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Giracha Kachiloch

Giracha Kachiloch (Grey Bells) Amharic novel

Shama Books, June 2005

Adam Reta is no stranger to the Ethiopian literary scene. He has produced a number of well-crafted short stories including Mahlet and Izabel that had received wide acclaim by the literary circle. He is probably of limited interest to anyone who hasn’t yet felt the
subtle, precise charm of his short stories but it is considerable appeal for anyone who has.

Giracha Kachiloch (Grey Bells), his first novel, also seems to be a rousing departure from the conventional narrative novels dominating the Ethiopian literary landscape. It is set in pre- and post – revolution Ethiopia of the 1974. 
The protagonist and narrator of the novel, who is introspective, explores various happenings, personages and sites in his tiny village named Nefasmewcha. It is this village that forms the
backdrop to the story. The entire novel is about the life, his isolation, his young unrequited love, and his exploration of the various nooks and crannies of his village, how he copes with the tragedies and his awakening. We feel that he is a perceptive mind, but his reactions to experience are still elementary as
befits his undeveloped state. He spends a great deal of his time wandering in the town’s streets or sitting under a telephone pole in a certain hillside, doing little more than thinking, reminiscing and walking about on the road.
The narrator’s name is Mezgebu Dubale, a name that he
never liked, and it meant ‘his record’. He claimed
that he is God’s record. He said, ‘it was me who was
hurting a lot and keeping record of everything.’
(p.11)

Mezgebu lost his mother while he was three and this
must be one of the most traumatic events in his life.
His father, who was a barber, (probably the only
barber in the village) was a remote and uncaring
figure. He would call him only when he wants to send
him on errands to buy Tela (a traditional malt).

Mezgebu’s stepmother happened to be an odious woman
who made his life hell. She used to tell the child
that he was cursed at his birth and used to accuse him
of ‘causing troubles’ for the family. He says:

“When she goes to hell, God will bring a charge
against her on what she did to me, standing on the
fire, she will surely say… it is that ‘evil, trouble
causer’ who led me here. She likes putting the blame
on others.” (p.9)

In much of the novel, Adam Reta makes use of the
stream of consciousness technique rather than
conventional narration. There is no description of a
character of action outside of the way the character
sees himself and the events in which he is involved.
There is no selection of incident for the core of
climax it might have contained. Whatever happens
derives its value from the mere fact of the central
character’s awareness and interest.

Mezgebu begins his day proper rising from his bed
early in the morning (even before the grey bells of
Medhaniyalem Church, the Church of the Saviour of the
World, begins to ring) and making his way to his usual
seat in the hillside, a place that he has always
considered his own territory. He sits there for hours
on a moist stone, watching and observing around him.
He has little desire to take part in everything that
is going on around him, he simply absorbs both good
and bad.

Mezgebu's respite from the solitude and the constant
turmoil around him was when he was in the company of
his favorite fiction book Chereka Sitiweta (When The
Moon Comes Out) written by Berhanu Zerihun. He hasn’t
read many books but this one that he borrowed from his
schoolmate had become the staple of his bedtime
reading. He often wondered how one could write such a
wonderful book and he even called the author a
magician. One hot noontime, when he was noticing with
pleasure naked young women washing their bodies in the
river, Mezgebu remembers the characters in the book
and starts wondering if Berhanu wrote the book after
watching these kinds of women. He makes a point of
asking people, especially those who look educated, if
they had read the book and he was stunned and
disappointed to hear none of them did. Taking his
lover to Entoto Mountain in a clear night when the
moon was out became his constant fixation during the
latter part of the novel. Here also one could question
how much reliable is what he tells us about the book.
Is it really that good or a delusive impression of a
person who has just read one book?

