Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative
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on September 20, 2007
The well meaning Mr. Mason does not represent the Epic of Gilgamesh well in his verse narrative. In fact, it is not a translation of the Epic, rather has he cooked up his own version of somebody else's translation. He did this in times when few knew much about Gilgamesh, and made many novices belive it was the Epic. I have even heard of a small country where the most prominent philosopher translated Mason's narrative into the native language. The literature professor entered it into the curriculum for early literature and everyone thought they were reading the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Mason's verse narrative is strikingly purged of place and time specific references. In his hands this complex monument of Babylonian literature has become just "an old story... that can still be told" about friendship, loss and human mortality. In Mason's popular retelling, the character Gilgamesh has been reduced to a sentimental simpleton, who cannot deal with the facts of life. Such a retelling can be recommended for children, but it is too full of anachronistic references to "thoughts" (unheard of in early texts) and other modern phenomena to deserve the attention of grown-ups. From Mr. Mason's recreation of the poem alone it would seem unlikely that the Epic of Gilgamesh had held the fascination of generations of writers and scholars, ever since it was rediscovered in the 19th century.

One former reviewer states: "If this wonderful epic were familiar to everyone in our culture, as it was to the Babylonians who made it their national epic back in the third millenium B.C., we would be the richer for having a wealth of images to sustain us as we encounter our tragedies and walk through our dark valleys." I do essentially agree, but in that case it is imperative to keep closer to the Epic itself, not to rely on an imitation. My recommendations: For those who need textual supplementary information and variant readings I recommend either of Maureen Gallery Kovacs or Andrew R. George's translations. Stephen Mitchell's New English Version should be easy to use for those who are looking for a simplified translation for a clear understanding.
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on August 24, 1998
Twenty five years ago I came upon Herbert Mason's verse narrative, GILGAMESH, when I was grieving over the death of a foster son. It provided images that sustained and nourished me as I worked to be reconciled to my tragedy. It has continued to be a powerful force in my lifetime. The images and the well chosen phrases are part of me, and arise whenever they are needed. If this wonderful epic were familiar to everyone in our culture, as it was to the Babylonians who made it their national epic back in the third millenium B.C., we would be the richer for having a wealth of images to sustain us as we encounter our tragedies and walk through our dark valleys. Mason's retelling of the great story of Gilgamesh and his doomed friend, is beautiful, nourishing and empowering.
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on December 7, 2008
As a high school humanities teacher, I've used this text for over a dozen classes, and I've looked at a number of different translations. Mason's version is, hands down, the best. He writes with such poetic eloquence, and with sparse language, and he creates a bridge between the human struggles for meaning today, and those faced by those thousands of years ago--a truly magnificent translation. If yours is a history class, and exact and literal translation of the original cuneiform is important to you, you can try the Norton version; that is a very dry, and somewhat arduous, read, though. Mason's version will inspire your students and get you to the heart of the text.
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on March 29, 2015
In ancient Sumeria, a king named Gilgamesh befriends a wild nomad named Enkidu. After Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh goes in search of a way to bring him back to life.

I don't know anything about which translation is best. I tried to make sense of that issue, but I gave up. I do know that this version of Gilgamesh is very readable and easy to comprehend. It's also one of the cheapest poetic versions available on the Kindle. I believe any editing Mason has done to this version was to get to the heart of the story: a man's confrontation with mortality.

He does that successfully. It's fitting that one of our oldest stories should be about such a topic. Though The Epic of Gilgamesh is filled with gods and monsters and magical locations, the tale is still deeply relatable; the grief and longing Gilgamesh feels at the loss of his friend is something we all have to face in this life.

The epic itself is very short and can be completed in just a few sittings.
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on February 22, 2002
While there cannot be much doubt as to the cultural value of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the importance of the story transceds mere literary significance. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of those simple and yet deeply insightful stories that one can relate to. The verse narrative style that mason adopts, while by no means a flawless poetic translation, takes you through the events in a seamlessly captivating manner. One can infer a lot from the story about the meaning of life, especially as regards how the ancient ones chose to answer questions such as eternity and why humans cannot live forever (u'll have to figure out which part of the story I am talking about!!).
Overall this is a great reading. Shouldnt take too long to finish either, although I recommend that you take your time reading this one.
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on October 26, 1998
The epic tale of Gilgamesh comes alive in this exqisite poetic retelling. Mason's version is sublime: poignant, evocative, and graceful. While the slender volume is deceptively accessible upon first reading, this abiding treasure will be valued ever more deeply with each re-reading.
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on February 15, 2015
This is one author's attempt to create a coherent narrative poem out of one of the oldest and greatest tales ever written. It was published in 1970,however, and many additional fragments have been discovered and translated in the interim. I have found more recent attempts more interesting.
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on October 18, 2005
Words fail. I love this book, this translation, especially. It's not verbose; it relies on detail to express pathos. The lack of embellishments enhances the story and characters. I'm afraid to talk about this book too much. Simply elegant, and heartbreakingly honest.
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on September 16, 2007
Mason's translation of the epic can be easily read in one sitting, but it is worth savoring and pondering passages filled with beautiful imagery and timeless meaning. This is a simple story of hubris, friendship, and loss. It is a tale of accepting both the limitations and beautiful power of being human. I have read this translation yearly, and I plan to continue to do so, to remind me of the univeral pain but ultimately triumphant power of the human spirit.
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on August 26, 2005
When I read this version, I wanted to buy and I did! I loved this simplified translation and Herbert Mason provided a clear understanding of the Mesopotamian story. I loved the use of the blank verse style, Mason has done well in this abridged version of the epic. I'd like to see more abridged works of ancient epics by Mason! I loved the Babylonian relief on the front cover too. I would have appreciated Mason to provide to ending where Gilgamesh finally dies. Get this version of Gilgamesh.
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