Archive for February 26, 2009

Sile Ewnet kaweran zenda..

You have heard by now how Author / Journalist Tesfaye Gebre-Ab wrote a memoir entitled “YeGazetegnaw Mastawesha”. The book, published last year by Sunnyside Publishers – Pretoria, has been described as one that “exposed TPLF/EPRDF crime”. I haven’t read the book myself. But from the little I saw of the copy forwarded to me by a friend, and the way it’s perceived by the various [mostly anti-government] Ethiopian websites & blogs online, I’ve understood it to be the kind of book that is going to be circulated among trusted friends, in photo-copy forms, back home.

So I won’t say anything about the book. But I’d like to make one fact clear about the writer’s identity. Of his being “Ethiopian”, as the “Intelligence Unit” of Ethiopian Review gullibly presumed. For some reason, that felt important. It felt like a truth that needs to be told.

Tesfaye Gebreab was born in Bishoftu (Debrezeit), a city one can tell he adores by the way he talks about it in his 2nd novel (“YeBishoftu Qoritoch”) and the humorous short story he published on one of the 7 “Effitas” he superbly edited (“YeQurQura Raiy”). Tesfaye also refers to himself as “yeBishoftu Lij”, sentimental like. But Author/Journalist Tesfaye Gebreab isn’t Ethiopian. He is an Eritrean who had a fall out with the Ethiopian government when the two countries went to war a decade or so ago! An Eritrean writer who, one can’t help assume, may have a score or two to settle with the party he once served with all his ability. An ability, a talent, that was used for evil not long ago.

“YeBurQa Zimta” is a good example of Tesfaye’s supreme talent as a writer and his previous devotion to the EPRDF cause. The most picturesque novel I’ve come across in Amharic based on the Oromo dream, “YeBurqa Zimta” isn’t a book you are likely to forget once you read it. “BurQa”, it says, is a river that once jumped wildly, full of dream & laughter, on the proud hills and through the fertile lands that once belonged to the Oromo people. Now, “BurQa” is silent. It’s become like an old man, with a broken back and bowed head. It neither laughs, nor sings, nor jumps. If it has any hopes or dreams of a brighter future, it ain’t saying much about it. And the book tries to explore how this came about.

Using myths and legends from the rich oral literature of the Oromo people, and borrowing real life events from the Anole-massacre to the well documented advance of EPRDF’s army, it forwards it’s rebellious theory as to why the great river chose to be silent and when this silence is likely to be broken.

Naturally, the book sings the praises of the Oromo people: of their proud spirit. Of their traditions and administration. Of their faithfulness to their wives and the fact that drunken men weren’t seen among them until the “AreQe” crossed borders into their fertile land in the hand Menelik’s “Neftegna” army. Above all, it sings the praises of one Hayelom Araya, a General-turned Tegadalai, who the reader is led to believe was the last man standing between what used to be EHADEG and the disappointing (but not totally irredeemable) party it became.

To Menelik’s “neft” carrying Amharas, however, the book spares no mercy. Using a language you won’t hear from a street urchin (“gimatam” comes to mind)  it pounds them to the ground. It talks about their cowardly hearts, their filthy culture, their foolish beliefs. Their cruelty, their unfaithfulness, their spoiled pillages. Concluding with a ‘let’s all live in peace’ line that feels like a bad joke in the face of the all-too-powerful hate-filled background.

Impressed though I was by the writer’s power of narration, and convinced that the “neftegnas” (among them my own grandfather) may have had it coming, I couldn’t help notice how an Editor could have healed much of the book’s ills. Upon the course of discussion regarding favorite books, I mentioned it to a journalist classmate who worked with a government organ back then. I asked, “What has the Amharas done to Tesfaye to make him hate them so, do you know?”.

My friend waved his hand as if to indicate I knew not what I was talking about. “It’s an EPRDF’s doing”, he said bitterly, “hultun hizboch lematalat hon tebilo beCentral komittew yetesera sira newu”.

My friend’s father died from a bullet wound he got in Asmara. He hates his job and the many illiterate politician he has to report to. So I take most of what he says with a grain of salt. Not believing every word, but not ruling out possibilities. Etcetera. This grain of salt I would use when reading Tesfaye Gebreab’s “memoir”. A memoir, I hope, has got his confession as well as their sin. If not, I would rule him out as one more Eritrean well lost. And his book, a lame attempt of trying to get back at an ex-lover employer.

An excerpt from “YeGazetegnaw Mastawesha”.

February 26, 2009 at 12:50 pm 59 comments


The blogger tries to think outside the box, or wonder why she sometimes can't.

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"I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint." - Antonio Salieri, from the movie "Amadeus"

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