Gilgamesh (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
Based upon the life of the Sumerian king who ruled the city of Uruk during the third millennium b.c.e., the epic of Gilgamesh, like Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” has had a powerful effect on the Western mind ever since the discovery of several fragmentary versions of the story during the nineteenth century. The new translation by John Gardner and John Maier and the recent imaginative retelling, “Gilgamesh” the King (1984) by Robert Silverberg attest the continued interest in a story known to most readers in N. K. Sandars’ highly readable conflation, The Epic of Gilgamesh (1960), which figures prominently in The Sunlight Dialogues (1972), arguably Gardner’s best novel. “Are you familiar with the epic of Gilgamesh?” the Sunlight Man asks bewildered Police Chief Fred Clumly.A splendid epic, but very obscure, difficult for people like us—undramatic, one thinks at first glance. A technique made up of careful segmentation, with elaborate echoing, repeating and counterpointing, with texture enriched still more by rare and artificial words. A kind of poetry naturally suited to elaborate description and oration and hymnic address, symbolic dreams, and armings. Needless to say, its poetry not suited to dramatic actions which move the story forward. Lifeless, people call it.
Like Sandars’ translation, the Gardner-Maier Gilgamesh draws from previously published scholarly...
(The entire section is 1759 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
The Atlantic. CCLIV, November, 1984, p. 148.
Book World. XIV, December 30, 1984, p. 8.
Commonweal. CXI, November 30, 1984, p. 664.
Kirkus Reviews. LII, July 15, 1984, p. 672.
Library Journal. CIX, December, 1984, p. 2280.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXIX, November 11, 1984, p. 13.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXVI, August 10, 1984, p. 68.
(The entire section is 38 words.)