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Book Reviews 97 Meaza of Ethiopia Kevin O'Mahoney Kuraz (dist.): n.p., 1991. 178 pp. Meaza of Ethiopia is a historical novel about Ethiopia (Tigre in particular ) during the rule of the Derg. The central character is a young lady named Meaza. As the author points out, the name Meaza means "fragrance ." Thus the title of the book contains a second meaning: "Fragrance of Ethiopia." As a historical novel, this book can be judged from two different perspectives—its quality as a novel and its historical accuracy. As a novel, it is better than I expected. The author does have genuine writing skills. He weaves characters and subplots together over a period beginning in the latter days of Haile Sellassie's reign until the downfall of the Derg. His characters are generally consistent in their personalities , and dialogue is handled well. One does wonder, though, at the high degree of virtue and the capacity for forgiveness of certain characters. For example, the virgin daughter of a woman who runs a bar is taken by soldiers and violated, but she seems to harbor few hard feelings. The story itself revolves around Meaza and how the events of the time affect her and her family. The plot involves suffering, heroism, treachery, and like any novel, love. The action of the book takes the characters all over Ethiopia: Wellega, Gojjam, Eritrea, Gamo Gofa, Shewa, Tigray, and Wello, showing the reader that the Derg's harsh rule extended everywhere. As history, the novel is reasonably accurate, weaving many known events, such as demonstrations, zemechas, and specific battles, into the lives of the characters. Though we can only guess at the accuracy of many of the details of high-level intrigue, it must be remembered that the author of a historical novel is entitled to some literary license. Rather than simply list the facts as a historian might, O'Mahoney helps the reader feel the impact of these events on the lives of ordinary people . For example, he tells us that taxi drivers did not like to pick up passengers who asked to be taken to the traffic circle that the Derg renamed "Yekatit 12," since the date had too strong a political flavor. It is no secret that the author has no sympathy for the Derg, and strong sympathy for the Tigre viewpoint. The cover, for example, shows an air raid on a town, with "Hawzen" spelled in drops of blood. 98 Book Reviews O'Mahoney weaves into the story several references to the military skills of the Tigre, the discipline of their troops, their well-organized medical teams, et cetera. The author places much of the plot in Tigre, the action revolving around Adigrat. In fact, the author's introduction is even titled "Adigrat, 17 July 1991." It is intriguing that the book was printed so quickly after the arrival of the EPRDF government and then distributed through the government book shop chain. As scholars study the Derg era, they will face piles of reports, statistics , and propaganda. They would do well to read Meaza ofEthiopia as well; they may not be able to cite it in their bibliographies, but it will remind them that all of these large-scale events, trends, and movements happened in an Ethiopia full of ordinary people, simply trying to live out their lives. Pete Unseth Tepi, Kafa, Ethiopia Rural Change in Machakos, Kenya; A Historical Geography Perspective Marilyn Silberfein New York: University Press of America, 1989. 197 pp. In 1986, 1988, and again in the summer of 1990, this writer had occasion to pass through parts of Machakos District in south central Kenya. As the crow flies, Machakos is about 50 miles from Nairobi. As Silberfein notes in her analysis of rural change in Machakos, it is a rugged land; a "composite of highlands and lowlands, which currently covers approximately 14,000 Km2" (p.l). It was evident in my three visits that the population of the district was growing rapidly and the agricultural resource base of the region was under enormous pressure. Over-farming of steep slopes was evident everywhere, seen in the ubiquitous gully erosion. Small plots of land were being farmed on what...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-6574
Print ISSN
0740-9133
Pages
pp. 97-98
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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