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Gilgamesh: A New English Version by Stephen Mitchell

Sex, Death, Great Flood And More Surprises

Gilgamesh is considered one of the masterpieces of world literature, but until now there has not been a version that is a superlative literary text in its own right. Acclaimed by critics and scholars, Stephen Mitchells version allows us to enter an ancient masterpiece as if for the first time, to see how startlingly beautiful, intelligent, and alive it is. First, I was shocked by how clear and direct the sexual content is of this classic piece of literature. After the King Gilgamesh advises the way to calm a savage man is to humanize him with the powers of the god Eros priestess, the description is repeated, that she is told to throw off her cloak, lie on the ground, lay open her legs, etc. All things in this story are mammoth in relation to normal human expectations including the storys first intimate liaison which lasts for a week. Then the great savage human is tamed and leans to speak and eat human food. However, dont expect the drama to drone into daily boredom. Next, we get homo-erotica with hints about the relationship between the newly civilized savage and his relationship with the king who, it was predicted, would caress him as he would a woman. They hold hands and become deep, life-long friends. It is at this point that King Gilgamesh who previously ravaged all women before their first meetings with their own husbands, no longer harassed the pe ople. I was left to assume that the relationship between King Gilgamesh and Enkidu have a sufficiently satisfactory love life such that Gilgamesh is no longer driven to use all the women in his kingdom with out satiation. Of course, the story has monsters, victory and Death, but what adventure wouldnt. However, another shocking part is the story of the great flood, a vessel to take 2 animals of each species and the captain of the vessel sends out a dove and it comes back with no place to rest, then he se nds another bird and then another and finally he knows the flood has subsided. The historical portion that Stephen Mitchell adds in addition to the text of the story talks about how the first westerner to read the translated version in the late 1800s, who was a Victorian, immediately realized the relationship between this text and the Bibles description of the great flood. In all, the great, ancient text is full of surprises and is immensely enjoyable and easy to read. Great stuff.

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