ETHIOPIAN LITERATURE AND LITERARY CRITICISM IN ENGLISH: AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

ዋና ገጽ | የኢትዮጵያ ታሪክና ሥነጽሑፍ የምርምር ሥራዎች /Researches on Ethiopian History and Literature/
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ETHIOPIAN LITERATURE AND LITERARY CRITICISM IN ENGLISH: AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY


David F. Beer -Indiana University Press
  


This bibliography consists of three kinds of entries: a. Works of literary interest written in English by Ethiopians b. English translations of works originally in an Ethiopian language c. Criticism in English of written and oral Ethiopian literature. The term "criticism" is used in its broadest sense here, and includes commentaries, reviews, histories and surveys, as well as critical evaluation and analysis. I have included oral literature in the bibliography so that an idea may be given of the richness of an only partially tapped mine of vast resources, and English-language commentary on literature unavailable in English is listed so that a reader might, if he wishes, get an idea of the nature of Ge'ez and Amharic literature although unable to read the literature itself.

In Section I are included some short works which would not satisfy everyone's definition of the novel, but the phenomenon of the Ethiopian pamphlet-novel and their authors' insistence on labelling them as such have overridden my own reservations. My justification for including translations of Ethiopia's historic writings (Section V) is much the same as that which leads to the inclusion of segments of the Anglo- Saxon Chronicles in anthologies of British literature in both cases the more vivid passages are literature worth reading, and in both cases the Chronices shed interesting light on the cultural past of their respective nations.

 The role of language in Ethiopian literature is an interesting and complex one. The Ge'ez language, which survives today only as a liturgical language in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was until the latter part of the nineteenth century also the sole language used for literary purposes. Literature in Amharic, now the official language of Ethiopia, is by and large a product of the twentieth century, while literature in English is an outcome of the past decade or so. Ethiopian literature in English has been inspired partly by the fact that for some time English has been the accepted second language of Ethiopia and the language primarily used in secondary and higher education. Moreover, the impetus that has moved other African writers to use English or French as their medium in order to reach an international rather than only local audience has been felt by Ethiopian authors. Neither Ge'ez nor Amharic with their unique scripts are known to many people outside of Ethiopia, and Amharic itself is used by less than half of the populace, more than ninety percent of whom are illiterate. Thus the Ethiopian writer who wishes to communicate with an appreciable audience must translate his work or use a language of wider circulation than his own. This bibliography gives an indication of the extent to which this has been done.

Although the quantity of literature in English by Ethiopians may seem limited in comparison to some other African countries, one must keep in mind its comparatively recent birth. Other factors have also helped to inhibit vast literary output either in English or Amharic, such as the small domestic market, the high cost of printing, stifling censorship and an almost complete lack of local publishing facilities. Due to this last, some writers have had to publish their own work-in Ethiopia not necessarily a sign of inferior endeavor as it might be in the United States. Other authors, as the bibliography shows, have been content to rely only on local journals and magazines as vehicles of expression, and Ethiopian critics have followed suit, resigned to the local nature of much literary circulation. Some Ethiopian literature in English has been published by international journals and publishers of repute, however, and it is hoped that more will follow.

When reading this bibliography it must be remembered that there is no standard English spelling for Ethiopian names. The same name may be spelled in more than one way, such as Sellassie, Selassie, or Sellasie. I have in all cases maintained the spelling which the author gives with his work. An Ethiopian takes his father's Christian name as his surname but is known by his own Christian name, and thus, as the Addis Ababa telephone directory will attest, names are always given alphabetically by first name. I have preserved this standard practice for Ethiopian names in the bibliography.

 
 Some of the journals listed may not be well-known outside of Ethiopia, and only a few large American libraries are likely to have them. The library at Haile Sellassie I University and the Institute of Ethiopian Studies library in Addis Ababa have copies of almost all the items listed. Something is a university literary publication which flour-ished from I963 to I967 and contained some work of high quality. The Addis Reporter was a weekly review of considerable standard until its demise at the hands of the censors. The monthlies Menen and the Ethiopian Mirror are at present inactive, but the Ethiopian Observer still appears fairly regularly. The Ethiopian Herald is Addis Ababa's daily English-language newspaper which has of late taken to printing the occasional story or poem.

 
The bibliography is as current and exhaustive as I have been able to make it, but it is possible that there are a few omissions. Thus, in-formation on future additions would be greatly appreciated.


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David F. Beer -Indiana University Press
 
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