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Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem (Hardback)
  • Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem (Hardback)
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Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem (Hardback)

(author)
£22.00
Hardback 192 Pages / Published: 23/08/2019
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Reflections on a lost poem and its rediscovery by contemporary poets

Gilgamesh is the most ancient long poem known to exist. It is also the newest classic in the canon of world literature. Lost for centuries to the sands of the Middle East but found again in the 1850s, it tells the story of a great king, his heroism, and his eventual defeat. It is a story of monsters, gods, and cataclysms, and of intimate friendship and love. Acclaimed literary historian Michael Schmidt provides a unique meditation on the rediscovery of Gilgamesh and its profound influence on poets today.

Schmidt describes how the poem is a work in progress even now, an undertaking that has drawn on the talents and obsessions of an unlikely cast of characters, from archaeologists and museum curators to tomb raiders and jihadis. Fragments of the poem, incised on clay tablets, were scattered across a huge expanse of desert when it was recovered in the nineteenth century. The poem had to be reassembled, its languages deciphered. The discovery of a pre-Noah flood story was front-page news on both sides of the Atlantic, and the poem's allure only continues to grow as additional cuneiform tablets come to light. Its translation, interpretation, and integration are ongoing.

In this illuminating book, Schmidt discusses the special fascination Gilgamesh holds for contemporary poets, arguing that part of its appeal is its captivating otherness. He reflects on the work of leading poets such as Charles Olson, Louis Zukofsky, and Yusef Komunyakaa, whose own encounters with the poem are revelatory, and he reads its many translations and editions to bring it vividly to life for readers.

Publisher: Princeton University Press
ISBN: 9780691195247
Number of pages: 192
Dimensions: 216 x 140 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"Schmidt's book deeply enriches our appreciation of a work already rich. A solid addition to all collections."---Thomas L. Cooksey, Library Journal
"An insightful, stimulating book sure to breathe new life into the would-be immortal king." * Publishers Weekly *
"[I]f all literary studies were written so engagingly, more people would read them . . . If you have never read Gilgamesh before, Schmidt could be Virgil to your Dante, and if you have read it before, be prepared to let it be explicated in a new and lively way and to flow over your mind like quicksilver."---John Butler, Asian Review of Books
"For anyone interested in language, history, or the power of a great story, this biography of a poem assures endless discoveries."---Jeva Lange, The Week
"[A] wonderful book . . . Schmidt's argument for the poem as poetry, in the modern sense-concrete, unglazed, tough on the mind-is touching and persuasive. I read the book spellbound, in one sitting."---Joan Acoella, New Yorker

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