Writing this book, I looked to literatures of the past like The Epic of Gilgamesh. It emerges a mere 6,000 years ago, when humans formed city-states and organized themselves in terms of property relations. What I discovered is that even back then, the writer of the epic is concerned with our desire to dominate and destroy nature in order to enlarge ourselves. The writer seems appropriately afraid that human technological power might exceed the limits of our control, and at the same time, celebrates our technological advances. We’ve struggled with the same paradox for a very long time. – Seyward Goodhand
With rare and original talent, Seyward Goodhand’s debut short story collection, Even That Wildest Hope, is written in the baroque tradition of Angela Carter, Carmen Maria Machado, and Ted Chiang. Trevor Corkum interviewed Seyward for “The Chat,” offering Seyward the opportunity to talk about the opening story, “Enkidu,” through the lens of capitalism. We’ve excerpted this portion of the interview below and are pleased to offer “Enkidu” as a free ePub. Please enjoy and share!
Trevor Corkum: “Enkidu” is one of my favourites. It’s a mythical, queer, and ultimately heartbreaking tale about Enkidu’s friendship with the complicated, power-hungry, lovesick and lonely Gilgamesh. What’s the genesis for “Enkidu”?
Seyward Goodhand: I’m so glad you like this one. It took me a long time. I was teaching The Epic of Gilgamesh as a TA and the similarity of its problems to ours shocked me. Technological brilliance leading almost fatalistically to tyranny, severing of human beings from nature, the imperialism, the giddy excitement for growth and discovery, the loneliness and fear of death that can lead us to deny this world. The fear of shame—we’ll do anything to not feel ashamed. I read all the Mesopotamian literature I could get and The Code of Hammurabi, made pages of word lists and tried to work from those. The last four thousand years started to feel like the same episode. Gilgamesh’s logic is the logic of capitalism: if you’re able to get it, you have the right to as much of whatever it is you want. It comes down to forming distinctions between what is in the walls and what is outside. Even four thousand years ago the scribe who wrote the epic is saying to this mythological power figure: the only way to end your tyranny is to end this distinction, which will also mean resigning yourself to death.
Well, I wanted to explore the process of coming into this divided word. The wild-man, Enkidu, is created to save Gilgamesh from his alienation. He can do this because he’s the only person on earth who is Gilgamesh’s equal. The hypothesis is that real love is impossible wherever one person has legal authority. This means that for most of human history, in the vast, vast majority of social relations including marriage […] real love has been impossible. I’m still obsessed with the problems of Gilgamesh. I think they’re the problems of our species.”
Seyward Goodhand is the author of the short story collection Even That Wildest Hope, a “dark, gleaming, and sophisticated collection.” Her work has been shortlisted for the McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize and a National Magazine Award, and longlisted for the CBC Short Story Prize.