BOOK REVIEWS

 

Salman Rushdie Meets Haddis Alemayehu in Nega Mezlekia's new novel "The God Who Begat a Jackal".

With a critical acclaim and a place among "new international novelists", Nega had earned himself not only a name but also an expectation for even better novels. His fresh off-the press novel, "The God Who Begat a Jackal", in many ways, confirms Nega's immense talent of story-telling and imagination.  The novel offers readers 242 pages of intense allegory, stories of love, power, the super-natural and an engaging humor.

Nega's story-telling, allegory and the characters tempt one to draw a parallel to Salman Rushdie's works. But, somehow, the plots holding and defining the role of the characters and the way the story is framed has traces of Ethiopia's great novelist Haddis and his classic work "Fiqir Iske Meqabir". Characters like Gudu, Teferi, Count Ashenafi and Aster and the poor tutor-daughter of a noble man relationship reinforce the parallel with Haddis' novel.

In both "Notes from the Hyena's Belly" and "The God Who Begat a Jackal", Nega's success is, perhaps, making our story, an African story, massaged, packaged and delivered, with a passion and incredible story-telling talent, to a wider audience. And winning acclaim on the way too. This success alone should earn Nega an excuse for his faults of exaggerations (a whole village out on the street soaking their feet in salt water?) and a stretched imagination that packages daily-life, landscape and historical details of Ethiopia palatable to his readers but quite wrong at times (household members in pajamas, a "framed picture" coming crashing down, cigarette smoking monks, and a broken shower in a count's house in Ethiopia of 1750-1800?).