Monday, December 15, 2014

Beautiful Book #45

The Gilgamesh books, retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman.

Gilgamesh the King. Tundra, 1992.
The Revenge of Ishtar. Tundra, 1993.
The Last Quest of Gilgamesh. Tundra, 1995.

Czech-Canadian author-illustrator Ludmila Zeman's adaptations of the Epic of Gilgamesh are gorgeous to look at. If I could blow her paintings up to wall-size, I would surround myself with them, so golden, intricate and calming they are. Adapted for child readers using the picture book format, these books are also remarkable for how simply and effectively they present the ancient epic's thematically complex narrative of power, love, friendship, mortality and humanity. The Last Quest of Gilgamesh won the Governor General's Literary Award for illustration in 1995, but each of these books is wonderful on its own, as are Zeman's other folklore-inspired picture books. Make sure you look her up next time you are at the library.

Zeman is also an animator. Our library has access to the National Film Board of Canada's collection where you can watch her short film, Lord of the Sky, based on the Pacific Northwest First Nations' legend of raven. If you can access it from UNB or from your own local library, it is a wonderful way to spend 13 minutes. If you have a bit more time, this 30 minute documentary on the Epic of Gilgamesh is on the open internet and features both Zeman and her daughter, Linda Spaleny, along with other artists and historians. It is engaging and informative. And, finally, if you want to catch a glimpse of where Zeman's immense talent originated, here is a link to one of her father's (the great Czech filmaker, Karel Zeman) films on YouTube. You won't need the language to follow along.

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