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The history and summary of materials found in the books is quite interesting (if brief), but I must fault Mitchell for his actual translation/prose restatement. He does include more literal translations in the footnotes to the original text, and I find myself preferring these versions. While Mitchell's version is of course easy to read, lyrical and lucid, it overshoots its mark in my opinion. The culture of ancient Uruk and the character of Gilgamesh seem familiar to us, and herein lies the problem. A true, literal translation requires the use of the exact words and idioms of the ancient language - and you can get a sense of this through reading even the King James Bible or Shakespeare, which is unquestionably in English, but different enough to force us to pause. Though explanatory notes are an absolute must in the case of a literal translation, which adds to the burden of reading, the literal translation is also far better at emphasizing the bizarre (to us) nature of the culture, the alienness of thought, the utter differences between us and them. The notes that accompany, that you must read in order to really appreciate the text, are windows into the world that give a much richer sense of the culture than we get from a simplified, Anglicized translation. Mitchell's Gilgamesh does not come across as the son of a goddess, as a deified ruler of the greatest metropolis of the ancient Middle East, he comes across as the character of a book we could have read nearly anywhere. Mitchell makes me want to read a literal, even fragmentary translation - though I will admit I would now be much better prepared to understand what actually happened whereas without this prose version I would simply be lost. 

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Ishtar is the goddess of carnal knowledge. She educates and annoints Endik in the ways of civilization. After having been enligtened and civilized he begins to have nightmares on the subject of death. No one is ever so fearful of death as is Endik after having been so enlightened. He has horrid nightmares of the souls rotting in Hell and he considers that he must indeed have actually gone there. Subsequent to his awakening to these new concepts of both fear and duplicity he dies. It is as if the knowledge such things in and of themselves alone actually killed him. The passage of the tale that became the most memorable follows as: "I descended in to Helll. The place was littered with crowns. I saw the crowns of great kings and wise men and priests's robes." As a reader I found it rather refreshingly chilling that the riches of the high and lofty and the self righteous high acheivers occupied the heat and the long sufferings and the thirsts and hungers having to do with such a souless place of doom. It kept me awake thinking. These are concepts that had been considered by whomever compiled this folk tale from Lebannon nearly four thousand years ago and long before Genesis was ever written. We are not so slick as we think. Antiquity always has me checking my post modernity with the knowing of a grandparent catching his grandchildren playing doctor. Unmoved and without nubile juvenality is the way this story is set. Lately I have grown so very tired of post modernist juvenalities and sophmoric viewpoints passing themselves of as mature and considerate philosphoical development. It's a great read. In my tale called 'Tournament', which many lover's of chain mail and others at CENTCOM cyber-command and military espionage have spied upon, in addition to the legitimately and correctly addressed fans and supportive readers of mine, I was able to derive the character Fangon the Pius. It was those who Endik met during his descent into Hell, in the tale of Gilgamesh from this passage, to whom I was referring from Gilgamesh. "Fangon the Pius was a despicable little shell of an excuse for a human being......" I am am so glad he and his ilk descended into hell. Moreover I take delight in being comforted that the most vile apportments in Hell are have special reservations for such haughty and self-appointed weaklings aspiring to public notoriety as he.
The Beastlord Slavedragon
 

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This is one of my very favorite stories, and this is an excellent translation of it. The story is a fine example of old world mythology, and a thought provoking exploration of mortality. The translation has an internal rhythm that captures a sense of oral history (even though the Epic of Gilgamesh itself was written down in various forms in cuneiform). 

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ksp

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