Above: Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and
graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU. A recent
Pushcart Prize nominee, she was named “New Literary Idol” by
New York Magazine. (Photo © Miriam Berkley)
The New York Times
By LORRAINE ADAMS
Published: December 31, 2009
Maaza Mengiste’s first novel, “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze,” opens in 1974 during the last days of Selassie’s six-decade rule. A young man lies on an operating table with a bullet in his back. A student protester, he is part of a popular tide that, along with a military uprising, will soon sweep Selassie from power. The attending physician wears a watch the emperor gave him upon his graduation from an English medical school. The doctor sees his patient — and his own younger son, who is also a revolutionary college student — as rash and foolish. His older son, a 32-year-old history professor with a small daughter and a wife, shares his father’s contempt for the burning and looting, the increasingly violent rallies. Read more.
Update (Jan 6, 2009)
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: The January 3, 2010 edition of the New York Times Sunday Book Review has a review by Lorraine Adams that states Beneath the Lion’s Gaze depicts Emperor Haile Selassie dying as a result of being shot, and the killer is the doctor’s (Hailu’s) neighbor. This is incorrect. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze depicts the emperor dying at the hands of another fictional character through other means.
An epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia’s revolution.
This memorable heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement—a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.
Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has rarely been explored in fiction before. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution. Emotionally gripping, poetic and indelibly tragic, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is a transcendent and powerful debut.
Publication: W.W. Norton, January 11, 2010