My main expertise is Gilgamesh, an epic written c. 3,000 years ago. When the poet Rainer Marie Rilke first read it in 1916, he said: “I feel that it concerns me.” He was not alone. Countless readers since then have had the same experience: millennia after its composition, and in a myriad different ways, Gilgamesh continues to concern us.
A tale of love and loss
Written in the Standard Babylonian dialect of the Akkadian language, in the cuneiform writing system, Gilgamesh recounts the story of the legendary king of Uruk.
The story is divided into two parts. The first tells of Gilgamesh’s love for the wild man Enkidu and their triumphs in battle. The second tells of Gilgamesh’s deep grief when Enkidu dies, and his desperate search for immortality.
A poem for the ages
What fascinates me most about Gilgamesh is that every reader seems to find in it something that resonates with them, personally.
It is a story about love between men. About loss and grief. About 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 so on, seemingly without end. Every reader relates to it in their own way.
Gilgamesh in English
I am currently working on a book about the epic for Yale University Press, with a new English translation and a series of essays that will guide first-time readers into Gilgamesh’s world.
In the meantime, you can find my previous publications on Gilgamesh here.
Gilgamesh in Danish
In April 2019, I published a new Danish translation of Gilgamesh with my father, the award-winning poet Morten Søndergaard. Read a sample here.
“One of those miracles that makes life worth living.” – Bjørn Bredal, Politiken.
“The new translation of Gilgamesh is set to become a classic in this country.” – Erik Skyum-Nielsen, Information.
“A wonderful, lively, wild, violent encounter with this fascinating early portrait of us grim, dumb, yet so clever human animals.” – Mikkel Bruun Zangenberg, Weekendavisen.