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Gilgamesh by Derrek Hines

Gilgamesh (2002)

by Derrek Hines

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331514,403 (4)3
"The epic of Gilgamesh is the first great epic of man's heart. Inscribed onto clay tablets around 2400 BC, it enthralled the ancient world with a story of love, heroism, friendship, grief and defiance of the Gods. That it continues to speak to us today, despite its fragmentary state, is testimony to the power and humanity of its themes: King Gilgamesh's lament for his dead friend Enkidu is still among the most moving poems of mourning in literature." "Inspired by the universality of the Gilgamesh story, the poet Derrek Hines has produced a magnificent reworking of the epic, which brings it into a modern idiom whilst maintaining its timeless quality. His striking imagery breathes a new sensuality and vigour into the characters; his poised and energetic language moves seemlessly through the lyric and the bellicose, the comic and the tragic, the classical and the contemporary. Like Christopher Logue's War Music, or Seamus Heaney's Beowulf, this is a work that will communicate to today's reader the sheer excitement and wonder that those who first encountered Gilgamesh must have felt five thousand years ago."--Jacket.… (more)



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Based on the ancient Sumerian oral epic, Derrek Hines’ Gilgamesh is a wonderful retelling of the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu – the former the oppressive King of Uruk, circa 2800 BC, and the latter a man made by the gods to befriend Gilgamesh and temper his excesses. In a way, it’s the buddy-story of another era. The two fight, travel and plunder together, journeying to Lebanon to seek out timber from the sacred cedar. They defy Ishtar, defeat the Bull of heaven, and confront the wrath of the gods together. But essentially, this is a lament, an elegy for friendship and merely mortal humanity, a story that brings us to the underworld and back.

One thing that makes Hines’ book so wonderful is the seamless way that he infuses this ancient story with strikingly modern imagery: CAT scans and snipers, ouzo and pressure hoses, Venetian blinds and Rubik’s cubes. The effect is both to invite the contemporary reader in and to threaten their balance (hey, isn’t this supposed to be ancient history?), creating a context of timelessness. These images are rarely just clever in themselves – they nearly always work within the story, which moves ever onwards. This isn’t purely meditative stuff – it’s poetry with a very decided plot trajectory.

In the end, I think what makes this book so enjoyable is the beautifully maintained balance between this trajectory and the poetry of its telling: “the soft pencil-hatchings of the evening’s gossip” and “the blurred, mycelium creep of starlight.” I highly recommend it. ( )
  cocoafiend | Sep 3, 2010 |
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The Epic of Gilgamesh is the first great book of man's heart. (Introduction)
Here is Gilgamesh, King of Uruk:
two-thirds divine, a mummy's boy,
zeppelin ego, c*ck like a triphammer,
and solid chrome, no-prisoners arrogance.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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