23 May 2011

Under the Lion's Gaze: Maaza Mengiste

Beneath the Lion's Gaze: A NovelBeneath the Lion's Gaze: A Novel by Maaza Mengiste
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very difficult book to read, thanks to the images of torture the author has included. The story of a nation's implosion under the twin forces of famine and military revolt, this novel reminded me how little we in the West talk about, or study, African countries.

I'm not sure why it was necessary to create a new character as a stand-in for Mengistu Haile Mariam, or to imagine the mental confusion of Emporer Hailie Salassi. The other characters (Hailu and his family, the soldiers, their neighbors) all seemed to be specific types, chosen to illustrate the varieties of behavior and beliefs during this sort of upheaval. The torture scenes, the divisions in the families and friendships, the horror that was the start of the Derg era - all are sadly reminiscent of other horrors in other countries. How we continue to go through these episodes is beyond me - we never seem to learn.

Copy provided by publisher.

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