Squashed Philosophers is one of those fantastic sites that I assume everybody already knows about – but some of you probably don’t. If that’s you, go and have a look – they are really well-done abridged versions of books of philosophy that I’d never get past chapter 2 of if I read them in full.
Anyway, he’s expanded his sights a bit, and done the Epic of Gilgamesh in 4,500 words. He makes it incredibly wonderful. Here’s the beginning:
Of He who has seen all things, I will make known. Of the One who has done all things, I will tell. Anu-of-the-Sky granted him knowledge. He saw the Secrets, discovered the Hidden, and brought knowledge of time before the Flood. He returned to us from afar, and carved on stone the tale of his toils. He built walls for Uruk-Haven. See the walls of true-fired brick- did not the Seven Sages lay out its plan? One league for a city, one league for gardens, one league for courts of stone. Find the copper tablet box, loose its lock of bronze, take the tablet of lapis lazuli, and read-
…and it goes on like that for a while. There aren’t many times I’ve read a translation of something this old, and had the prose style make me want to go on.
The other half of the attraction comes from the characters. They feel like very obvious archetypes, somehow. I’ve no doubt that the Golden Bough would map out all the parallels with any other culture you care to mention, but I’m thinking of a more general, intuitive feeling of ‘I know you’.
There’s the added attraction that it’s nigh impossible to read Gilgamesh without thinking of it as slash-fodder, and the Enkidu/Gilgamesh pairing seems even more wrong-right than God and Satan. Admittedly, I’ve only found a few bits of it in the wild, but it’s the idea that counts. In the wrong/right contest, though, the clear winner is this Hal Duncan person, who is writing a novel about “Gilgamesh and the Furries” – I adore the psychedelic bonkersness of that idea.