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24

TUESDAY

It is the oldest adventure story known to humankind. Older, even, than Star Wars. But the story of the discovery of the story has always been more exciting than the story itself. The saga of “Gilgamesh, two-thirds divine and one-third human,” who “suffered all and accomplished all,” was inscribed on a series of stone tablets more than 3,000 years ago and discovered by a traveling Englishman on his way to Ceylon in 1844. That anything survived is amazing, but of course there were gaps, as evinced by this urgent but rather unhelpful truncated exchange from an earlier translation: “Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh saying: ‘My Friend, turn back! The road…’” For translator Stephen Mitchell, this was not good enough. Desiring language equal to the legend, he combined all known versions and filled in the blanks himself in a “loose, noniambic, nonaliterative tetrameter.” The result is a Gilgamesh finally ready to be made into a lousy Hollywood epic. Mitchell speaks at 6:30 p.m. in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW. $15. (202) 357-3030. (Dave Nuttycombe)