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Gilgamesh A New Rendering in English Verse

David Ferry

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

0374523835

9780374523831

Trade Paperback

96 Pages

$13.00

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Long counted among the world's great poems, the Gilgamesh epic in the original Babylonian was found on broken tablets, inscribed in ancient cuneiform script. Previously, line-by-line literal translations have necessarily been somewhat discontinuous, while freer versions have departed widely from the original. Now, for the first time, David Ferry makes Gilgamesh available in the kind of energetic and readable rendering that Robert Fitzgerald and Richmond Lattimore have provided for readers in their classic translations of Homer and Virgil.

Ferry's poetry combines faithful attention to the literal meanings of the original with a sense for the poetic qualities that make Gilgamesh not only an important document of ancient Mesopotamia but also a profoundly moving story of the love between companions, and the terrible inevitability of death. This edition also includes Ferry's version of the related Babylonian poem, "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Nether World," as well as an introduction by William L. Moran, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus, at Harvard University.

REVIEWS

Praise for Gilgamesh

"Ferry's version [of Gilgamesh will] become the standard English text."—Fred Marchant, The Harvard Review

"There have been other English accounts of this hero with a thousand descendants, but this is the first one that is as much poetry as scholarship."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

"Ferry's skill brings a fresh interpretation to the power of Gilgamesh."—John Ray, The Times Literary Supplement

"Ferry's Gilgamesh is uniquely his own, self-contained in holding aloof from fads and hype. No display of adjectival fireworks could do justice to his poem's originality or to the integrity of the poet's formal invention. In identifying the poem as Mr. Ferry's, I mean no disrespect to Sin-leqe-unninni, the ancient poet-editor that Babylonian tradition credits as having developed to their highest form the epic adventures of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, and his companion, Enkidu. But like Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat or Ezra Pound's Cathay, Mr. Ferry's Gilgamesh is a miraculous transformation of his original into his own, utterly distinctive idiom . . . Perhaps the poem's most moving element is how the desire for fame is superseded, after the death of Enkidu, by a quest that touches every reader, ancient or modern—the wish for physical immortality . . . [Ferry's] technical genius and literary sophistication evoke not only the hero's anguish, but the rage and despair of the untouchable."—Tom Sleigh, The New York Times Book Review

"The Gilgamesh epic . . . came to light again in the mid-19th century and, thanks to the labors of an arduous, exacting philology, slowly began to assume its place as one of the great poems of the world. Hitherto, however, it has existed only in posse, waiting for a poet who could actualize it. David Ferry has performed this service, and has given us a noble poem as close to the ancient original as we in our ignorance have any right to. May his achievement quickly win the recognition it deserves."—D.S. Carne-Ross, The New Criterion

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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David Ferry, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for his translation of Gilgamesh in 1992, has translated The Odes of Horace, The Eclogues of Virgil, and the Epistles of Horace. For Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations he won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, given by the Academy of American Poets, and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, given by the Library of Congress. In 2001 he received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2002 he won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. He
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • David Ferry

  • David Ferry, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for his translation of Gilgamesh, is a poet and translator who has also won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, given by the Academy of American Poets, and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, given by the Library of Congress. In 2001, he received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2002 he won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. He is the winner of the 2011 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Ferry is the Sophie Chantal Hart Professor of English Emeritus at Wellesley College.
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