The Epic of Billgamesh (unfinished)


I must confess that even as a young man, I felt myself drawn to ancient bourgeoisie literature, particularly that of the time period some 1500 years before the founding of the Peoples' World Republic, that century known as the 20th Century A.D. (A.D. meaning literally "year of the Lord") under the ancient Christian calendar. There was something about the gleeful disorder, the decadence of that time which added a strangely enchanting color to the literary works of the day.

One of the works which is of greatest historical importance is the little-known but remarkable "Epic of Billgamesh". It is one of the resources from which the Republic has drawn a wealth of information about the ancient bourgeoisie empire of Amerek, particularly the last years of decline of that civilization.

It is said that the Amerek Empire was enviably wealthy and prosperous, but that its people were crass egoists, unmellowed by the civilizing tenets of socialism. It cannot be denied that their civilization was doomed to extinction, as was predicted by the great prophet K-Marx. And yet there is something strangely tragic about the fall of Amerek. It was in many ways like the fall of a much more ancient empire, that of the Romans who lived in the city we now call Italingrad. There was a significant decline in morals brought about by the collapse of religious and socialist institutions which infiltrated the ranks of the oligarchs who ruled the nation, one of whom is the subject of this Epic. The people without their intellectual and moral guidance, fell into a deadly political apathy which made them easy prey for the hordes of religious zealot barbarians which sacked their prosperous nation and eventually placed their spiritual yoke on the populace. Such is the way that dark-ages begin.

For the greater part of my life, it has been judged prudent by the Party to withhold these ancient works from the People in order to prevent ideological contamination. Under the enlightened leadership of our esteemed President Olaf Bergen, however—and much to our delight at the PCCL—the ban has been lifted on these literary classics so that they may now be enjoyed by every citizen. It is my opinion—and I believe I can speak for the entire committee here—that the appreciation of these works is not incompatible with upright socialist sensibilities. Works such as the "Epic of Billgamesh" may indeed serve as illustrations of the grave dangers presented by the infusion of a culture with the philosophical evils of gross amoral materialism, the deadly threats of anarchism and nihilism.

The origins of the Epic of Billgamesh were long shrouded in mystery until this century. In 507, archaeologist Edgar Hollbrook discovered the ancient magnetic storage device in the ruins of Sandigo on the western coast of North Columbustan. Professor Hollbrook, with the aid of the People's Technological Archives Agency, deciphered the contents which were stored in an ancient disk-storage format called ASCII. Scholars from the People's Committee of Linguistics were able to verify that it was written in the dialect now known as High Angliski, the dialect used in Amerek during the 20th century A.D. (the 16th century B.R. on our current calendar).

I personally have taken immense pleasure in translating this astounding work from the original Angliski disk-text. It was a surprisingly facile task, given the many linguistic commonalities of Angliski and Worldspeak. The work is said to have originated on a sequence of ??? paper napkins at a fast-food restaurant (a rather curious phenomenon of the Bourgeois Era). These most certainly have decayed and we would have lost the work altogether if not for its preservation by an ancient Amerekite scholar, George Chadderdon, who provides an introduction vaguely chronicling its origin.

There are numerous mysteries surrounding this work. Who was the historical Billgamesh? And what of the scholar's mention of an "Epic of Gilgamesh"? The latter question, to date, has been vexing, and the topic of much ongoing research. The current theory is that this Epic of Gilgamesh is a much older epic, one written long before the Bourgeois and Proletarian Ages alike. The style of the Billgamesh epic is atypical of contemporary works: written in metric unrhymed verse and with a narrative style which dispenses with introspection and normative judgment. Its aim is clearly satirical however (or as one clever colleague of mine wrote, satyrical), and the choice of imagery suggests a thinly disguised proletarian moral sensibility on the part of the author.
Regarding the historical Billgamesh, however, there can be little doubt as to the identity. Billgamesh was the ???th Emperor of Amerek, remembered for his ribaldry, mendacity, and political ineptness. Some historians speculate that he was the immediate cause of the fall of Amerek as he ushered in a period of political instability.

I have endeavored to keep the translation as true to the original text as possible. The People forgive me if some of the images and language are shocking. For the scholar, the search for truth must often supersede esthetic tradition. I've kept the iambic pentameter verse scheme which is mostly unrhymed. (In Worldspeak, it would not have been difficult to add rhyme—High Angliski was a language impoverished as far as rhyme was concerned—but I have chosen to retain this characteristic of the work.) The division of the work was copied from Chadderdon's scheme. Chadderdon's introduction has also been translated herein.

