The Epic of Gilgamesh, trans. by John Harris

Source: Epic of Gilgamesh podcast (iTunes, Podbay)

Length: About 4.5 hours
Reader: John Harris

The book: The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest pieces of literature ever discovered. The epic poem is a loosely joined series of stories about Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian king, and Enkidu, a savage man sent by the gods to distract Gilgamesh from his kingly excesses. Along the way, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become friends (or more than friends? There is a possible homosexual relationship, depending on how you interpret the words). Written before the Bible, the poem also includes the earliest account of the Great Flood story, known more familiarly as the Noah story.

I found this book to be a fascinating look at what life was like in the ancient world. From a literary standpoint, I was amazed to see Gilgamesh, the protagonist and a king, portrayed as a bad person that needed intervention from the gods. Long before the modern times, people were looking at the ruler as both a source of trouble and inspiration. As a story, however, the Epic of Gilgamesh can be tough reading (or listening). The writers of the time did not have the same sense of pacing that we have today, plus there are sections missing or partially damaged, leaving out some of parts of the story. Read it to find a different world, not to be entertained by plot and character development.

NOTE: This story contains explicit sexual and violent content. It is not recommended for children.

Rating: 7 /10

The reader: John Harris reads his own prose translation from Sumarian. He includes notes on the text, explaining both the state of the source text and the meaning or relevance of the story. His reading itself is a bit dry and academic, with the pacing a bit on the slow side of my preferences. I listened to the iTunes version, which includes some music between sections, so when I sped up his speech, the music became distorted. At normal speeds, though, the music helps lend some drama to the story and the recording itself of both music and text is clear and clean.

Purchase a text copy of The Epic of Gilgameshat Amazon

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