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The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0140449198 ISBN-10: 0140449191 Edition: Rev Ed

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Rev Ed edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449198
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Andrew George has skillfully bridged the chasm between a scholarly re-edition and a popular work”
London Review of Books

“Humankind’s first literary achievement...Gilgamesh should compel us as the well-spring of which we are inheritors...Andrew George provides an excellent critical and historical introduction.”
—Paul Binding, Independent on Sunday

“This volume will endure as one of the milestones markers...[George] expertly and easily conducts his readers on a delightful and moving epic journey.”
—Samuel A. Meier, Times Literary Supplement

“Appealingly presented and very readably still comes as an exhilarating surprise to find the actions and emotions of the Sumerian superhero coming to us with absolute immediacy over 30-odd centuries.

“Andrew George has formed an English text from the best of the tablets, differentiating his complex sources but allowing the general reader a clear run at one of the first enduring stories ever told.”
—Peter Stothard, The Times

“An exemplary combination of scholarship and lucidity...very impressive...invaluable as a convenient guide to all the different strands which came together to produce the work we now call Gilgamesh.”
—Alan Wall, Literary Review

About the Author

Andrew George is Professor of Babylonian at SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies) in London. His research has taken him many times to Iraq to visit Babylon and other ancient sites, and to museums in Baghdad, Europe and North America to read the original clay tablets on which the scribes of ancient Iraq wrote.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 54 customer reviews
So on to... ...the historical introduction.
Il'ja Rákoš
Also fascinating is the story of Gilgamesh rebuilding the ancient prediluvian cities after the Flood.
I highly recommend this ancient piece of literature to every and all.
Bryan Kerr

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on May 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
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 By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
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.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Ray Farmer on June 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
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 By M. Hori on May 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
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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