- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (August 1, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804717117
- ISBN-13: 978-0804717113
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Epic of Gilgamesh 1st Edition
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This translation is a verse rendering of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the cycle of Babylonian poems preserved on clay tablets surviving from ancient Mesopotamia of the third millennium B.C. One of the best and most important piece of epic poetry from human history, predating even Homer's Iliad by roughly 1,500 years, the Gilgamesh epic tells of the various adventures of that hero-king, including his quest for immortality and an account of a great flood similar in many details to the Old Testament's story of Noah. Kovacs's edition is satisfying both for its engaging verse translation of the poem itself, as well as for the introduction and appendix that provide historical context, and not least for photographs of Mesopotamian art and of one the actual clay tablets. The tablet was broken into several pieces and incompletely reconstructed, demonstrating the difficulty of the translator's task.
Language NotesSee all Editorial Reviews
Top Customer Reviews
I'm a professional teller of myth and epic, one of only two tellers (as far as I know) regularly presenting the full Gilgmesh epic in English, and I approach these texts with an eye for integrity of scholarship, beauty of expression, and passionate commitment to the epic itself. Ms. Kovacs' fellow presenters of Gilgamesh often manifest one or two of these qualities, but hers is the only one to satisfyingly combine all three in a contemporary publication that benefits fully from scholarly progress. (Several should definitely be avoided, or checked out from the library first.) I frequently refer back to her work when puzzling over a turn-of-phrase or interpretive challenge in my teller's adaptation.
A final word -- if you've been bitten by the Gilgamesh beast, (and you're in very good company if you have been) you may also wish to purchase The Gilgamesh Reader, edited by long-time Gilgamesh lover and writer, John Maier: it's another jewel. And guess where you can buy it!
In the introduction, on page xxxiv or xxiv, if I recall, Kovacs has a very nice chart showing the chronological history of all the versions we know of for this epic, which is a couple of dozen, ranging from the first known versions around 2700 BC in Uruk down to the Syriac versions more than two millenia later. Although he discusses the various versions in his book in his introduction, George doesn't include this nice timeline and chronology.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is notable for the fact that it's considered the oldest text understandable by a modern reader without special knowledge, and it's also the most ancient text for which we have an author attribution. Around 1200-1300 BC, a Mesopotamian by the name of Sun-Liq-Unnini compiled the well-known "Standard Version" of the epic. He wasn't actually the "author" of the text, but it seems likely he was steeped in the historical tradition and the different versions of the text which had come down over the years in both the Sumerian and Akkadian traditions, and he seems to have gone to some trouble to gather and compile the best versions of the various stories and legends about Gilgamesh in his "edition," which became the most widespread and popular version.
We also know that he was employed as an exorcist, an important job in Mesopotamian society, since they were called on for everything from driving out evil spirits in the ill and sick, to making sure dwellings and new buildings were free of evil spirits, to blessing farmland that was about to be planted for the new season.Read more ›
Keep in mind, however what the purpose of this book is. It is simply an updated translation of the epic. She doesn't provide a lot of commentary about peripherals such as how the epic fits into the broader body of ancient literature, or other historical information about Gilgamesh himself. So, if you're interested in those things, look elsewhere.
Translation by Maureen Gallery Kovacs
I first learned about The Epic of Gilgamesh in my 9th Grade Ancient History class. At the time, I was intrigued by the reported similarities between Utanapishtim and Noah. I finally decided to give it a read. On the surface, The Epic of Gilgamesh is a simple myth which exhibits similarities to other classic myths and stories. However, despite the many missing lines and lost passages, the story retains a power and universiality which speaks to us even today.
Gilgamesh is a god-like king, but he oppresses his people. To bring him into line, a rival is created in the woods -- a natural man named Enkidu whose path takes him to the city of Uruk to confront the tyrant. Instead of conflict, a friendship blooms between the two men. They adventure together, but anger the gods, who take their revenge on Enkidu. Gilgamesh is left alive and alone to face his own mortality. His fear and grief lead him across the world to seek the only man who has ever been granted immortality, Utanapishtim, survivor of the Great Flood.
Kovacs has done a good job with her translation, which is accessable even though it is fragmentary. One has to be prepared to work with this poem, because so much has been lost since it was written down in 800 BC. But if you are willing to put some effort into reading the (or one of the) oldest surviving work(s) of literature, it is well worth your time.
I recommend this work.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book is structured like this: before each tablet, there is a quick summary of the tablet. Then the actual tablet (with the missing parts as found in the actual tablets). Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
I am no expert in Mesopotamian archaeology or literature, so I cannot say much about the translation except that it seems to have been done with diligence and scholarship. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Kate MacKay
I ordered this product in Aug of 2014. It is Aug of 2015 and I just now received it.Published 17 months ago by User 1