The Epic of Gilgamesh is the first great book 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 powerful 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 seamlessly between 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 its first audiences must have felt five thousand years ago.
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(220mm x 138mm x 8mm)
Chatto & Windus
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
This is an enthralling re-working of an epic poem first written in cuneiform on clay tablets in about 2100 BC. Its eponymous hero is the king of Uruk whose oppressed subjects appeal to the gods to help them end the abuses of their ruler and, in particular, his insistence on sleeping with every new bride before her husband may do so. They send a wild man, Enkidu, to curb his excesses but although a battle ensues, the two end up as firm friends and their rampages begin. Displeased again, the gods decide that Enkidu must die, and Gilgamesh passes many years in a fruitless search for immortality. The reader should not be daunted by the antiquity of the original. Hines prefaces the poem with a concise but informative introduction and provides a useful glossary, thereby ensuring that we know what is going on without detracting from the poetry. His version of this epic does not claim to be a translation but rather a contemporary interpretation, and his aim to 'recapture... some of the vigour and excitement' of the original is wonderfully successful. The language is on the one hand innovative and vibrant ('Ishtar staples him with a look') and on the other rhythmic and lyrical ('And how do you sleep, love,/now time has looked away?'). His use of imagery is stunning; within four stanzas he has employed the most mundane of everyday objects to tell us how Gilgamesh 'pulls women like beer rings' but then hauntingly describes Enkidu as 'so handsome he robs the world of horizon -/for no one's gaze lifts beyond him'. This quality of writing, together with Hines's skill in combining the ancient and mythical with the modern and mundane, reinforces the timeless quality of the work and ensures that the fragment left to us by the people of Mesopotamia will continue to endure. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Derrek Hines
Derrek Hines was born and raised in Canada and read Ancient Near Eastern Studies at university. He has won prizes in, among others, the National Poetry competition and the Arvon Foundation International competition. He currently lives on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall where, as well as writing poetry, he publishes a small list of distinguished poets under the Cargo Press imprint.