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Meeting Sebhat

Sebhat Gebre-Egziabher has been devoting much of his time to reading, writing and the business of seducing women. As a great advocate of “transparency”, he has been telling it all, with beautiful, unpretentious language that he has mastered over the years.

It matters little to Sebhat that he is past his prime now. We are getting a dip of another of his amorous exploits. The type that some of us don’t have enough of.

His new book,”Yefekir Shamawoch” (Love Candles) containing impassioned love letters addressed to a young girl has become the talk of the town.

It takes some luck to be in love in such twilight years and declare it to the public. His critics say this is another pervert money-making exercise from this immoral old man. Whatever the case, the book is sure to raise lots of eyebrows among the reading public.

Just a week after the book saw the light of the day, it drew reactions from various quarters. Ethiopica-Link, a light entertainment program on one of the FMs, was excited about the publication, and had read extracts of the letters on air.

Others in the press felt Sebhat is going too far, like this Amharic article, in Addis Admass (A paper where Sebhat used to be a columnist) that came out this weekend. The tabloid magazines are having field days.

Incidentally, I held an interview with Sebhat last Friday, not to ask him about his new book, but about one of his closet friends, Solomon Deressa, to add up for a lengthy article I am working on.

 It was a week ago that I reached Sebhat in his cell-phone asking for an interview, and I was pleasantly surprised when he replied immediately saying with a ‘with a pleasure’. He showed up half-an hour later for the meeting, carrying his festal,that has always been his suitcase and trademark.s

 He was evidently getting weaker. His slight figure, long white hair and splendid sunken eyes are more noticeable now.Yet he’s got more sides to him than first appears. That clenched quality that you notice when you first meet him is by no means the whole story. He is subtle, acute, elusive, fascinating. He’s got active memory, describes events as he sees or recalls them but he carefully avoids value judgments on any of the topic or issues.

When I explained to him that I am posting the story in my site, he wittingly said I could publish it in the ‘galaxy’ if I wanted to. He has a soft, nasal voice that makes him sound as though he had a perpetual cold. We sat for more than an hour and told me a lot more than I bargained for, which I will bring it to you in week’s time. 

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Categories: City Journal
  1. Dr. Ethiopia
    January 22, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Hey critics would always be around. People tend to fail when they try to please everyone. Obviously Ethiopia is a country of critics.

    Not hating on my people, just stating the obvious.

    Here in America they say – “Bad publicity is a good publicity”

    Let the people talk while Sebhat laughs all the way to the bank.

    Good luck to you Sir, and i think your work is one that will live for generations – in my eyes, you are a genius and a trail blazer.


  2. Zimita
    January 22, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I am a real admirer of Sebihat G/Egziabher. I can’t wait to read your post.


  3. Zoma
    January 24, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    there is market for sexual books.Sebhat needs money for chat and areki.Where can he get? He has to come up with such cheap publications.
    I wish someone could give him money so that he takes a break from spoling young people.

  4. Asnake
    January 26, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    On the surface Sebhat’s book is how he came to bed and marry a 21-year-old girl. And it is a way for him to strart a reverie of his life and in particular of the many women he has bedded and for whose affections he has paid. Sex is the consolation for not finding enough love.
    Many will look at this novella as Sebhat’s attempt to write a piece that would be placed out of reach to anyone under 18 .
    And Sebhat would probably think that this would be the ultimate in Coolness. But, this love letters are much more than this. What it is is a tribute to all women and the mysteries of all things feminine. The Old Man pays for companionship yes, but he adores these women: they are his respite from Life, all that he craves and they fulfill something much more inside of him, than can the mere act of sex.
    The Old man calls the girl the mystery of life and he lavishes her with praises. The girl becomes the Old Man’s savior and avenging angel, for it is through her innocence and love that he is reborn as a writer and as a human being.
    Love’s Candles is Sebhat at his most sensual. That these encounters he details are sometimes graphic and often times brutal does not deflect the sheer beauty and majesty of the writing or of this novella in general.

  5. zeinba
    January 26, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    The book is repulsive and is Sebhat’s endorsement pedophiliac relationship. He should be brought to court.

