Behind The Shadows. Contemporary Stories from Africa and Asia
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However, as it is difficult task to comment on the book without taking into consideration the merits of the individual stories, I'll list my impressions on all of them. It felt more like a short scene, than a proper story. I wish the author had developed it a bit more, because it did have the potential.
I loved the beautiful prose, as well as the message that it had to convey. Moreover, the characters were very maturely handled, each having many different layers. In my opinion, this is my favourite story of the anthology. It is touching, but a little sad. I wish it had a happier ending. It is about a man who must make a stand in life by either choosing his dominating mother, or his attention seeking wife.
It was an enjoyable read. Reading it I felt this warm fuzzy feeling inside, which was quite beautiful. Maybe it touched me personally because I have never shared the company of a grand-parent and thus could realize how lucky people are who have enjoyed that special bond. Back to reading Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire rated it it was amazing Sep 25, James Murua rated it liked it Feb 17, Damyanti Biswas rated it really liked it Oct 11, Jayne Bauling marked it as to-read Oct 30, Shyam Srinivas marked it as to-read Dec 01, Swati Desai marked it as to-read Dec 03, Roy Huff marked it as to-read Feb 05, Krishna marked it as to-read Mar 16, Zubaan Books marked it as to-read Mar 31, Rachelle marked it as to-read Mar 13, Oku Dotwana marked it as to-read May 29, Gem marked it as to-read Nov 24, Arvs added it Dec 11, Ellimac23 marked it as to-read Jan 12, Com marked it as to-read Feb 02, Sittie Naima marked it as to-read Feb 16, His informants here are mainly former Ethiopian court servants labouring under anonymising initials, making them sound curiously like characters in an eighteenth-century English novel.
Only one of those who assisted him is given a full name that, we are told, is because he is safely dead , yet the power of the book derives to a large extent from the fact that the story is told almost entirely through the transcribed speech of these unnamed witnesses. Their antiquated cadences have a mesmeric quality. These expressions of fealty acquire an air of increasing irony as the excesses of the imperial court are borne in on the reader.
It is a subtle piece of reportorial rhetoric, yet native speakers of Amharic say that these honorifics correspond to no known expressions in their language. In particular, they say, they could not occur in the formal registers of speech that were employed at the court, where there were only one or two acceptable forms of address for the Emperor. So it seems these resonant phrases cannot have been spoken as transcribed. In the absence of proper names these inventions may be held to cast further doubt on the actual existence of these informants. It falls short, though, of both scholarly and journalistic standards of verity, even of verisimilitude.
There are other implausibilities in The Emperor. For him, neither the written nor the printed word existed; everything had to be relayed by word of mouth. He possessed a large library where he spent long periods of time, and provided copious written comments on manuscripts submitted to him. It seems unlikely that his own palace servants could have been unaware of this.
So this cannot have happened in the way described either. In answer to such criticisms it has been argued that The Emperor is not meant to be about Ethiopia at all, that it is an allegory of Communist power in Poland, or of autocratic regimes in general. Certainly, the book is informed and deepened by such parallels; and its reception among literati in the West was conditioned by an awareness of its doubly exotic origin — a book about a far-off country by an author who was himself rara avis , a master of the new journalism sprung miraculously from within the Soviet bloc.
The dearth of other sources on the subject — no member of the Imperial court of Ethiopia survived to write a memoir of Haile Selassie — means that the book would have considerable documentary importance if the information in it could be relied on.
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Two regimes later, though, there seems no reason for their anonymity to be preserved, particularly since a number of court servants none of whose names correspond to the initials of the sources in The Emperor have been giving legal testimony in Addis Ababa as witnesses in the trial of the Derg, the regime, headed by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, that deposed and killed the Emperor in One might have hoped that this would be the occasion for him to consider the issues raised by his earlier work, but the new book oddly makes no mention of The Emperor at all, nor yet of the court proceedings where the death of Haile Selassie is currently under investigation.
They were seized without great difficulty and imprisoned in this crowded courtyard. I visited the prison myself around this time. None of these people were, by any stretch of the imagination, academics. Nor had they been that easy to capture: Melaku Tefera, in particular, was the subject of hot pursuit across the desert to Djibouti, where he was nabbed by an Ethiopian army hit squad. He describes visiting the bookstore in the University of Addis Ababa.
When I last visited there were at least a half-a-dozen bookshops in Addis Ababa, all with books for sale, in many languages, as there have been since the Derg era. The books do not include The Emperor. Once, I remember, there was a good bookshop in Kampala… Now — everywhere, nothing. Most of them were setting foot in Africa for the first time….
John Ryle: Ryszard Kapuscinski's 'Shadow of the Sun', TLS review
Almost all of them were ignorant of the causes and reasons behind the conflict. His earlier book about Angola, Another Day of Life is, in part, a response to this kind of ignorance, providing an extended commentary on the malaise of the foreign correspondent, one who knows that his or her newspaper dispatches are not scratching the surface, that they misrepresent local reality. The chapter on Rwanda in The Shadow of the Sun is, it should be noted, one of the better sections of the book, capturing the oppressive, vindictive feeling that prevailed in the country well before the genocide and accurately summarising the political system of the kingdom of Rwanda and the colonial administration that succeeded it.
