Dr. Berhanu Abebe Publishes Book on Ethiopian History From Axum to The Revolution



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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 to progress.

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 six years.

ðfounder of the external relations office at the Ministry of Culture ðdirector of external relations of the Addis Ababa University

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 Ethiopia) dictionary.
Jean-Baptiste Chauvin


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Last modified 17-March-99.

Copyright ©1997 
Dr. Abebe Kebede. All Rights Reserved.