well as an interesting appendix on the creation of an ancient Babylonian translation. The illustrations are also interesting.

Footnotes were nonexistent (though they were usually unnecessary--George has an introduction before every chapter). Also, the repetitive, partial fragments that George has translated after the epic are bit needless in an exoteric translation, though the poems were a nice touch.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for students of anthropology and theology, July 7, 2009
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One of the most fascinating books I've ever read. The episodic tales of Gilgamesh, which were recorded around 3,000 BC from even earlier oral traditions, pre-dates the Old Testament by 1,600 years at least. There are clear parallels--such as Noah (Uta-napishti, known by the Babylonians as Ziusudra) who, after surviving the Flood, is elevated to an immortal, heroic status in Sumerian mythology. Also fascinating is the story of Gilgamesh rebuilding the ancient prediluvian cities after the Flood. One can't help but address Biblical implications since the patriarch was an Akkadian.

This tale, if even partially true, conflicts with young-earth Creationist belief that the continents and landscape of Earth was completely redefined by the Flood (which some argue was responsible for the Grand Canyon). Surely that level of destruction would have destroyed any mud-and-brick cities. And yet, we have evidence here that the Sumerians were at least aware of prediluvian cities, meaning there were remnants of those cities. If one chooses not to believe this story, and treat it purely as fiction and myth, then how would one deal with the problem of Gilgamesh pre-dating Genesis? The Noahic flood and Adam and Eve stories in Genesis were derived from even more ancient epics like Gilgamesh. These tablets go so far as to explain that God created man from clay, which obviously parallels Genesis' "dust from the Earth."

Gilgamesh was, in my opinion, one of the "mighty men of old, men of renoun" (Gen 6:4). The patriarch Abraham was from Uruk, the capital city reportedly built by Gilgamesh. He was clearly educated and successful, so he would have learned of Gilgamesh and Uta-napishti in his youth. The epic of Gilgamesh has been found in several temples in Uruk and other ancient cities in Abraham's homeland (circa 2,000 BC). To the skeptic I offer this: There is a hint of truth in every myth.
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Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh by Anonymous (Hardcover - June 20, 1996)
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