Middle East/North African Lit discussion

14 views
requests and questions > Recommend epic poems (Eng. trans.)?

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Nell (new)

Nell (DickensianJ) | 13 comments I'm attempting to delve deeper into ancient literature and am trying to find influential epic poems that helped define a culture (along the lines of Gilgamesh).

Here are two I'm currently considering:

The Shahnameh - Firdawsi
Epic of Manes - Anon

Can anyone recommend ME/NA additions to this list, as well as good English translations?


message 2: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 92 comments Nell wrote: "I'm attempting to delve deeper into ancient literature and am trying to find influential epic poems that helped define a culture (along the lines of Gilgamesh).

Here are two I'm currently consider..."


The best translation of Gilgamesh I have read is Gilgamesh by Stephen MitchellGilgamesh by Stephen Mitchell.

For the Hymn to Inanna, I recommend Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer by Diane Wolkstein by Diane Wolkstein.

Also N. K. Sanders has translated Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia.


message 3: by Nell (new)

Nell (DickensianJ) | 13 comments Thanks!

It's funny you should mention the Mitchell translation, as I recently finished Gilgamesh and that was the version I read. I'm glad to know I'm in with good company.

I'll have to check out your other recommendations. Looks like a good place to start!


message 4: by Melanie, Marhaba Language Expertise (new)

Melanie (terrafern) | 422 comments Mod
For Arabic epics, the best (most accessible) English translation available is The Adventures of Sayf Ben Dhi Yazan: An Arab Folk Epic by Lena Jayyusi. There are many more fun epics in Arabic, but they are not yet available in accessible English translations.

I happen to be working on translating excerpts from the longest extant Arabic epic, Sirat al-Amira (from this Arabic version: ٍسيرة الأميرة ذات الهمة وولدها عبد الوهاب - الجزء الأول), which is named for a warrior woman. It is the only Arabic epic named for a woman, and it also contains many warrior women and other female characters. Most of the action takes place in the Byzantine-Arab borderland (today’s Turkey-Syria border). You can read about this and other Arabic epics in The Warrior Women of Islam: Female Empowerment in Arabic Popular Literature by Remke Kruk. My English translation won’t be available for years, but at least you know now that it’s in progress! Also, if this story sounds interesting to you, there is a Greek epic that you might like: Digenis Akritas: Two-Blood Border Lord by Denison B. Hull.

It’s not epic, but the Arabic story collection of the Thousand and One Nights might appeal to you. I recommend The Arabian Nights: Alf Laylah Wa-Laylah by Husain Haddawy.

I also think that you would like The Story of Layla and Majnun by Nizami Ganjavi (this edition specifically).


message 5: by Nell (new)

Nell (DickensianJ) | 13 comments Thanks for the wonderful recommendations, Melanie.

I've read two translations of the Arabian Nights (Husain Haddaway & Andrew Lang), and am planning to read Nizami's translation of the Story of Layla and Majnun next year, so these are right up my alley.

Is there any way to follow your translation project for Sirat al-Amira? Your work sounds fascinating, and I would love to get a hold of a copy once it's published.


message 6: by Melanie, Marhaba Language Expertise (new)

Melanie (terrafern) | 422 comments Mod
Hi Nell, I've just posted a little teaser on my website which you can check for updates (every few months). Thanks, and happy reading!


back to top