Ethiopia Literature

By | January 5, 2022

Traditionally inspired literature has almost now given way to a new production, suggested by Western Europe, which continues to express itself in principle in the Amharic language, which is the official language of the state, while the Tigrinya language has a use much more limited, also for deterring the local political situation. With the reinvigoration of an ever more accentuated awareness of the need for autonomy of expression and content, on which the burning push towards the conscience of a literary personality on his own is certainly having its weight, in the context of the demand for a total Pan-Africanism, fielded by new generations of strongly westernized African scholars and writers,

This expansion has been easier in the field that one could begin to call journalistic, although it is not yet easy to establish a well-founded demarcation between literary production proper and daily information literature, it is now possible to recognize a chronicle and non-fiction prose on a political topic. social and sporting, greatly influenced, also linguistically (lexicon and conceptual expression), by the corresponding sector of Western press and publications, and this due to the growth of daily and periodical press and information services broadcast by audiovisual media. In this field, with the rise to power (September 1974) of the socialist military government, the consequent immediate propaganda, entrusted to all the public information media, in order to explain in detail and insistently the meaning of socialist theories, he made people feel the need to quickly coining a whole new terminology and phraseology, with which to express the new principles, previously absent from the Ethiopian socio-political theme. The minting of the new lexical terms also follows the usual scheme, that of resorting to the ancient literary language (ge’ez) whenever it is believed impossible to find the correspondent in Amharic (or Tigrinya, in the information prose in this language).

According to topschoolsintheusa, this prose production is often accompanied by a rhyming one, which, on the contrary, is more inclined to the compositional and conceptual modules of genuine local tradition. Finally, it should be noted that the emergence and development of scientific interests and studies is slowly leading to the formation of another type of prose, different for its lexicon and syntactic-expressive approach, inspired by that of the West.

In the more strictly literary field, production continued in the ways and types already established in previous years, with a marked preference for the treatment of topics of a certain social content (marriage, female freedom, etc., seen between tradition and modernity) , which has its prime motive in the traditional vision of the individual conceived solely as a member and expression of the traditional ethical attitudes of the community. Therefore much of this production often retains a tone of frown and almost imperative seriousness.

It can be said that, as a rule, the character with his individual human physiognomy is not found in the literary work, but rather the personification of a social type. This is immediately perceptible in the theatrical work, whose development is also favored in practice by the continuous use made of it by the audiovisual media.

Only in a few cases still the author, when due to his particular nature has better absorbed the aesthetic sensibility of the West, is he able to free himself from this ethical and artistic setting that could qualify as a community to rise to the configuration of all-round characters-individuals, expressing accents of a more intimate and self-aware humanity. Among these writers, two of the most praised of Ethiopia current: Mangestù Lammā, and Saggāyē Gäbrämädhén; the former, author especially of works for the theater, to which a congenial propensity drives him, knows how to transfer the most traditional social problems onto a universal human level, achieving authentic artistic effects for his own creative measure, supported by agility and freshness of style; the second, a prominent author of plays, in a nutshell it mirrors that of the traditional Ethiopian scholar, used to sermonize (a danger that the Saggāyē cannot completely avoid). Add to the already serious attitude the use of the most solemn and noble means of expression of the literary tradition, versification. The Saggāyē also produced theatrical compositions directly in English, but with an Ethiopian subject, albeit fantastically disguised.

The other trend in which literary production is expressed is that of the story, usually long, but which cannot be called a true novel. The taste for narration is innate, but the Ethiopian author is subject to an easy indulgence towards abundance or even prolixity, even if it appears above all such to the European reader, while the local environment may like quality as an expression of a common taste for the colorful colloquial chronicle. In recent years it cannot be said that anything of high merit has emerged in this sector. On the other hand, it should be noted in the more recent authors a gradual greater fluency in the articulation of the writing, a sign of an ever more pronounced artistic freedom, freed from certain constraints imposed by conceptual and expository modules still too tied to the modes of understand the narrative according to the traditional canons of a sententious moralizing finalist. Moreover, these have not lost all traces, since the didactic-normative trend still resurfaces not infrequently even where the liberation from the old schemes appears more constant.

In the context of fiction, even the one with more openly political-social purposes has its place, which has always remained in the shade so as not to incur the rigors of censorship, but which had its moment of free circulation recently (1974-75), in connection with the events that led to political upheavals in the country’s regiment. For years a place of distinction has been recognized in this genre to Abiē Gubeñā, a fruitful producer of works like any good traditional Ethiopian writer, who above all recommends his reputation as a political writer, satirist and critic to the short story Alewwàlladem (“I don’t want to be born”); here, however, the political allegory is so evident and conducted with such a didactic tone as to make the work fall into the less happy track of traditional fiction.

Finally, the poem does not include a production worthy of particular note; the Abiē mentioned above, in controversy with the West, wanted to demonstrate, by giving an example, that the Ethiopian versification has such a richness and flexibility as to be able to express every attitude of the soul.

Tigrinya literature, both journalistic and literary literary, moves on the same level as contemporary Amharic literature, which has been discussed up to now, albeit with the differences in tone that are due both to the language and to the ethical and aesthetic attitude of the traditional Tigrinya environment, with the peculiarities that differentiate it from the other. The narrowness of production, due to external circumstances, prevents the natural flowering of works through which the creation of value is achieved. A very recent long story, M ā rqos p̀ ywaynì mes hemb ā s p̀ y (“Marchetto – vino e pane mio”, Asmara 1973), the work of an Abbp̀ Yisḥàq Gäbrä Iyäsùs (name under which he hides a Capuchin friar, emeritus philologist and writer, Eritrean), refers to the story of Marcellino pane e vino of the film cinematic, projected in Asmarà in Italian (and in the Tigrinya the assonance of the two parts of the title wants to repeat that of the original), to unfold in a narrative of an educational purpose, which stands out for the sophistication and richness of the language and for the mixture of the story, which shrewdly draws on even poetic expressions of the oral tradition, achieving vitalizing effects for the local reader.

Ethiopia Literature