An English-language rendering of the world's oldest epic follows the journey of conquest and self-discovery by the king of Uruk, in an edition that includes an introduction that places the story in its historical and cultural context.
Stephen Mitchell's critically accclaimed 2004 version is a different sort of Gilgamesh. Mitchell admits in his introduction he can't read cuneiform and has no knowledge of Akkadian. He writes: "I have depended on the literal translations by seven scholars...My method was this: I first read and compared all the translations...cobbled together a rough prose version [and] began the real work, of raising the language to the level of English verse." Mitchell's primary source-text was George's literal translation, and he also referred to Ferry's poem frequently while composing his verse.
Known for his bestselling translations of The Book of Job and the Bhagavad Gita, Mitchell provokes varied reactions from his audience. He is not particularly interested in staying faithful to old texts, and his works bear withness to this: blatently irreverant translations of sections the Bible, a modernized version of Lao-tzu's Tao Te Ching, and an Iliad with 1,000 lines cut out. Perhaps Mitchell is the perfect man to edit Gilgamesh—an unwieldy, fragmented saga which could use an artist's fresh interpretation. Still, readers should be aware that Mitchell's version is in places more sexually graphic than any of the other translations we carry.
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