If you look into the history of Writing you find that the earliest examples archaeologists have dug up are shopping-lists, laundry-lists, that sort of thing; then there’s this evolutionary leap and you start getting laws being written down, moral precepts, you start getting imagery, metaphor and whatnot; but the first instance of something containing narrative elements was “The Pyramid Texts.” This was a private story, it was written on the inside of one of those big fuck-off tombs for one of those big fuck-off Egyptian rulers, the idea being that when this guy died and was resurrected he might be a bit bluhbluhbluh so he’d read the hieroglyphs around him and be reminded of who he was and what he was supposed to be doing. “The Pyramid Texts” are really really long, there’s this section in its middle which is itself really really long, this is my drastically edited version of that bit. This is the beginning of Literature; this is the story we started telling ourselves right when we’d got to be able to tell ourselves stories; this is
THE CANNIBAL HYMN
The heavens: stagger.
The stars: dim.
The sky: falls.
The earth: opens.
The dead: tremble.
The living: tremble.
The heavens: still.
Pharaoh is Lord of Wisdom whose mother knows not his name!
Pharaoh shatters at will!
He is crowned Lord of the Horizon:
Creation is ended.
Pharaoh smashes the backbones of the gods!
Pharaoh seizes the hearts of the gods!
He lives on the being of every god,
He eats their entrails!
He eats their magic and gulps down their souls;
Fathers and mothers he burns as incense
With the thighs of their eldest for fuel:
Dead Pharaoh lives!
Dead Pharaoh lives!
He circles the world:
Whom he finds in his way he devours bit by bit,
Devours spirit, devours skin,
Devours even shadow.
One rule for Pharaoh:
“If he likes he does; if he dislikes he does not.”
You! Sinners! You have no power to destroy Pharaoh!
He is the power that overcomes all powers,
He is the image of all that is!
Pharaoh will do it again and again!
Pharaoh will do it forever!
For ever and ever!