Black Jeremy - The literature of Sumer

Authors : Black Jeremy - Cunningham Graham - Robson Eleanor - Zólyomi Gábor
Title : The literature of Sumer
Year : 2004

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Sumerian literature is the oldest readable poetry in the world. It was written down on clay tablets in the cuneiform script by scribes in southern Iraq some 4,000 years ago and has been read again only within the last sixty years. This introduction explores some of the questions that Sumerian literature provokes — what is meant by ‘literature’ in such an ancient context ? What is Sumerian: a language, a culture, or a people ? What are the sources and evidence on which these translations are based ? At the end are some suggestions for further reading on some of the topics covered. The literature of ancient Sumer. What does it mean to label as ‘literature’ writings that are four thousand years old ? It is difficult to imagine anything further removed in time, space, and experience from us. Do modern notions of ‘literature’ even apply ? And how do we know that ‘literature’ was a meaningful idea in ancient Sumer ? Let’s start by comparing a modern instance of ‘literature’ with an ancient Sumerian one. London Airport Last night at London Airport I saw a wooden bin labelled unwanted literature is to be placed herein. So I wrote a poem and popped it in. Nibruta-lu, the son of the merchant Lugal-suba, has had this tin axe made for Nergal. Its wooden part is of arganum tree of the mountains, a wood which is superior even to the alal stone; its stone part is of antasura, a stone which has no equal. The arm of the man who strikes with it will never get tired. Should it break, I will repair it for Nergal. Should it disappear, I will replace it for him. May Nergal look after me during my life, and may he provide me with clean water in the Underworld after my death. ...

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