27 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I remember in Year 9 literature, our teacher came and whacked down a great pile of photocopies on each of our desks. It was bits and pieces of this story called Gilgamesh, one of the oldest surviving written works around. We were reading the part about the Scorpion Men, I remember, and I thought it was pretty interesting. Since then, I've always been meaning to check it out, and just recently, I picked up this modern version of the Sumerian epic.
Gilgamesh is the story of the giant of the same name, King of the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk. He's handsome, he's strong, he's brave, but unfortunately he's a bit of a tyrant, and he oppresses his people. To stop his brutal ways, the gods create a likeness of Gilgamesh, Enkidu, who they put out in the wilds. Enkidu is a man who grows to become Gilgamesh's closest ally, and over a series of quests is one who changes his life and his life's meaning forever.
This adaption is a version, and not a translation. Stephen Mitchell, the author of this version, admits that he can't read Akkadian (the original language of Gilgamesh) but instead relied on several amplified and literal translations of the text for inspiration. As it is, I found it very, very easy to read, even compared to other modern versions of literature (Seamus Heaney's version of Beowulf, for instance). At a relaxed pace, I was able to get through this book in a couple of days.
The book itself I felt could have been a bit shorter. The introduction and endnotes combined take up half the pages! The introduction was all right, but not exactly my cup of tea. To give "Gilgamesh" some contemporary relevance Mitchell tries to draw parallels between Gilgamesh's "pre-emptive strike" on Humbaba and George Bush's attack on Iraq (which just happens to be where Gilgamesh originated). It can see how it would have been a tempting parallel to make in 2004, but I don't think it's a parallel that sits too well. He's reading a bit too much into Gilgamesh's little quest, I feel. In the introduction, I noticed he does that a lot. He paints it to be a very different work to the one I actually went on to read in the introduction, even. He practically tells you the whole thing in the introduction. It felt like I read it twice by the end, actually. The endnotes, meanwhile, are interesting but they aren't numbered, so you won't even know there is a note on something while you are reading until the end. Found that a bit frustrating. Footnotes would have been a bit better, I felt.
Apart from that, it is a very well presented book. The hardcover edition that I read has this lovely ragged yet patterned edge, which looks handmade (though it isn't) and evokes something ancient. The pages themselves all have this great pattern on the edges, which I thought was pretty special too. I hope they present more books with this much care.
As for the Gilgamesh story, like I've said, I don't see as much in it as Mitchell does in his introduction. Mitchell sees it as a world where there is no black and white, where nothing is clear. I thought things were pretty clear, actually. Most characters were just following their lusts, be it their lust for flesh, their lust for fame or their lust for eternal life. Human nature doesn't change really, does it? Speaking of lust, there is an awful lot of sex in this book, especially considering how short it is. I understand why the Bible satirizes, critcizes and condemns the contemporary Babylonian cultures so intensely (if you've read any of the major prophetic books of the Old Testament, you'll know what I'm talking about). Just have a look at some of the stuff that goes on in this book: shrine prostitutes, "omnisexuals", kings who get to sleep with brides on their wedding night, even if they aren't the husband. It is more than a bit off, if you ask me.
I think it's definitely worth a look. Still, I do think one day I'll go and read one of the older, more academic translations, just to compare.