Enheduana: The Complete Poems of the World's First Author



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Yale University Press
28 May 2024
ISBN: 9780300276763
288 pages

From the publisher

The complete poems of the priestess Enheduana, the world’s first known author, newly translated from the original Sumerian
“Helle’s translation feels urgent, incandescent, stripped of academic cladding. . . . The growing popularity of Enheduana gives all of us readers a chance to discover another lineage—and to bring this poet and her imagination flashing back to life again.”—Nilanjana Roy, 
Financial Times
Enheduana was a high priestess and royal princess who lived in Ur, in what is now southern Iraq, about 2300 BCE. Not only does Enheduana have the distinction of being the first author whose name we know, but the poems attributed to her are hymns of great power. They are a rare flash of the female voice in the often male-dominated ancient world, treating themes that are as relevant today as they were four thousand years ago: exile, social disruption, the power of storytelling, gender-bending identities, the devastation of war, and the terrifying forces of nature.
This book is the first complete translation of her poems from the original Sumerian. Sophus Helle’s translations replicate the intensity and imagery of the original hymns—literary time bombs that have lain buried for millennia. In addition to his translations, Helle provides background on the historical context in which Enheduana’s poems were composed and circulated, the works’ literary structure and themes, and their reception in both the ancient and the modern world.
Unjustly forgotten for millennia, Enheduana’s poems are essential reading for anyone interested in the literary history of women, religion, the environment, gender, motherhood, authorship, and empire.