Posted on Thursday, September 13, 2012 by Lindsey Westbrook
Contra Mundum Press, 2012
Paperback, 344 pages, $18
Composed over 2,500 years, then lost in the deserts of Iraq for 2,000 more, Gilgamesh presents a palimpsest of ancient Middle Eastern cultic and courtly lyrics and lore. It is the story of a visionary journey beyond the limits of human experience. The legends it collects ultimately informed Greek and Egyptian myths, Hebrew Scriptures, and Islamic literature. Scholarly translations of Gilgamesh often dilute the expressive force of the material through overzealous erudition. Popular versions of the poem frequently gloss over gaps in the text with accessible and comforting, but ultimately falsely ecumenical language. In this new version, Stuart Kendall (Critical Studies chair) animates the latest scholarship with a contemporary poetic sensibility, inspired by the pagan worldview of the ancient work. Transcriptions of all of the available tablets and tales have been harnessed to present a fluid and holistic text, true to the archaic mind.