Many of you are in for a treat !

January 14, 2007

GilgameshYesterday when I gave up on Flaubert and started the process of choosing something else, I opened up Gilgamesh and skimmed the introduction. I was hooked after the first few sentences.

“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 the world, a thousand years older than the Iliad or the Bible.”

A few pages later, the invitation from Sin-leqi-unninni, a scholar-priest fundamental to the version that we can read today-

“Find the cornerstone, and under it the copper box that is marked with his name. Unlock it. Open the lid. Take out the tablet of lapis lazuli. Read how Gilgamesh suffered all and accomplished all.”

Many of you have Gilgamesh on your reading lists. If the book and subject matter strike you as something you may enjoy, I can almost guarantee that you will love it.

I don’t know what other versions are available, but the Steven Mitchell translation is wonderful. The introduction alone was worth the cost of the book for me. It you read this translation, don’t skip over the introduction. At least read the section describing the history of the book. I avoided the sections that got into the detail of the 11 books in the story until after I had read each book. I then went back to the introduction to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I don’t want to reveal any of the story, so I’ll leave you with the first couple sentences from the Prologue-

“He had seen everything, had experienced all emotions, from exaltation to despair, had been granted a vision in the great mystery, the secret places, the primeval days before the Flood. He had journeyed to the edge of the world and made his way back, exhausted but whole….”

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4 Responses to “Many of you are in for a treat !”


  1. Thanks for getting me excited about Gilgamesh . I once read a beautiful novel by Joan London called Gilgamesh and having background knowledge of the original would have been helpful.

  2. Susan Says:

    My son’s been trying to get me to read this one for a couple of years now. Your post underscore the fact that I definitely need to make time for it this year.

  3. Dorothy W. Says:

    I taught this in a class a few years back and I loved doing it. The students seemed to like it. It deals with such major topics — the relationship of humans to the divinie for example — that it’s easy to get interested in it.


  4. Thanks for sharing this information. Really is pack with new knowledge. Keep them coming.


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