Stephen Mitchell’s Gilgamesh

Among other things, Stephen Mitchell is known for his acclaimed translations of Rainer Maria Rilke. He has now translated the ancient epic Gilgamesh:

Gilgamesh is the oldest recorded story in the world. Tracing its origins back to the times of an ancient Mesopotamian king who ruled in the city of Uruk in the 3rd millennium BC, it predates the Bible and The Iliad by at least 1,000 years. It has been described as the first great book of the human heart.

This new Gilgamesh plants itself on a solid centre ground between the dry and frankly almost unreadable Standard Version offered by an ancient scribe and the exuberantly contemporary but individual takes of such poets as Derek Hines. The scholar may still turn to Andrew George’s translation, but for the reader who wishes to breathe in the spirit of this epic, to relate to it as a work of literature rather than to interpret it as a series of fragments recording some distant legend, Mitchell produces what should become recognised as the standard text. Read it and sense all the wisdom and complexity of the original before film-makers now planning a screen version get their hands on it. Let it settle down into your imaginative depths.

Thanks to Robin Varghese for telling me about this. Read more of the book review by Rachel Campbell-Johnston here in the London Times. And here is another review by Steve Nash in The Globe and Mail.