Yet he gets elementary facts about the lives of such people wrong. Girls and women routinely milk cows among the Dinka or Jaang, or Muonyjieng, as they term themselves and also among the Nuer or Naath. Boys milk cows occasionally and men only rarely. None of them lives on milk, except in special circumstances at particular times of year; they live on grain and vegetables and fish, according to the season, and on meat from their cattle and other livestock.
The sacrifice and consumption of cattle, far from being forbidden, is a central feature of indigenous Dinka and Nuer religion. There are a host of other errors in The Shadow of the Sun , small but cumulative in effect. Some of them typographic, but some bespeak a more serious level of neglect.
There are no people called the Lugabra; there is nowhere called Haragwe. And to whom? I would have thought it should be a matter of concern if the lives and beliefs of Nilotic societies three or four million strong are casually misrepresented. It cut no ice with them to be told that the play was intended as an allegory, that it was not really about their country at all. And why should it? There is a double standard at work in such excuses, a clear eurocentric bias. Consider the hypothetical case of an author publishing a book of scandalous revelations about the last years of the Gierek regime in communist Poland, using dubious information obtained in obscure circumstances from anonymous and untraceable members of the Polish Internal Security Police.
It would not be considered a reasonable defence of such a book to say that it did not matter whether it was true or not because it was really intended, not as a book about Poland, but as an allegorical account of events in imperial Ethiopia. Such generalizations are dubious by definition: Africa is just too big and various a continent, with too many cultures and histories and too many contrasting natural environments for any but the vaguest commonplace to apply to all of them.
Yet a few pages later he is coming up with the first of an increasingly unlikely string of assertions about the continent and its inhabitants. But none of them is anything like a general truth about Africa — any more than comparable statements about Asia or the Americas would be. There is a tellingly archaic note in these obiter dicta , scattered like talismans through the text of Shadows of the Sun. In their insistence on a collective otherness they evoke an earlier era of European writing about the continent. Thus, in a typical episode of The Shadow of the Sun , he travels to a distant, dangerous location, falls ill and confronts death.
And he is witness to dreadful events, from which he emerges with a deeper understanding of the further reaches of human nature. The African universe, for him, is a place of absolutes and extremes, extremes of poverty, of climate, of violence and danger.
Its inhabitants are prisoners of their environment. Everything is burning. Even the shade is hot, even the wind is ablaze. The human being… does not exist — or he matters only as part of this or that bloodline. Questioning the practices and theoretical postures of the writing of African history, this publication aims to give a fresh look at the long history of Africa, by introducing new categories such as early history.
The first section explores the epistemological, methodological and theoretical foundations of writing on the history of Africa and people of African descent in the twenty-first century. The second section reviews the content of the first eight published volumes of the General History of Africa. The third section concerns the updating of the early history — formerly known as prehistory — of the continent. Finally, the fourth section explores new developments in historical studies continent-wide social, economic and political developments over the past 2, years. The eighth volume examines the period from to the present day.
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As liberation from colonial rule progresses, the political, economic and cultural dimensions of the continent are analyzed. International conflict dominates the first section of this volume, which describes crises in the Horn and North Africa, and other regions under the domination of the European powers. The next three sections cover the ensuing Africa-wide struggles for political sovereignty, from to independence; under development and the fight for economic independence, looking at nation-building and changing political structures and values.
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Section five deals with socio-cultural change since , from religion to literature, language to philosophy, science and education. The last two sections address the development of pan-Africanism and the role of independent Africa in world affairs. Acknowledging the original irony that it was the imposition of European imperialism that awakened African consciousness, the volume points up the vital and growing interrelation of Africa and the rest of the globe.
Throughout the volume, the focus is directed towards the responses of Africans themselves to the challenge of colonialism. The first two chapters survey African attitudes and readiness on the eye of the colonial era, and the background to European imperial ambitions. The next seven chapters discuss African initiatives and reactions in the face of partition and conquest up to the First World War. A general overview is followed by more detailed regional analyses. Chapters 13 to 21 concern the impact of economic and social aspects of colonial systems in Africa from until the operation of the colonial economy in the former French, Belgian, Portuguese and British zones and North Africa; the emergence of new social structures and demographic patterns and the role of religion and the arts in Africa during the colonial period.
Liberia and Ethiopia are discussed in special chapters. In spite of growing European commercial, religious and political presence during the century, outside influences were felt indirectly most African societies, and they made a variety of culturally distinctive attempts to modernize, expand and develop. Two influential sequences of events — The Mfecane in Southern Africa with its ramification in Central and East Africa, and the movements of Muslim reformers in West Africa-owed little or nothing to foreign influences and figure prominently in eight of the chapters.
Twenty-three chapters detailing developments in the various regions follow these chapters. Volume V covers the history of Africa from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the close of the eighteenth century. Two major themes emerge: first, the continuing internal evolution of the states and cultures of Africa during this period; second, the increasing involvement of Africa in external trade- with major but then unforeseen consequences for the whole world.
Highly centralized political and administrative structures develop and societies with distinct social classes and, often, a strongly feudal character. Traditional religions continue to coexist with both Christianity suffering setbacks and Islam in the ascendancy. Along the coast, particularly of West Africa, Europeans establish a trading network, which, with the development of New-World plantation agriculture, becomes the focus of the international slave trade.
The immediate consequences of this trade for Africa are explored, and it is argued that the long-term global consequence include the foundation of the present world-economy with all its inbuilt inequalities. There were several major characteristic themes: the triumph of Islam; the extension of trading relations, cultural exchanges and human contacts; the development of kingdoms and empires.