Home > Uncategorized > Scholars on Haddis Alemayehu

Scholars on Haddis Alemayehu

Here are excerpts from two books where noted foreign scholars wrote what they made of  the great Ethiopian novelist and statesman, Haddis Alemayehu. 

Christopher Clapham

A Gojami, educated in the United States before the war. He was imprisoned by the Italians during the Occupation and since 1941 has served largely in foreign affairs. He has a reputation as an honest and painstaking administrator, and has recently written a best-selling semi-political novel.

Haile-Selasssie’s Governemnt(Longman, 1969)

Reidulf K.Molvaer

I first saw Haddis Alemayehu around the year 1970 when he was relaxing in the popular bathing resort at Sodere, about 100 km from Addis Ababa, at a time when I had read none of his books and knew practically nothing about him-but I was told then that this is Ethiopia’s “most famous author.” In the interval until I saw him in 1985, I had read most of what he had written up to that time and also heard much about his life in politics. I had written a book about Amharic literature which was published in 1980 in which the literary work of Haddis Alemayehu was featured prominently. I had sent him a copy of this book, and he told me that he liked what I had written about him.

“I felt very flattered by it,” he said. He agreed to meet me when I contacted him in 1985, although he would prefer to postpone it a bit, until he had finished proof-reading and correcting the manuscript of his latest book that that he was about  to send to the printers. When we finally met, in November 1985, he felt weak and tired and hesitated a bit about submitting himself to long interviews. However, I got him going with some preliminary questions-and then it was hard to stop both for him and for me: we had several interviews that lasted several hours each. During our meetings, Haddis was very friendly, open, direct and communicative all the time.

Haddis Alemayehu lives in a pleasant home surrounded by a garden and a stone wall on the new Asmera road, next to the Bulgarian Embassy in Addis Ababa. He had three young relatives living with him. We talked each time in his sitting room furnished with sofa sections on Ethiopian carpets and where the only wall decoration was a wall painting, above the fireplace, of the Blue Nile Falls. Haddis looked well, although he complained of weakness and tiredness. He had tried for some time to see a doctor for a check-up, and before our last interview he had been prescribed antibiotics, which made him feel even more tired and weak. He has some white hair on the sides of his head, but prominent is the high, smooth forehead and bald pate. He seems to have kept all his teeth (with a gap between the two upper front teeth), and he hears, sees and speaks well. His mind is clear and he remembers well and he expresses himself clearly and directly. He smoked the cheap Ethiopian cigarette Nyla during our interviews.

(Black lions, The Creative Lives of Moddern Ethiopia’s Literary Gianta and Pioneers)

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