Home > 3. My Poetry & Translations, 4. Gilgamesh > Gilgamesh, Translation, and Cheat Sheets

Gilgamesh, Translation, and Cheat Sheets

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No translation worth its salt is easy. As of  the end of January, RT figures he has spent 3 months devoted to the reworking of his translation of tablet 4 of Gilgamesh. His nearly finished translation contains 300 lines.

To remedy matters, RT has contemplated the possibility of using a check list/cheat sheet of standard items, sorted chronologically–most basic items first, more complicated later.

It’s not a bad idea. Without doubt, material as repetitive and structured as tablet 4 can be parsed up and parallel sections coordinated in a progression from the initial scene. Not that even with a CS this is all that easy–and most of RT’s time has been devoted to just this activity, making sure that most pieces in a particular section tie in with their opposite numbers elsewhere.

But at bottom, what a translator is searching for is a piece’s unity–the voice, setting, plot line, and character development that ties a narrative together. This coherence emerges slowly, through working with individual passages, struggling for the best word choice, doing research, and rewriting the material. RT can compare this to the Michaelangelo’s understanding of sculpture–the artist is trying to liberate something trapped in the stone. In Gilgamesh, there is much material underneath the surface of the words, and it has to be wooed and won. The muse has her standards.

This arduous courtship is nearing its consummation–RT

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Image: The Michaux Boulder; WikiCmns; source: Édouard Charton, Voyageurs anciens et modernes (1854); author: Millin; Public Domain.

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