1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2013
Mitchell has reconstructed the ancient fragments of a wonderful myth, and has done so in modern, highly readable language. It is both poetry and compelling narrative. Helpful endnotes explain how the author made sense of the several scholarly attempts to revive an ancient tale from Babylonian and Sumerian clay tablets. Magnificent.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2010
The best retelling of the Gilgamesh epic I've come across; my son was assigned this story for a Grade 10 English project so we checked out a number of print and internet versions. Mitchell's was immediately a hit.
Excellent and very detailed Introduction and Notes, and the epic itself flows along "like poetry", to quote my son. Well done, Stephen Mitchell! A pleasure to read.
Note to parents - this is not the "cleaned up" version you've come across in kids' history books (the brief retelling in Bauer's Story of the World comes to mind), but the full frontal version chock full of sex and violence. Tastefully done, but it's all in there. May want to preview if buying this for a younger teen, just so you're ready for discussion time, LOL.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Although reputed to be the oldest story extant, "Gilgamesh" shows that human nature remains constant through the ages. The story of King Gilgamesh and his friend, Enkidu, record the age-old tale of rivalry and friendship, death and remorse and, ultimately, the search for immortality. These themes of daily life and parallels to modern statecraft render Gilgamesh as fresh as today's news.
Some features of "Gilgamesh" bear such a resemblance to the Bible as to clearly establish the Bible as a book of its time and culture. Gilgamesh contains a reference to seven years of famine (Joseph in Egypt), a flood story (similar to, but in critical ways different from Noah's) and sections of repeated dialogue, so reminiscent of Biblical sections. The explanatory essay by Stephen Mitchell helps the reader to understand the significance of portions of the tale's subtleties.
As the oldest surviving example of the literature of civilization, "Gilgamesh" should be within the ken of every civilized person. Besides that, it is entertaining reading.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2005
4.5 stars of 5
People haven't changed. A thoughtful reader will be struck by that as they read Mitchell's fine translation of this ~4,000 year old tale. Ok, sure, we're not off in the forest slaying monsters, or directly interacting with the Gods, but we're driven by all the same frailties and motives, and you can see that in every page of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
A very fine forward helps set the stage for what is essentially a short tale, providing context and interesting elements to look for as you proceed. While I often find it hard to get through an extensive forward, this one was written with a sense of wonder and joy that betrayed a deep affection for the story itself.
Also to be applauded is the use of end notes rather than footnotes. It would be far too difficult and distracting to have the significant number of notes within the text, they are a wonderful addition when read after absorbing the wonder and beauty of the story itself - many will find the tale of the flood particularly interesting, especially given the timeline established for the writing of the tale.
All in all, a wonderful interpretation of an age old tale, bookended by an excellent forward and strong supporting notes. Well worth the read.
on December 29, 2004
I have not yet read this translation of the most ancient world epic but I have read the introduction and "dipped in" here and there. And I have read most every other translation available in English. Maybe I should wait to write this review but I feel a bit of urgency, especially if writing this review will encourage some of my fellow "Westerners" ,(and perhaps also some "Near-Easterner" readers), to buy this translation, or any other translation of Gilgamesh for that matter.
I would like to comment for a moment on Stephen Mitchell's introduction which begins: "In Iraq when the dust blows, stopping men and tanks, it brings with it memories of an ancient world, much older than Islam or Christianity. Western civilization originated from that place between the Tigris and the Euphrates, where Hammurabi created his legal code and where Gilgamesh was written -- the oldest story in th world..." Herein,(I am presuming, perhaps pretentiously),is a part of the "point" of why S.Mitchell translated this text now and in this particular political climate. What we are doing when we attack and destroy the "cradle of civilization", (as Mitchell's careful mention of tanks in the opening sentence alludes to), which is modern-day Iraq, is really destroying the very birth place of humanity, which is what Gilgamesh is archetypally a tale of -- becoming more human through intelligence, compassion and love, a basic human vision that transecends geography, history, culutre and religion. The Gilgamesh epic is a testament to the basic, beautiful commanilities of all humanity. Read it for this reason alone. Mitchell's elegant, yet simple and eminently readable style is only, (but not merely), the proverbial "icing on the cake".