“Beyond the Waters of Death,” Joan Acocella’s New Yorker piece on the making of GILGAMESH (14 October 2019)

  • “A young Londoner, George Smith, who had left school at the age of fourteen and was employed as an engraver of bank notes,” was fascinated by artifacts. He spent lunch breaks at the British Museum and “studied the shards for around ten years . . . it was he who found the most famous passage inscribed on them, an account of a great flood wiping out almost all of humanity, with one man’s family surviving. When he read this, we are told, he became so excited that he jumped out of his chair and ran around the room, tearing off his clothes.”

George Smith died of dysentery in Aleppo, where he’d gone to do research, age 36. But not before he discovered the oldest long poem in the world, Gilgamesh.

Everywhere in the world has an ancient flood story. Even Mexico. Even the Philippines. Self thinks this means there must have been an actual climactic event whose effects were felt worldwide.

Stay safe dear blog readers. Stay safe.



  1. Jessa Forest said,

    June 28, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    I love the Epic of Gilgamesh! Thank you for sharing this. You stay safe as well.

    • June 29, 2020 at 2:06 am

      The first I heard of the epic of Gilgamesh was my 1st yr as a grad student at Stanford. It seemed EVERYONE had heard of it except me. Then, I met Jenny Lewis. Her 2nd collection is Gilgamesh Retold (Carcanet). And they just released an audiobook. Highly recommend!

      • Jessa Forest said,

        June 29, 2020 at 12:03 pm

        I came upon the Epic of Gilgamesh completely by accident when I was a kid, it was referenced in a Star Trek episode. I haven’t read Jenny Lewis yet. I will check it out, thanks for the recommendation.

      • June 29, 2020 at 4:15 pm

        You will love Gilgamesh Retold, especially if you are able to get the audio version.

    • June 29, 2020 at 2:08 am

      I checked out your blog and bookmarked it. Thank you for stopping by!

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