Stephen Mitchell is widely known for his original and definitive versions of spiritual writings and poetry. His many books include The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, Tao Te Ching, The Gospel According to Jesus and Bhagavad Gita.
The acclaimed translator of the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita now takes on the oldest book in the world. Inscribed on stone tablets a thousand years before the Iliad and the Bible and found in fragments, Gilgamesh describes the journey of the king of the city of Uruk in what is now Iraq. At the start, Gilgamesh is a young giant with gigantic wealth, power and beauty-and a boundless arrogance that leads him to oppress his people. As an answer to their pleas, the gods create Enkidu to be a double for Gilgamesh, a second self. Learning of this huge, wild man who runs with the animals, Gilgamesh dispatches a priestess to find him and tame him by seducing him. Making love with the priestess awakens Enkidu's consciousness of his true identity as a human being rather than as an animal. Enkidu is taken to the city and to Gilgamesh, who falls in love with him as a soul mate. Soon, however, Gilgamesh takes his beloved friend with him to the Cedar Forest to kill the guardian, the monster Humbaba, in defiance of the gods. Enkidu dies as a result. The overwhelming grief and fear of death that Gilgamesh suffers propels him on a quest for immortality that is as fast-paced and thrilling as a contemporary action film. In the end, Gilgamesh returns to his city. He does not become immortal in the way he thinks he wants to be, but he is able to embrace what is. Relying on existing translations (and in places where there are gaps, on his own imagination), Mitchell seeks language that is as swift and strong as the story itself. He conveys the evenhanded generosity of the original poet, who is as sympathetic toward women and monsters-and the whole range of human emotions and desires-as he is toward his heroes. This wonderful new version of the story of Gilgamesh shows how the story came to achieve literary immortality-not because it is a rare ancient artifact, but because reading it can make people in the here and now feel more completely alive. Author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
'As narrative verse, this Gilgamesh entrances and enthrals. Its liquid, intimate four-stressed lines negotiate the rapid shifts between everyday pleasures, heroic feats and blazing visions in this mythic world where the sensual and spiritual always intersect. Mitchell manages to slip the mesmerising incantations of the verse into his reader's bloodstream as if they flowed through some poetic intravenous drip.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent 'It was a revelation. The translation is superb.' Harold Pinter 'Stephen Mitchell's Gilgamesh is a wonderful version. It is as eloquent and nuanced as his translations of Rilke. This is certainly the best that I have seen in English.' Harold Bloom 'Reading Stephen Mitchell's marvellously clear and vivid rendering of Gilgamesh makes me feel that I am encountering this ancient poem for the first time.' Elaine Pagels 'This is the most pellucid version of the epic yet to have been written in English, but what is most startling and admirable about it is the fact that Mitchell has not sacrificed a sense of the weird on the altar of readability ... a powerful translation.' The Times 'Mitchell brings a lucid and poetic version of Gilgamesh to a literary rather than academic audience ... [he] allows the ancients a chance to speak for themselves.' Observer 'Beautifully retold and a page-turner in the bargain. Like Seamus Heaney's recent retelling of Beowulf, this book proves that in the right hands, no great story ever grows stale.' Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
From the man who brought us translations of the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita; a lyrical rendering of the world's oldest piece of literature, written in 170 B.C.E. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.