The exaltation of Inana

A free English adaptation of Enheduana’s masterpiece, “The Exaltation of Inana” (nin me šar-ra), accompanied by a short introduction and explanatory notes. This is not a translation of the poem, but a creative rendition in English that tries to convey Enheduana’s compact and intense style. I decided to break the Sumerian lines into shorter verses, to emphasize the vivid flow of the original.

Cite as: Enheduana, “The exaltation of Inana,” translated by Sophus Helle (May 2019), posted at https://sophushelle.com/2020/05/28/the-exaltation-of-inana/.

On the edge of the canon

Danish. Written for a special issue on literary revivals, the essay discusses why the new Danish translation of Gilgamesh has garnered so much attention. As a key example of a literary revival, the translation combined the appeal of a new and unknown poem with that of a foundational and time-tested classic.

“‘Gilgamesh’: På kanten af kanon” (“‘Gilgamesh’: At the edge of the canon”), Standart, vol. 33, no. 2 (July 2019), pp. 42–43.

Translation in the singular

Danish. Translating ancient texts is a process of simplification: many manuscripts, variants, and versions are compressed into one book. But in turn, that book leads to many different encounters with the text, and can even occasion new and varied adaptations of it. In short, translation is an hourglass-like movement of condensation and expansion.

“‘Gilgamesh i ental” (“‘Gilgamesh’ in the singular”), Babelfisken (April 2019). Link.

Omens in marble

The Babylonian divinatory series Shumma alu inspired the Danish poet Morten Søndergaard to create a massive installation piece, where he inscribed omen-like sentences in a marble floor. The essay discusses whether unconventional outreach formats such as this can help academics reach new audiences.

“In popular culture: Shumma Alu in Denmark,” Mar Shiprim (September 2017). Link.

Mesopotamia in Denmark

Danish. The essay charts the reception of cuneiform cultures in modern Danish art. Four contemporary Danish artists have engaged with Gilgamesh, each of them highlighting a different aspect of the text, and three other artists (among them my mother) have engaged with Sumerian culture to explore the deepest layers of history.

“Hinsides tiderne: Oldtidens Irak i moderne dansk kunst” (”Beyond time: Ancient Iraq in contemporary Danish art”), Små fag, store horisonter: Småfagenes danske kulturhistorie i glimt, special issue of Tværkultur, vol. 7 (May 2017), pp. 35–55. Link.