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Gilgamesh [Paperback]

Stephen Grundy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Avon Books (Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380794535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380794539
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story 11 Sep 2003
Format:Hardcover
Two-thirds god and one-third man, Gilgamesh rises to become Ensi (ruler) of Erech. But, he is both as powerful as a wild bull, and as impetuous as one. The people cry out for someone to tame Gilgamesh, and the gods respond by making him a comrade, a brother in all things. However, when this comrade doesn't tame Gilgamesh, but merely changes the direction of his fears and desires, then how is Gilgamesh to learn his lessons? This is the story of a hero--the adventures he has and the lessons he learns.
In this masterful retelling of the ancient Sumerian Gilgamesh epic, the author spins the story out into a lengthy (565 page) book that both entertains and educates the reader about ancient Sumer. Part of what I liked about this book is that certain parts of the dialog are taken directly from ancient Sumerian sources, which adds greatly to the books realism. The characters are richly defined, and the story is fascinating, while at the same time many details of Sumerian life are woven in.
As a small complaint, the author did delight in describing Gilgamesh's sexual escapades, both heterosexual and homosexual, in voyeuristic detail. I thought that that was unnecessary, but that it did not overly diminish the impact of the story, either. Overall, I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in ancient Sumer or in high quality fantasy literature.
[If you are interested in daily life in ancient Sumer as seen from a merchant family's viewpoint, then I would still recommend The Three Brother of Ur by Jenny Grace Fygson.]
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely epic! 1 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Appears to be a love it or hate it book. I loved it. Hard to put down and a fantastic view of another culture. Keep up the good work Stephan.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-done retelling! 20 Nov 2000
By "bibliophile01830" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Stephan Grundy's Gilgamesh is a magnificent piece of art. Brilliantly written and intensively researched, it translates the ancient Mesopotamian epic into a superbly readable novel without altering the essence of the original. The theme of an arrogant and powerful young man who must discover that no human heroism can overcome mortality is one that speaks as clearly to the modern age as to the era when the epic was composed; by fleshing out the lines of the poem with a wealth of physical and emotional detail, Grundy expands this fundamental theme to a veritable Wagnerian opera, producing a book which not only overwhelms in the reading, but provokes thoughts and feelings that will last long after the covers have been closed. Intense meditations upon mortality and the worth of human life are layered into an exciting plot that includes war (not invented to pad out the plot-line, but derived directly from another Mesopotamian poem, 'Gilgamesh and Agga'), hunting scenes worthy of Wilbur Smith at his best, and high intrigue within the temple walls, as well as the ongoing emotional combat between Gilgamesh and his city's patron goddess Inanna. This combination of thought and action shows an unusually skillful handling of timing and plot, while the characters, though many of their attitudes are foreign to the modern viewpoint, still manage to be highly sympathetic and interesting - particularly the young priestess who has the thankless task of trying to get the headstrong Gilgamesh to do his long-feared and potentially fatal duty to the goddess Inanna. The one caution readers should have is that the author's insistence on detailed historical accuracy includes a willingness to present a complete and unexpurgated view of the sexual emphasis of Sumerian religion and culture (and of the diverse forms of sexuality practiced and celebrated by the Sumerians) which may prove to be controversial among those who are familiar only with the more watered-down translations and interpretations of Gilgamesh. In particular, Grundy's straightforward acceptance of the repeated phrase in Gilgamesh's dreams about Enkidu, 'To me its (the meteor symbolizing Enkidu in the dream) attraction was like the love of woman...you were drawn to it as though to a woman...you will love him as a woman', etc. (the same phrase is also translated as 'I hugged him like a wife...You loved him and hugged him like a wife') may unsettle or even offend those who assume that ancient Sumerians lived by the same moral standards as fundamentalist Baptists - though conversely, readers looking for a gay love story (or political statement) may be unsettled by Enkidu's happy, if open, marriage, Gilgamesh's many experiences with priestesses and new brides, and the suggestion that the two heroes go out cruising for women together, among other things. However, those who appreciate historical authors who are willing to accurately portray the attitudes of the cultures in which their works are set will be grateful that Grundy did not choose to tone down the rich sensuality of the Sumerians (or dilute the intensity of the heroes' emotional union as the poem describes it) in order to avoid controversy. This book is destined to be a true classic among historical novels.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual "coming of age" novel 15 Nov 2000
By "kadlin" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Between my memory of having read Gilgamesh in a college history class, and my pleasant experiences reading Stephan Grundy's previous historical fiction novels, I happily anticipated the release of this novel and was not disappointed. It more than just an adventure story.