Vasily A. Mazarov
Chairman of the People's Committee for Comparative Literature

October 22, 567 Y.R.

Annotations from George Chadderdon

September 15, 1998

Something amazing happened today. I hadn't eaten any lunch, so I was quite famished and decided to make a stop at UTC before heading off to my dance class. I decided I was in a burger-mood, so I stopped at Burger King. I ordered my bacon double-cheeseburger and medium soft-drink and sat down in the back. As I was eating quietly, I noticed a man sitting a couple of tables down from me and heard him chuckling. He was kind of a heavy guy with a long goatee and long, greasy mop of black hair. I noticed he was scrawling something on a napkin. I thought nothing of it, so I returned to my meal. I noticed the guy leaving after awhile with a look of sardonic amusement on his face. Looking at the table from whence he'd departed, I saw the napkins sitting on a corner of the table. As I finished my burger, I was becoming curious about their contents. I saw one of the employees nearing the table to clean it, so I figured that time was short. I walked over and snatched up the napkins before she arrived to clean up the remains of the guy's meal.

At the top of the first napkin, I read in bold black ink: "THE EPIC OF BILLGAMESH" and the next line "(in honor of our Commander-in-Chief)". I was intrigued so I started reading. It was written in an unrhymed iambic pentameter, much like Shakespeare's plays. Having read the Epic of Gilgamesh long ago, I recognized it to be a parody of that work. There were ??? napkins there. How long had the author loitered there, scratching away at these? Why did he just leave them there? I guess it was for someone like me to pick up, enjoy, and circulate.

I didn't have time to read it all, so I put the napkins in my brief-case and went to the class. Now that I'm back, I think I'll start transcribing it. I think my friends will get a kick out of it.

Napkin I


(in honor of our Commander-in-Chief)

Billgamesh was the Emperor of Amerek
Whose fame was not for wisdom or forbearance
Or boldness, courage, soundness, or discretion.
The Goat-Head King was he who loved his life.

His fame was not for wisdom or forbearance.
He loved his life. He ate and belched with glee.
He took new brides to bed before their grooms
Might sleep with them. He made them play his flute
Until he cried "YEE HAW!" and fired his shots
Upon their face or on their hair or dress.

"Is this the shepherd of the People?" they cried,
The elders and the common-folk. They moaned.
"Is this the wise man who will keep our flock?
There's no resisting him: his turgid cock
Invades our wives and daughters like a host
Of lusty monkeys. Our wives and daughters and mothers
Are taken by the Goat-Head King's desire.
No man is safe: not serf nor warrior.
His daughter or his mother or his wife
The emperor may fondle at his whim,
May grope her ass and squeeze her breasts and laugh.
Is this the shepherd of the People? Well?"

The elders met together at the temple.
They sat down in a solemn semi-circle,
And cried: "How can we yoke the Goat-Head King
Who laughs at us and speaks with forken tongue,
Who cannot keep his tunic 'round his waist,
Who swindles freemen like a petty rogue,
Who sees the throne a place to rest his ass,
Who's turned the palace into an inn and tavern,
Who foreign kings make randy jests about:
How Billgamesh can't keep the purple on?"
"Let's make an offering" said Newtgingrish.
"To Bugabu, the god of sordid tales."
They placed a tabloid on the altar-top,
And chanted and cried out and spoke in tongues,
And soon a revelation came to them.
"Me must seek out the hero, Kenstardu,
For he may yoke the Goat-King Billgamesh."

Napkin II

The word was sent to the hero Kenstardu.
The elders wrote a letter and it said:
"Great Kenstardu. Please hear our anguished plea.
The Goat-Head King laughs at us and he speaks
With forken tongue, and takes our brides to bed
Before we might partake of them, and then
He makes them play his flute. We go to kiss
Our wives and smell the odor of his privates
Upon their lips and how it vexes us!
He cannot keep his tunic 'round his waist.
He swindles freemen like a petty rogue.
He sees the throne a place to rest his ass.
He's turned the palace into an inn and tavern.
And foreign kings make randy jests about
How Billgamesh can't keep the purple on!
We seek you out, great hero, Kenstardu,
That you may yoke the Goat-King Billgamesh."

Napkin III

[That's as far as things went, or are likely to go at this point...]

George Chadderdon © 1998