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The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Andrew George
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Jan 2003 Penguin Classics

The ancient Sumerian poem The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest written stories in existence, translated with an introduction by Andrew George in Penguin Classics.

Miraculously preserved on clay tablets dating back as much as four thousand years, the poem of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, is the world's oldest epic, predating Homer by many centuries. The story tells of Gilgamesh's adventures with the wild man Enkidu, and of his arduous journey to the ends of the earth in quest of the Babylonian Noah and the secret of immortality. Alongside its themes of family, friendship and the duties of kings, The Epic of Gilgamesh is, above all, about mankind's eternal struggle with the fear of death.

The Babylonian version has been known for over a century, but linguists are still deciphering new fragments in Akkadian and Sumerian. Andrew George's gripping translation brilliantly combines these into a fluid narrative and will long rank as the definitive English Gilgamesh.

If you enjoyed The Epic of Gilgamesh, you might like Homer's Iliad, also available in Penguin Classics.

'A masterly new verse translation'

The Times

'Andrew George has skilfully bridged the gap between a scholarly re-edition and a popular work'

London Review of Books

Frequently Bought Together

The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin Classics) + Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford World's Classics) + Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization
Price For All Three: 19.57

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Rev Ed edition (30 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449198
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 7.8 x 0.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Andrew George is Reader in Assyriology at SOAS (the School of Oriential and African Studies) in London, and is also an Honorary Lecturer at the University's Institute of Archaeology. His research has taken him many times to Iraq to visit Babylon and other ancient sites, and to museums in Baghdad, Europe and North America to read the original clay tablets on which the scribes of ancient Iraq wrote.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
74 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent purchase 15 Nov 2003
Penguin Classics have produced here a wonderful new edition of the Epic of Gilgamesh. A lucid translation brings the epic to life, and it is backed up by a wealth of extra material that add depth and understanding to a reading of the text. There is an extensive introduction to the historical, literary and archaeological background: the Babylonian, Akkadian and Sumerian contexts are explored clearly and succinctly, and there is also a fascinating history of how the text itself has been pieced together. In addition, and making this new edition even more worthy, the translator collects together fragments from variant traditions - some of them for the first time in English - which expand or give slightly different perspectives upon the core text. This rounds out the picture perfectly, giving an intriguing glimpse into how the story and image of Gilgamesh evolved over time and in different contexts.
Finally, the text is peppered with line drawings of contemporary tablet illustrations. All this, and pictures too! Highly recommended.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime translation 31 July 2008
By Aj West
This translation of Gilgamesh is one of the best things I have read in a while. It takes a quite academic route to giving the reader the many goods of the epic in that the narrative is slightly broken up by sorting the information by tablet, and by not neglecting any relevant Sumerian or Akkadian version of the epic. That is to say, the reader should be aware that this is not like simply reading a book of prose; the text is verse (verse with repeating lines and ideas, as in much epic poetry, a style I find readable and enjoyable, but others can find less so) and is frequently broken by lacunae coming from the source material; and the text is divided into three major parts. Part one is the Standard Version, or He Who Saw the Deep, in 11 tablets; part two is Surpassing All Other Kings, beginning with the Pennsylvania tablet; and part three is a selection of Sumerian poems of Bilgames (the Sumerian version of the Akkadian name Gilgamesh). All parts are well translated - beautifully so, so that even the fairly frequent lacunae (it is, after all, several thousand years old) do not interrupt the understanding or enjoyment.

The introduction to the book is excellent - a brilliant summary of some general ideas about life in the time it was written in ancient Mesopotamia. The introductions to each part, tablet and poem are also lucid, helpful and personable. Even the few illustrations - copies of original pictures from Mesopotamia describing the epic - are lively and expressive. If it had been the first translation of the epic that I had read, and it assuredly is not, then it would have been a perfect introduction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It didn't seem that old... 23 July 2012
For those who don't know, "The Epic of Gilgamesh" is one the oldest pieces of literature that have managed to survive. According to a few researchers the earlier versions ought to be at least four millenniums old. Like in many others ancient works of fiction, its origins are somewhat uncertain to the point that its authors' are completely unknown.

This text consist of five chapters, all in form of poetry: the first with the standard (and mostly complete) Babylon version of the epic; three other chapters containing most known excerpts of other older Babylonian versions; and a final chapter of a Sumerian version, which is believed to be older than the Babylonian versions and shows the discrepancies when compared with the standard version. Most of these versions only diverge on small excerpts, but it's still enough to show that even while this story was put on a physical medium, the oral tradition of passing this tale was still very strong.

The story itself is the traditional epic (or maybe even one of the primordial examples). The main character is also a hero, in the literal sense, so powerful and worshipped that is only a step lower of god and; in this case, Gilgamesh is the hero and the king of Uruk (which is a historical figure and place). As hero and son of a goddess, he occasionally gets "quests" from gods that will give him more fame and power. To accompany Gilgamesh in his "quests", there's Enkidu, a man created by the gods.

Their adventures are narrated in eleven tablets and an extra one that isn't considered as completely part of the epic. The first few tablets depict a bit of hack-and-slash (someone needs to kills the monsters) with some character development; the others show Gilgamesh searching for immortality.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important piece of world literature 8 Aug 2011
By Oygen
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read a more modern translation of the Epic a few years ago, but saw that this was recommended by the author of Complete Bablyonian. The translation gives you a sense of the rhythm of the text, the repetition of phrases so that you develop a sense of what it was like for the audiences listening to this or even reading it.

In addition to the translation are various chapters that help set the wider context of the text and I strongly recommend reading them. I enjoyed this text very much and it is a small way of seeing just how much we still share with our ancestors.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
this was a gift for my sons birthday and he is over the moon with it. Great service highly reccommend
Published 5 months ago by nelly69
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
An edition aimed more at the academic than the general, but worth the effort. Not always easy to follow the variant readings.
Published 5 months ago by omandjo
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
The book gives the story in as full a detail as it can. The actual text being on fragmented tablets 1000's of years old. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr Duncan o Read
5.0 out of 5 stars book golgamesh
the book appears to be good but was a present and the person is still reading it so can't give views yet !
Published 9 months ago by helen rucz
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Really good introduction and lots of helpful notes. Must recommend this version over others!
Its a nice size too, great if your doing an essay on it like I am.
Published 16 months ago by Miss Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read
A must read book as this is probably one of the oldest text in the world.

The story may appear quite alien but in the same time very close to us. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Eric le rouge
5.0 out of 5 stars the true versions (with their holes not replenished)
The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the first narratives ever written. It has been rediscovered through archeological excavations, written on clay tablets. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Manu
4.0 out of 5 stars An additional edition, not a replacement edition!
It may be a matter of taste, but I find that it's worth having this (Andrew George's) edition as well as the 1972 Sandars Penguin Classic, rather than as a replacement. Read more
Published on 27 Nov 2009 by Fuficius Fango
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