"The​ earliest known author was married to the moon"
February 1, 2024 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Wreckage of Ellipses by Anna Della Subin is a long essay on the Sumerian-language poet Enheduana, the world's oldest named author, and a review of Enheduana: The Complete Poems of the World's First Author, a new translation by Sophus Helle. He was a guest on the podcast Poetry Off the Shelf, where he talked about Enheduana with Helena de Groot, and read some of his translations. A website accompanying the book provides background information and scholarly translations of Enheduana: Temple Hymns, a separate Hymn to Inana, and The Exaltation of Inana. The last poem was the jumping off point for the essay Poet of Impermanence, about what Enheduana can mean to modern readers. And here is the Exaltation of Inana in his literary translation.
posted by Kattullus (12 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
That's rough, buddy.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:52 PM on February 1 [7 favorites]

ATLA Quips aside, the thing that constantly wrecks me about reading these kinds of stories about people from long, long ago is that they were exactly like people today, except without dodgy USB cables. Though for all I know they had dodgy prayer wheels. (Are all prayer wheels dodgy?)

Anyway, it's like .. civilizations have risen and fallen out of memory and they were filled with people like me, my partner, my trans-step-kid, my cool neighbours, my shitty neighbours, my awesome mayor, my horrible premier... everyone just doing the human thing. We're all just one more page in the story of humanity, and four thousand years from now will we be remembered or forgotten and ... does it really matter, if we lived well and cared about each other.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:01 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]

from an end note of the final link: "The Sumerian tradition of lamentation songs—also alluded to when Inana’s feat strike up the beat of a lamentation—was meant to pacify angry gods, by glorifying the destruction that they were able to wreck. In turn, the gods were expected to turn their devastation elsewhere, when their might had been recognized."

I can see the logic in this. "Oh, almighty Zoomboo, you have rained down fire upon us from above and raised the waters from below. Your might has been so great as to cause devastation that will last lifetimes. You are truly able to do great and terrible things! We see what you are capable of! Now, will you fuck off to over there?"

Anyway, this is fascinating. I wasn't expecting to get accessible Sumerian poetry into my Thursday afternoon, but that's the magic of MetaFilter! Thanks so much for posting!
posted by hippybear at 1:29 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]

This is the real stuff. I am so excited to see this on the blue, and I can't wait to read all the links during the weekend. I know Sophus' parents and it has been a joy to see his work evolve during the last few years.
posted by mumimor at 1:38 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]

Okay, going back and reading further, and this is REALLY interesting! OMG!

Also, Enheduana is a lovely name that should be revived today.
posted by hippybear at 1:58 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

> and four thousand years from now will we be remembered or forgotten and ... does it really matter, if we lived well and cared about each other

yes but if you leave behind voluminous writings in a durable format (clay tablets that have been baked are ideal) the hyperscientists of the far future can better use their nigh-magical technologies to reconstruct you from said writings
posted by bombastic lowercase pronouncements at 2:14 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]

Ahhhh that was the first website I ever put up as a wee teen connecting by phone when other people were asleep. I transcribed (apologies! I did not understand translator copyright then) chunks of the poem and was so thrilled when I got emails from other people interested in Inana.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:32 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]

I am so excited and going to order the book - about 20 years ago I lost my original slim copy of the poem and this is AMAZING like heart pounding tears in my eyes Christmas is early happiness. Thank you!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:33 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]

Just requested the Helle book via Interlibrary Loan!
posted by Suedeltica at 3:34 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

The ‘hymn to Inanna’ link takes me into Wordpress and offers to open a new page in one of my blogs
posted by Phanx at 1:05 AM on February 2

Oh wow, it's also stopped working on the page itself. But this link should work.
posted by Kattullus at 3:53 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]

Anna Della Subin was Thomas Jones’ guest on the LRB Podcast and they had a good discussion about Enheduana and the new translation.
posted by Kattullus at 12:32 PM on February 18

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