  6. Yoni de CMS
    January 26, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Saying that this book is about sex is absurd.
    Love, death, and aging are the themes of this book. Sebhat, looking back at his long life, discovers that he’s never really quite lived, and that a wasted life is much more fearsome than death. He falls in love with a young girl who seems to be a symbol for lost youth and innocence in general. In cherishing her, he lives the bittersweet melancholy of aging, the memory of past joys, sadnesses, and lost opportunities, and the sheer ambiguity of existence.

    Sebhat’s book isn’t about sex, although it’s intensely erotic. It’s about what it means to live, and age, and remember, and to bring those memories into the present as living companions. It is a haunting reflection on the human condition

  7. M2008
    February 2, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    I am an admirer of Sebhat and his beautifully crafted genre. However, my criticism of some of his works (for example, Le’ toum) should not be construed as contradicting myself.

    I believe in freedom of expression; and yet, I make distinction between what is good taste and what is vulgar. Sebhat’s Le’toum falls in the latter category. His preoccupation with sexuality is not the issue here. Sexuality and its expressions are a reality we cannot ignore. But sexuality for its own sake and in the guise of “telling it like it is” to me is simply bland.

    Sebhat’s contention that “we are doing it any way and should not pretend nothing is happening” or that “if we are doing it behind closed doors and every one knows we are doing it, then it does not make sense that we try to hide the facts or that we should be embarrassed by them” is both misleading and self-serving. Why tell what every one already knows?

    Of course, truth-telling takes many forms; Sebhat has chosen the road less-traveled. By doing that he has succeeded to provoke our thinking. I am not censuring him for that. One may also make a case that the writer’s responsibility is not to pass value judgment but to reflect what is already there. This, I contend, is utterly nonsense. The idea of objectivity is relative and therefore the real question ought to be “who is holding the mirror and why?”

    We all agree that defecating is natural; defecating in public is not. Sex is natural and enjoyable; obsessing over sex is not. Sex is enjoyable and purposeful when it aims to procreate and express love.

    It is interesting that Sebaht’s writings correspond with his personal lifestyle, i.e., a life devoid of commitment to a functioning family unit. Is that what we aspire for in Ethiopian society? Absolutely not. Should we change some of our entrenched traditions? Sure.

    However, I will hasten to add that every society needs to sustain a level of decency in order to not fragment. Rome fell because of its debaucheries. Western nations (including France where Sebhat picked up the genre) have by and large lost their moral bearings and need not be emulated.

    The choices Europe made at the turn of the century have gradually come back with a bitter fruit: the family unit has disintegrated; fewer births in Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, etc., portend disasters that have become a matter of national security. Russia could lose as much as 42 percent of its active working population or 22 percent of its 143 million pop. by 2050.

    In contrast to Ethiopia, Western nations are literate, relatively wealthy, and practiced in democratic sensibilities. Think of the ramifications of Sebhat’s philosophy on an illiterate, conflict-ridden, choice-less, and poverty-stricken society where a large segment of the youth (80 percent of Ethiopia’s population is 30 years of age and under) is unemployed, impressionable and open to risky behaviors.

    Think again how Sebhat’s book will impact Ethiopian youth in an age of HIV/AIDS epidemic. How are Ethiopian women represented? How are traditional values presented?

    Ideas matter. Words matter a great deal. We ignore to our peril the long-term effects of the 2-part social experimentation that began in the early 1970s both of which sought to rearrange our communities along ideological and ethnic lines. The first ended disastrously; we are not sure the second will not be worse.

    What then can we glean from Le’toum in view of the ever-increasing population of homeless children and young prostitutes? Think again how his philosophy could undermine the family unit. Break up the family and you destroy society itself. Is that what we want for our communities? I know the author is NOT saying that; I am using hyperbole to make a point.

    Is that what we expect of a socially responsible writer? I hope not. On the other hand, I don’t want to appear to be clamping down on Sebhat’s rights to express himself or fail to appreciate his effort to reflect aspects of our society.

    I don’t want to go out of my way to applaud him either (other than for his exquisite writing style.) So why I do I go into all this? It is because few are discussing Sebhat from this angle; the many citations I have come across are either seduced by the titillations or sound like carte blanche endorsements.

