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Gilgamesh Hardcover – October 3, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (October 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380975742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380975747
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,128,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Grundy's earlier works of historical fantasy (Rhinegold; Attila's Treasure) turned ancient Germanic lore into entrancing, informative, modern-day page-turners. His giant-sized third novel works the same magic on the world's oldest written narrative, the eponymous Sumerian epic poem. Gilgamesh is the temporal, spiritual and military leader of the Sumerian city-state of Erech. "Two-thirds God and one-third Man," he is the strongest, boldest and most intelligent of his line of rulers; he lacks only one thingAthe wisdom to see beyond his own desires to the good of his people. Failing to rein in his whims, the chief priest and priestesses ask the gods to send Gilgamesh a worthy companion. Enkidu, a "wild man," is found running with lions and is drawn to human company by an enticing woman. He learns the ways of civilization and becomes fast friends (and in this version, lovers) with Gilgamesh, but the outcome is not as the priests intended. Gilgamesh and his city-state win a war, but Gilgamesh begins a quest for an everlasting name that angers the gods and results in Enkidu's death. The distraught Gilgamesh must travel far from his people to find the fabled plant that can restore Enkidu's life. But can he escape the netherworld and, if so, will Erech receive him again? Grundy's plot and even his simplified language are strikingly faithful to his ancient source. Erech's religion, politics and everyday life are made real through the insecurities, doubts and decisions of a host of minor characters; all reflect Grundy's inventiveness and serious research. But the author's fidelities to his Sumerian sources can cause problems for his heroes: Gilgamesh and Enkidu remain so true to their epic originals that they can seem, in a modern novel, two-dimensional, though readers will empathize with them. Grundy's big novel of ancient life and myth belongs in the great tradition of such works, from Naomi Mitchison to Marion Zimmer Bradley. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Once again, best-selling author Grundy (Rhinegold; Attila's Treasure) has created a historical epic of monumental size and scope. Grundy has taken scraps of mythology and created characters that come to glittering life. The Mesopotamian region was the center of civilization two and a half millennia before the birth of Christ and is remembered for its advances in the arts, agriculture, medicine, and war. As ensi, or ruler, of Erech, a city-state of Sumer, in 2700 B.C.E., Gilgamesh was as much beloved as he was reviled. An ambitious ruler, he gutted his city of supplies, labor, and men to carry out his military campaigns. Much to the dismay of the temple leaders, his impetuous nature seemed unstoppable until he met Enkidu, a wild man raised by lions. The two became lovers and remained inseparable until Enkidu's death. Grundy's novel is based on The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated from Shin-eqi-unninni tablets, and follows the ancient writings faithfully. Recommended for larger public libraries; for an interesting view of contrasting Bronze Age cultures, read Bernard Cornwell's Stonehenge: 2000 B.C. (LJ 5/1/00).DJane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By "bibliophile01830" on November 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Stephan Grundy's Gilgamesh is a magnificent piece of art. Brilliantly written and intensively researched, it translates the ancient Mesopotamian epic into a superbly readable novel without altering the essence of the original. The theme of an arrogant and powerful young man who must discover that no human heroism can overcome mortality is one that speaks as clearly to the modern age as to the era when the epic was composed; by fleshing out the lines of the poem with a wealth of physical and emotional detail, Grundy expands this fundamental theme to a veritable Wagnerian opera, producing a book which not only overwhelms in the reading, but provokes thoughts and feelings that will last long after the covers have been closed. Intense meditations upon mortality and the worth of human life are layered into an exciting plot that includes war (not invented to pad out the plot-line, but derived directly from another Mesopotamian poem, 'Gilgamesh and Agga'), hunting scenes worthy of Wilbur Smith at his best, and high intrigue within the temple walls, as well as the ongoing emotional combat between Gilgamesh and his city's patron goddess Inanna. This combination of thought and action shows an unusually skillful handling of timing and plot, while the characters, though many of their attitudes are foreign to the modern viewpoint, still manage to be highly sympathetic and interesting - particularly the young priestess who has the thankless task of trying to get the headstrong Gilgamesh to do his long-feared and potentially fatal duty to the goddess Inanna.Read more ›
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "kadlin" on November 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Between my memory of having read Gilgamesh in a college history class, and my pleasant experiences reading Stephan Grundy's previous historical fiction novels, I happily anticipated the release of this novel and was not disappointed. It more than just an adventure story.
I cannot speak for how accurately Gilgamesh's legend is rendered, but I will say that as in Grundy's previous novels, he did an excellent job evoking the world Gilgamesh lives in. In particular, he makes the ancient Sumerian religion seem real, as a major aspect of the various character's lives. This last is important, because although the novel tells the story of the king and hero Gilgamesh, it also tells the story of a person coming to terms with and accepting the influence of the divine (in this case the Sumerian goddess Innana) into his life. In a sense, it is a romance between Gilgamesh and the goddess. Though a brave man, he fears her because accepting her means accepting that he will one day meet his death. He has great strength and vigor, being "two thirds god and one third man" but with it comes something like "peter pan syndrome" and he lacks sympathy and understanding for his subjects. He confuses personal heroism in battle with the kingly duty to protect his subjects-- even from his own dreams of glory. His courage, in light of his refusal to admit the possibility of death, is closer to recklessness. Nevertheless, for all his flaws he is an engaging character, as are the other characters in the novel are who are forced to deal with him.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Joey Morgan on October 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the first few pages, I was transported to ancient Erech, involved in the lives of the characters, and hooked on this most ancient of epic stories. Grundy has a way of bringing larger-than-life characters forth in ways that make them immediately important to the reader as people, not merely as archetypes. Whether he is writing about fighting or love-making, he does it with an appreciation of the skills involved that make you pity his enemies and envy his lovers. He has the rare combination of excellent research and creative story-telling ability that marks the best keepers of legend. I recommend this book not just because the Gilgamesh story is culturally important, but because it is a GOOD story, and even better when told by a master.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "chribhna" on January 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Being new to the writings of Stephan Grundy, I was initially somewhat daunted by the sheer scale of this book. At 550+ words, and with no previous knowledge of the Gilgamesh saga whatsoever, I figured that this might not be a book for the fainthearted or, indeed, the uninitiated. I need not have worried. Quite simply, Grundy's 'Gilgamesh' is a breathtaking read. His vision of early Sumeria, and its elaborate (and to us, somewhat alien) rituals and culture is brought vividly to life by an author of consummate skill to the extent that I, a reader with no prior knowledge, might almost have found myself living there. Greater still is Grundy's gift for characterisation. His book is crammed not with the usual main players and plot enabling secondary props, but by living breathing characters, superbly drawn by the author with a passion for life and a depth of compassion and humanity which defies description. This is a richly woven tapestry which can be read on any number of levels, from that of straight forward adventure to deeply moving treatise on the folly of pride, the futility of regret and the individual's powerlessness in the face of the inevitable. I have no idea how true to the 'original' Grundy's version of Gilgamesh is, but his research looks to have been impressive indeed if the book's afterword is anything to go by, and I will certainly be reading Maureen Gallery Kovaks translation, as cited, not to mention Grundy's other works. In short, buy 'Gilgamesh' - this is an awesome read and a handsome retelling of an epic tale; it has a breadth of passion and a scale of grandeur which - if you have the slightest shred of humanity, will surely take your breath away.
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