A CRITICAL COMMET ON SOME TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF BIRHANU ZARYIHUN'S HULATT YA-ENBA DABBEWOC

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A CRITICAL COMMET ON SOME TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF BIRHANU ZARYIHUN'S HULATT YA-ENBA DABBEWOC


Taye Assefa - African Languages and Cultures-
  


Most traditionally oriented writers of Amharic prose fiction present the expositional material (i.e., background information about the characters or events) in the opening parts of their narratives. Afawarq's novel, Labb Wallad Tarik (Fictional Story) (1908),1 for instance, begins with a summary that traces the background to the enslavement of the dajazmach. Hiruy's Haddis Alam (New World) (1924EC) and Girmacchaw's Ar'aya (Ar'aya) (1941EC) in fact move back much further in chronological time and begin by reporting the marriage of the heroes' parents and the birth of the protagonists.

As Meir Stemberg points out, such a presentation of the exposition has some disadvantages:

... in the quest for ways of turning the expositional burden to narrative account,m any writers have reached the conclusion that the strict adherence to the chronological order is, though indeed 'natural', the worst solutionpossible,precisely because it involves the concentration of the expositional material to the very start of the reading-process.... [This block of expositional material] stands in danger of failing to hold the reader's attention not onlybecause of its concentrated form and its texture, but also because of its preliminary location,f or this mass has been presented a t a point where we are still far from convinced that the tremendous  for it required to master all theseinnumerable details is worth making. Very little, if anything,h as been been done to stimulate our imaginations o as to reconcile us to noting,absorbing and retaining the endless procession of expositional items. The situationdepicted is essentially static, and it has not yet been demonstrated that the future development tso which it is amenable will be of any interestsimilarly, all the characters most of whom have not yet been presented in action,s till have to make  good their exorbitant expositional claim to our notice.(Stemberg 1978: 46)

In this context the task confronting the writer is to arouse the reader's interest in the expositional material. One way of doing this is to delay the exposition(thereby opening a temporary gap and drawing the reader's attention to the absence of the information) and provide it at such a point in the story where the reader can functionally relate it to the current situation. Ordinarily, this calls for a temporal dislocation in the arrangement of the fictional events, and the starting of the narration by a plunge in medias res. It is this kind ofpresentation that Birhanu tries to use in the opening paragraphs of Hulatt Ya-anba DabdabbewoC(Two Letters of Tears) (1952EC):


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Taye Assefa - African Languages and Cultures-
 
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