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.
From the Inside Flap
Since the discovery over one hundred years ago of a body of Mesopotamian poetry preserved on clay tablets, what has come to be known as the Epic of Gilgamesh has been considered a masterpiece of ancient literature. It recounts the deeds of a hero-king of ancient Mesopotamia, following him through adventures and encounters with men and gods alike. Yet the central concerns of the Epic lie deeper than the lively and exotic story line: they revolve around a man’s eternal struggle with the limitations of human nature, and encompass the basic human feelings of lonliness, friendship, love, loss, revenge, and the fear of oblivion of death. These themes are developed in a distinctly Mesopotamian idiom, to be sure, but with a sensitivity and intensity that touch the modern reader across the chasm of three thousand years. This translation presents the Epic to the general reader in a clear narrative.