I cannot speak for how accurately Gilgamesh's legend is rendered, but I will say that as in Grundy's previous novels, he did an excellent job evoking the world Gilgamesh lives in. In particular, he makes the ancient Sumerian religion seem real, as a major aspect of the various character's lives. This last is important, because although the novel tells the story of the king and hero Gilgamesh, it also tells the story of a person coming to terms with and accepting the influence of the divine (in this case the Sumerian goddess Innana) into his life. In a sense, it is a romance between Gilgamesh and the goddess. Though a brave man, he fears her because accepting her means accepting that he will one day meet his death. He has great strength and vigor, being "two thirds god and one third man" but with it comes something like "peter pan syndrome" and he lacks sympathy and understanding for his subjects. He confuses personal heroism in battle with the kingly duty to protect his subjects-- even from his own dreams of glory. His courage, in light of his refusal to admit the possibility of death, is closer to recklessness. Nevertheless, for all his flaws he is an engaging character, as are the other characters in the novel are who are forced to deal with him.
Yes, some of the characters are bisexual-- but a careful reading reveals that the homosexual activities of certain characters (discreetly presented) are a signal that the character is turned toward him or herself, taking comfort in human friendship when unable to accept the goddess into his or her life (while showing the importance of human friendships). I believe Grundy's intent in including these episodes was to express his theme, not to be "trendy." Gilgamesh at first can only love his friend Enkidu, because only Enkidu is "like him" in physical prowess. Initially it is an egotistical love, but after tragedy and physical weakness befalls Enkidu, Gilgamesh learns that he still loves his friend for his nobility of spirit. Ultimately, just as Innana gives Enkidu the gift of civilization, Enkidu's love and friendship gives Gilgamesh the understanding that he needs to finally accept Innana as well as his own mortality in order to become a complete, mature man and a good king.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome! 13 Oct 2000
By Joey Morgan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
From the first few pages, I was transported to ancient Erech, involved in the lives of the characters, and hooked on this most ancient of epic stories. Grundy has a way of bringing larger-than-life characters forth in ways that make them immediately important to the reader as people, not merely as archetypes. Whether he is writing about fighting or love-making, he does it with an appreciation of the skills involved that make you pity his enemies and envy his lovers. He has the rare combination of excellent research and creative story-telling ability that marks the best keepers of legend. I recommend this book not just because the Gilgamesh story is culturally important, but because it is a GOOD story, and even better when told by a master.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breathtaking Read 14 Jan 2001
By "chribhna" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Being new to the writings of Stephan Grundy, I was initially somewhat daunted by the sheer scale of this book. At 550+ words, and with no previous knowledge of the Gilgamesh saga whatsoever, I figured that this might not be a book for the fainthearted or, indeed, the uninitiated. I need not have worried. Quite simply, Grundy's 'Gilgamesh' is a breathtaking read. His vision of early Sumeria, and its elaborate (and to us, somewhat alien) rituals and culture is brought vividly to life by an author of consummate skill to the extent that I, a reader with no prior knowledge, might almost have found myself living there. Greater still is Grundy's gift for characterisation. His book is crammed not with the usual main players and plot enabling secondary props, but by living breathing characters, superbly drawn by the author with a passion for life and a depth of compassion and humanity which defies description. This is a richly woven tapestry which can be read on any number of levels, from that of straight forward adventure to deeply moving treatise on the folly of pride, the futility of regret and the individual's powerlessness in the face of the inevitable. I have no idea how true to the 'original' Grundy's version of Gilgamesh is, but his research looks to have been impressive indeed if the book's afterword is anything to go by, and I will certainly be reading Maureen Gallery Kovaks translation, as cited, not to mention Grundy's other works. In short, buy 'Gilgamesh' - this is an awesome read and a handsome retelling of an epic tale; it has a breadth of passion and a scale of grandeur which - if you have the slightest shred of humanity, will surely take your breath away.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic, rich telling of the ancient story 17 Oct 2002
By Rachel E. Watkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I got this book because it is by Stephan Grundy, and having read his two previous books 'Atilla's Treasure' and 'Rhinegold' I knew I would have a great book to read. I wasn't dissapointed, but was a bit surprised at parts of it. As the other reviws say, a main part of the plot is his relationship with Enkidu.
I felt totally drawn into the world of ancient Sumeria....the rich detailed descriptions of temples, cerimonies, sexuality, people interacting with each other are all so well done. The Ensi's journey from rash, impulsive youth in love with his power, to the man who has been through trials and peril is so thoroughly enchanting. If you're not squeamish about sexuality, and homosexuality, then you will likely love this book.
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