Dr. Berhanu Abebe Publishes Book on Ethiopian
History From Axum to The Revolution
On Thursday, October 22, 1998, Dr. Berhanu Abebe,
Associate Professor of History at the Addis Ababa University, presented
his new book entitled Histoire de l'Ethiopie d'Axoum à la rèvolution
(History of Ethiopia from Axum to the Revolution) to an audience of diplomats,
journalists and colleagues, on the premises of the Addis Ababa French
Center for Ethiopian studies. Written in French and aimed at introducing
the francophone public readers to a general history of Ethiopia, the book
is, as such, the first of its kind.
Though a survey covering the period from the foundation of
Axum all the way through to the eve of the 1994 Revolution, it is not
a mere recalling of facts but indeed powerful essay on the major features
of the history of this country: the survival of the state for two millennia,
the intermingling of peoples and ideas, the complex relations of Ethiopia
with the Western world...
Beyond and above ideological and political interpretations
of history, the author sets out to elaborate on the characteristics of
a society that successfully provided itself with the indispensable instruments
of continuity. This attempt is possibly the best approach in finding out
the key to the enigma of the survival of Ethiopian independence. The fierce
struggle for survival might have resulted, says the author, in the primacy
of politics over economic development - a state of affairs responsible
for the difficulties in our current conditions. However says the historian
that "independence is worth the sacrifice".
Dr. Berhanu Abebe further asserts that the preservation of
the collective memory through the art of script, alongside with Christianity
as a state religion, has been one of the determinant factors that have
contributed to the stability of dynastic power.
The Political and religious syncretism features prominently
in the Ethiopian society and serves as a mould for its national culture.
Europe's religious and colonial interventions in the XVIth and XVIIth
centuries and in the XIXth and XXth centuries, respectively, did nothing
more than fostering this national identity, without affecting, however,
the value of its affinities with the Western world and Ethiopian aspiration
Thus, Ethiopia, a country supposed to be closer to myth than
it is to reality, appears, through this book of history, as an entity
a breast with the world's new thoughts and subject to international tension.
The author is a perfect francophone who obtained his doctorate
and served as a lecturer in the School Oriental Languages in Paris before
he was assigned to positions of high responsibility in his own country:
ðprincipal expert for the transformation of the Antiquities
Administration in the Ministry of
Culture and creator the Center for the Research
and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, which he administered for more than
ðfounder of the external relations office
at the Ministry of Culture ðdirector of external relations of the Addis
Clear thinking, penetrating synthesis and the
free flow in style are the hallmarks of this book-qualities which testify
to the effectiveness of the methods of historiography that have firmly
established the reputation of French schools of history. Besides, the subtle
relationship between the real world and the idea - a phenomenon enhanced
by the Ethiopian literary culture - has paved the way for a smooth passage
from the Ethiopian realities to the French mode of expression.
Co-published by the French Center for Ethiopian
Studies in Ethiopia, and by Maisonneuve et Larose, Publishers in Paris,
the book will be on sale here, for 120 birr.
Source: Addis tribune
A fourth generation French speaker, Berhanou Abebe
has France in his heart, a France that he dreamt about first before meeting
her in the early 1960s, from the amphitheatres at the Sorbonne to the cellar
jazz clubs of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. He embodies an Ethiopia proud
of its rich and turbulent history that he has lived through since the
time of Emperor Haile Selassie, to whom he was close. Elegant and distinguished,
a brilliant orator, he still fills us with wonder and through his subtlety
and erudition initiates us into the complexities of Abyssinia. Alternately
lawyer, historian and linguist, with the collusion of a team of French
and Ethiopian lexicographers he launched himself into a new gamble which
has just paid off - the first French-Amharic (the official language of
Marjane Satrapi bears witness in comic books
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Last modified 17-March-99.
Dr. Abebe Kebede. All Rights Reserved.