  8. Tazabi
    February 2, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Thnaks for sharing your wonderful analysis on this. I’ve not read Sebhat’s book and i doubted if i ever will, but it seems like he’s the western
    “Larry Flynt” who revoutionalized sexuality and pushed the limit. I perfectly understood your ground on the moral issues, our society foundations, however, we’re living in a global world and most of your concerns won’t have impact alone from Sebehat’s writting contribution in the society, though. I hate to say this, but it’s true that if they don’t get it from Sebhat’s writting they’ll get it from somewhere else, anyway.

  9. Tazabi
    February 2, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Please, read “Thanks”. Sorry for the typo.

  10. ab
    February 3, 2008 at 10:21 pm


    I look forward to reading your report on Solomon Deressa. I know he lives in the U.S. He is the one individual who, in my opinion, holds the key to our literary heritage. There must be a way to have him write or speak into a microphone concerning literary events of the past half century. What does he think of Tsegaye Gabremedhin? Gebre Kristos? Abe Gubegna? Haddis? Bezunesh Bekele? Martha Nassibou? Emahoy? Mengistu Lemma, etc. What does he say about the language issue in Ethiopia?

    My insistence stems from the belief that Solomon does not belong to himself (he is a public intellectual.) His right to himself ended the day he penned those intriguing and defiant poems and critical essays.

    You will be accomplishing a project of national importance by following up on the quest of many of us (especially coming generations.)

    Don’t rest until you have done something about this. You may want to collect questions from your viewers to present to Solomon. Solomon may be nearing his 70th and (knock on wood) we don’t want to wake up one morning and find out he’s gone on without answering some of our queries.

    I am saddened that national treasures of his calibre are left to their fate; they represent us in more than one way and we ought to have made it possible for such to continue to impart their wisdom.

    I am still in shock about Tsegaye’s passing away. I have read in your journal a short piece under In Memoriam. I only pray you could do more.

    I won’t bore you any more but I hope I have succeeded in making you take notice my interest (and perhaps others’. )Thanks.

  11. wendrad
    September 8, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    i am the one who is a biggest fun of GASHE SIBEHAT G/IGZABHER

  12. CASC
    September 30, 2008 at 9:16 pm


  13. SHIKUR
    September 30, 2008 at 9:21 pm


  14. soliana
    December 5, 2008 at 11:03 am

    am the real admire of Sibehat i really apperciate how open he is actually am writing from Australia but i ve got friends whos living in my MOTHRland Ethiopia they used to send me his books and please i like 2 talk more about him with everyone and i respect him from the bottom of my heart Ethiopiawi yehonachehu hulu EWEDACHALEHU SELAM LENAT HAGERACHEN

  15. filmon from (Eritea)
    June 8, 2009 at 6:26 am

    behiwete tefetrewal kemilachew sewoch andu new sew lemindn new ewnetu sinegerew yemayikebelew hitsanat minamin yilalu esu meche lehitsan tsafewina enesu siyadgu yanebutal lelaw hulu tirf were new lenegru sewiyew arif new yemaninim deded asteyayet ayikebelim any how is our hero addis ababa simeta yemegemeriyaw siraye esun magignet new siymot bidersibet melkam new TILAHUN GESSESSE salayew memotu betam new yemiyasazinegn so friends tthis is ma e-mail plz any one make contact with me ok (fillyhab@yahoo.com)

  16. filmon from (Eritrea)
    June 8, 2009 at 6:41 am

    betam arif sew new

  17. filmon from (Eritrea)
    June 8, 2009 at 6:43 am

    selamen new yemisetegn

  18. Daniel
    October 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Hey man talk to Shemeles Ararso if you find him (the artist he is dead) and abiy mekonen what i gave to them
    by the way you were busy in france.

  19. Biruk
    January 14, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I admire him very much. But civilization or being something modern is not expressed by sex. I dont think Sebhat considers love more than Sex. So sorry about that.

  20. Yared
    February 23, 2012 at 7:02 am

    i dont read his book but i will i guss he had good personality

  21. February 23, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Sebhat is… I dont belive this he was very strong. sewyew gin arif neber

  22. March 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I really like all what was said my hero Sibihat. unfortunately, he passed away with his full knowledge and performance.

  23. Mame liverpool
    February 21, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Sebhat was the only author who tried not to conceal what is fact….he’s my ever best novelist whom i admire permanently

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