Classic of the week

Translated by Stephen Mitchell, Profile, £14.99
We have covered quite a number of first novels in this series, but this is the first book to begin all first books. Gilgamesh is humanity’s earliest recorded story, centuries before the Bible or Homer. It follows a great king, two-thirds god and one-third human (the maths is never explained) as he journeys to the end of the world in an attempt to conquer death. The strange (Sacred prostitutes? The Bull of Heaven?) mixes with the familiar and the prophetic: there is a brilliant account of a Noah-like flood that much excited the Victorians. This free-ish English version turns a fragmentary text into something smoothly readable.