The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh

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Henry Holt and Company, Dec 26, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 336 pages
6 Reviews

Adventurers, explorers, kings, gods, and goddesses come to life in this riveting story of the first great epic—lost to the world for 2,000 years, and rediscovered in the nineteenth century

Composed by a poet and priest in Middle Babylonia around 1200 bce, The Epic of Gilgamesh foreshadowed later stories that would become as fundamental as any in human history, The Odyssey and the Bible. But in 600 bce, the clay tablets that bore the story were lost—buried beneath ashes and ruins when the library of the wild king Ashurbanipal was sacked in a raid.

The Buried Book begins with the rediscovery of the epic and its deciphering in 1872 by George Smith, a brilliant self-taught linguist who created a sensation when he discovered Gilgamesh among the thousands of tablets in the British Museum's collection. From there the story goes backward in time, all the way to Gilgamesh himself. Damrosch reveals the story as a literary bridge between East and West: a document lost in Babylonia, discovered by an Iraqi, decoded by an Englishman, and appropriated in novels by both Philip Roth and Saddam Hussein. This is an illuminating, fast-paced tale of history as it was written, stolen, lost, and—after 2,000 years, countless battles, fevered digs, conspiracies, and revelations—finally found.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - The_Hibernator - LibraryThing

This is an interesting study of the discovery of the tablets that comprise the most complete sections of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It starts with a discussion about the archaeologists involved in ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bezoar44 - LibraryThing

This book is an interesting mess. It's really four different segments of varying lengths that all have something to do with the Gilgamesh epic: * how the epic was rediscovered in the 1800s by British ... Read full review

Contents

WHEN HISTORIES COLLIDE
1
EARLY FAME AND SUDDEN DEATH
51
THE LOST LIBRARY
81
THE FORTRESS AND THE MUSEUM
115
AFTER ASHURBANIPAL THE DELUGE
151
AT THE LIMITS OF CULTURE
198
THE VANISHING POINT
236
SADDAMS GILGAMESH
254
Notes
273
Sources
295
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About the author (2007)

David Damrosch is a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. He is the general editor of The Longman Anthology of World Literature and the founding general editor of The Longman Anthology of British Literature. He lives in New York City.

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