At long last, I’ve now finished all of the short books on the Lost books reading list that my wife and I started back in May. The last one was The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Herbert Mason’s translation of this ancient Persian epic is the version I chose.
Gilgamesh is one of – if not the – oldest known literary work, and it still speaks eloquently of problems central to human existence. It is about friendship, the loss of a dear friend, and coming to terms with the fact that there is nothing we can do to bring those we lose back to life.
It’s a tale of grief and suffering and ultimately acceptance. The best summary is actually the first page:
It is an old story
But one that can still be told
About a man who loved
And lost a friend to death
And learned he lacked the power
To bring him back to life
It is the story of Gilgamesh
And his friend Enkidu.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu begin as enemies, then become friends who do great deeds until Enkidu is killed and Gilgamesh rebels against the gods in order to bring his friend back to life. Along the way he gains wisdom and learns ultimately that he is powerless to do anything other than accept his loss.
Mason’s translation is simple and elegant. The story he tells is a powerful one and he tells it beautifully. After having just lost a feline friend (and still heartbroken by that) I found Gilgamesh’s poignant journey especially moving and cathartic.
This is a book I know I will come back to.
On to Lost.
Gilgamesh is referenced in “Collision.” Locke is working on a crossword in the hatch. The clue is “Friend of Enkidu” and the answer is Gilgamesh. This is the episode in which Mr. Eko and Locke finally meet.
Lostpedia suggests that Gilgamesh reflects the relationship between Locke and Eko, at first adversarial, but then as they become friends they work more closely together to understand the mysteries of the Hatch.
This makes me wonder if one or the other will die, leaving the surviving friend to seek the answers to the island. If so, we’ll need to determine which of the two represents Gilgamesh and which Enkidu.
Another point to consider is the general theme of moving on after great loss. Each of the survivors has experienced loss and all of them have lost their old lives. Gilgamesh reminds us that grieving must end as we continue with the building of our lives just as Gilgamesh looking up at the walls of the City of Uruk is able to put his past behind him.
Well, this brings me to the end of the short books on the Lost list, leaving only The Brothers Karamazov and Our Mutual Friend. I’ll post on those as I finish them. I’m starting with Dostoevsky.
It might be a while.
For more of my Lost book posts, check out the Lost Book Club.