Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Voice of Gilgamesh

So, thanks to Wolf Baur and the good folks over at Kobold Press for this one: last week they posted a link to a bit of audio in which someone reads a passage from THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH in the original Akkadian.* The effect is quite interesting. Here's the link. Recommended.

--John R.
current audiobook: DODGER by Terry Pratchett
current reading: bits and pieces, including The Welsh Triads (ed/tr Rachel Bromwich)

*Although the original original would of course be Sumerian.** I'm not sure if they know how Sumerian was pronounced, but I love to hear their best guess. For one thing, Sumerian isn't related to any known language. Unlike, say, Akkadian, which is one of the Afro-Asiatic language groups (like the Indo-European group), and thus related in varying degrees to  Egyptian, Phoenician, Hebrew, Coptic, Aramaic, and Arabic. So while foreign to an English-speaker's ear, it nevertheless fits in with some familiar-if-exotic category. Being outside that frame of reference, Sumerian, I suspect, would sound very odd indeed.

**And, of course, the 'epic of Gilgamesh', while v. old, is centuries later than the Sumerian poems, in which the hero's name is Bilgames. It took me years to find out that the EPIC OF GILGAMESH I sought out and read in high school and again in college and once or twice since was not a translation but a modern re-telling presented as translation. For the real thing (complete with ellipses where there's damage to the original tablets), see Andrew George's 1999 translation (available since 2000 thr. Penguin Classics.

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