To be sure, Mezgebu’s portrait of Wosenyelesh, his
childhood fascination and dream girl, carries the
greatest emotional impact. He says he was attracted to
her after he saw her surrounded by heavenly light in
Meskel celebration, the alleged finding of Christ’s
cross by queen Ellena. He says on that day that
Nefasmewcha was ablaze with the little yellow daisy
and score of people who come with torchlight to light
the big Meskel bonfire. After the service was over,
and the flaming torch turned into ashes, children
start gathering around the ashes. It was then that he
saw Wosenyelesh, who was wearing a splendid Kuta, (an
open weave cotton wrap worn as a shawl) and he says
when she sat next to the fire, her eyes were gleaming
like a fire. He says he liked the sight of her face
that was quite and tranquil. Thereafter, she has
become on obsession with him, though it was unrequited
love.

But what he did one day seemed downright silly. One
morning he came across Wosenyelesh on his way to his
errands and stopped her and asked her to dance with
him right away. She was bewildered and frightened and
told him she would cry for help if he doesn’t get out
of the way.

Towards the end of the novel, Mezgebu tells us about
the ebb and flow of his passion with Genet. His new
found love and support from her seemed to have a
redemptive power. There he gains confidence and
self-respect. Genet nurses his dying spirit and
transforms it to celebrate the joy that has always
been his to claim. Despite all he has gone through,
there is still colour in the world, which makes his
story remarkable.

Perhaps Adam Reta’s greatest strength is his lyrical
eye for detail; his descriptions of emotions and
physical features and simply brilliant.

This book deserves a read and re-reads. A thorough
understanding of the book makes us think, try to find
Mezgebu’s characteristics in our selves and avoid the
mistakes that he commits.  

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  1. May 28, 2006 at 2:06 pm | #1

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  2. Rahel
    May 29, 2006 at 3:45 pm | #2

    It is a medicore book.how could y say this?

    • andreas
      January 24, 2012 at 4:33 pm | #3

      yes it took a mediocre reader to label it mediocre!

  3. Zewge Abate
    May 30, 2006 at 8:10 am | #4

    ”Giracha Kachiloch” is a novel a book that ”deserves a read and rereads,”
    as the reviewer rightly put it. In Mezgebu’s deeds, however, it is not his mistakes that we should learn from. It is society’s handling of children that we should give more weight to.

  4. matiyas t.
    July 6, 2006 at 10:32 am | #5

    I read the book and confirmed that Adam Reta is a man, who can sweetly write ideas that i can only think, i.e. i may have the things in my mind, but it is not possible for me to express them in words.

    Adam is Gifted.

  5. Rad
    July 19, 2006 at 7:46 am | #6

    I agree that the writer is gifted and i like the book- Unfortunately I can not save it for my collection cos somebody who is interested stole it from me. I hope he/she will enjoy it as many of us do.

  6. feleke
    July 19, 2006 at 5:05 pm | #7

    i read some of the works of this writer. I like them very much…… But why critics on the ethiopian litrature don’t say much about him? …. Or am i wrong?

  7. Anonymous
    September 16, 2006 at 2:41 pm | #8

    i read it . and simply it is a wonderful book

  8. alem
    October 7, 2006 at 3:32 am | #9

    I read it and found it to be different from the normal Ethiopian way of writing. It was funny, daring, and somewhat mesmerizing. It’s definitely time to re read it again!

  9. March 29, 2007 at 10:04 pm | #10

    preved ot slesarya Vasi

  10. July 23, 2007 at 8:25 am | #11

    i read the book when it arrived at addis beab university library/kennedy library/.i have seen somany new things on it.and also i try to see the siffrence between the two generations.the golden generation which many ethiopian authors,muscians,painters….have lived and the new dv dreamer generation.we have no patience to read it.after they start the novel they said what the hell it is talkin about?we r not ready to get its core.we read transslated litrature.and we dream we need to live what we read.in us,europe or any where alse through migration.bud why?why donch we try to know ourselves?why donch we work hard?

