Gilgamesh A New Translation of the Ancient Epic Sophus Helle

Publication date:
25 Jan 2022
Yale University Press
320 pages: 235 x 156 x 27mm
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A poem for the ages, freshly and accessibly translated by an international rising star, bringing together scholarly precision and poetic grace
“Sophus Helle’s new translation . . . [is] a thrilling, enchanting, desperate thing to read.”—Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe
“Looks to be the last word on this Babylonian masterpiece.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
Gilgamesh is a Babylonian epic from three thousand years ago, which tells of King Gilgamesh’s deep love for the wild man Enkidu and his pursuit of immortality when Enkidu dies. It is a story about love between men, loss and grief, the confrontation with death, the destruction of nature, insomnia and restlessness, finding peace in one’s community, the voice of women, the folly of gods, heroes, and monsters—and more. Millennia after its composition, Gilgamesh continues to speak to us in myriad ways.
Translating directly from the Akkadian, Sophus Helle offers a literary translation that reproduces the original epic’s poetic effects, including its succinct clarity and enchanting cadence. An introduction and five accompanying essays unpack the history and main themes of the epic, guiding readers to a deeper appreciation of this ancient masterpiece.

Sophus Helle is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Freie Universität Berlin. He previously translated Gilgamesh into Danish with his father, the poet Morten Søndergaard.

“Looks to be the last word on this Babylonian masterpiece.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“Sophus Helle’s Gilgamesh is woven of earthly, muscular language that breathes an epic of gutsy dreams and ancient knowhow. In Helle’s rendition, this scholar truly translates rhythm and movement until Gilgamesh breathes anew.”—Yusef Komunyakaa, author of Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth

“The translation is elegant and eloquent. The essays and elucidations are learned, lively, and hugely illuminating. Sophus Helle is a poet, a scholar, and, if truth be told, a genius.”—Marshall Brown, University of Washington

“Helle’s new translation reminds us just what a miracle it is that Gilgamesh has survived, an emblem of mortality available only in fragments, yet speaking to our mortal loves and fears with undying force.”—Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University

“A dazzling work of scholarship that manages complex topics with elegance and thoughtfulness.”—Louise Pryke, University of Sydney

“A fresh and vital translation, alive to the music of the original, and accompanied by essays offering crucial background and insightful analysis, Helle’s Gilgamesh will bring the ancient poem to life for new audiences.”—Alexander Beecroft, University of South Carolina