  11. Inem
    December 15, 2008 at 2:36 pm | #12

    It is a wonderfully crafted novel. Content wise Adam Reta, who used to say a lot in his brilliant short stories, either has relatively less to say or difficult to comprehend in this voluminous book. However, the genius of Adam Reta, his imagination and sharp and witty outlook of the world is evident in this unusual narrative “the world (NefasmewCha) according to Mezgebu”. A very good read.

  12. mulei
    June 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm | #13

    wow! i’ve been looking for a way to scream out my satisfaction(?)…..no no no….it’s not the word…it’s simply magnificient. Oh Adam! I can’t wait to read his other novels

  13. Spacefog
    June 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm | #14

    I loved Gracha Kachiloch.

    Sadly, his latest book (a compailation of his short stories) is crap. Its as if he took this one character from Gracha Kachiloch and tried to expand stories.

  14. Eskinder
    June 22, 2009 at 12:23 pm | #15

    …amazing, astounding, marvelous…what else it jest a wonderful novel that ever seen my life…It was too difficult to understand the content of the novel for me, he uses a number of literary genres…I think it makes the novel miraculous…
    I agree..
    Adam is gifted !!

  15. abiy
    July 25, 2009 at 9:15 pm | #16

    waw it was amazing, for me it is more than a novel, i see it like a bible !!!
    and i want to read it again.

  16. Tesfa Deres
    September 13, 2009 at 4:11 pm | #17

    Adam has revived my spirits. It has been a long time since I came across books by influential Ethiopian writers. I thought the country has fallen into an abyss of mediocrity. Till I came across Giracha Qachiloch.

    Had it been written in English or other international language with wide readership, he would have become famous overnight.

  17. ababa a.
    October 8, 2009 at 3:47 pm | #18

    it is a wonderful books in ethiopia adam all book also my choise always.

  18. Mahlet Fantahun
    October 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm | #19

    for me except MAHLET the others are complex,,.,.,.,.,. specially i love “Geracha Kacheloch”,..

  19. anteneh tesfaye
    November 7, 2009 at 10:50 am | #20

    one must be as blessed as adam himself, in order to express his love for Adam.

  20. ayele mesele
    November 26, 2009 at 9:46 am | #21

    I feel LIKE,we know each other with “MEZGEBU” in “GREY BILLS”.

  21. ABEL
    December 14, 2009 at 1:11 pm | #22

    ”Gracha kacheloch ” is a best novel .Adam written with social phobia .

  22. Mezgebu
    March 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm | #23

    Guys, open a page randomly and start reading. U will love it again. I have read it once, but I’m reading randomly picked stories in the book many times, again and again, I loooove it!!

    Oh Adam! what a writing!!!

  23. somebody
    April 28, 2011 at 10:00 am | #24

    የማይነጥ ስራ አይነት ነገር ወይን ምናምን ትግስት ብቃት ምናምን ያስፈልጋል ተቆጥቦ ይነበባል ግን ምን ዋጋ አለው ደግመ ማንበብ ስትፈልግ ትሞታለህ እንጂ አታገኘውም ምክንያቱ ያዋስከው ሰውዬ ወዶብ ሊመልስልህ አይፈቅድም

  24. andreas
    January 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm | #25

    what a breathtaking story and what an imagination.plz read it plz.it’s a healing, his books sweetens your life it’s a joy to read.go in and explore his world, his genius and u’ll say wow….

  25. Mekebib Moges
    February 18, 2012 at 7:37 am | #26

    The book tells us to open our eyes

  26. bil
    May 17, 2012 at 9:26 am | #27

    To Feleke, ofcourse few of them did while most kept quiet. Why? may be b/c they’re stupid!!

  27. bini
    July 20, 2012 at 7:23 am | #28

    he’s a great thinker & good writer of the time………..i like all what he wrote………’cos he can

  28. March 12, 2013 at 10:10 am | #29

    Reblogged this on Simeneh Terefe.

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