Introducing...BOOK REVIEW

By Professor Awetu Simesso

Commencing with this issue, Tadias is pleased to present a book review section. Ours will be slightly different from typical book reviews that feature only the most recent books. With the added intention of imparting useful, historical information from our country’s long past especially with the younger readers, we will be notably more eclectic. At times, we will revisit classical pieces from centuries ago; at times, we will showcase substantively rich booklike publications—monographs, dissertations, theses, and even noteworthy articles that we deem to be of enduring or topical interest to the serious student of Ethiopia.

Owing to her venerable age and the successions of civilizations that have sprouted, and at intervals flourished, there over the millennia, much has been written about Ethiopia in many languages, including Greek, Hebrew and Latin in antiquity, Arabic during the second half of the first millennium A.D., and Portuguese in medieval times, and more recently, i.e., posteighteenth century, just about all of the modern European languages. Far more numerous, of course, are the volumes in Ethiopic, here used in reference to indigenous Ethiopian languages and scripts. From the tens of thousands of liturgical texts and magic scrolls in Geez and other scripts to Amharic publications now proliferating more than ever because of the advent of private publishing, to very quickly mushrooming texts in Tigrinya and Oromiffa, the body of scholarship that can be termed Ethiopiana is huge. Although virtually all of the major libraries in the world hold select classics in Ethiopic, the vast preponderance of holdings in these indigenous languages remain in the country.

Here in the United States, major research university and public libraries hold remarkable, even modestly voluminous, collections. The Library of Congress, for example, houses some five thousand books alone in its ever expanding collection, according to Mr. Fentahun Tiruneh, the reference librarian there for Ethiopia and Eritrea. Add to these some two-hundred-and-thirtysix titles of newspapers and three-hundredand- three periodicals and venerable archival holdings numbering in the hundreds and it becomes quickly apparent that what can be winnowed out as classics and semi-classics alone can consume the avid reader for many years, if not decades.

The book review section is intended as an intellectual bridge between literary-minded Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia in the diaspora and at home. As such, pointing especially young, often second generation Ethiopians overseas to classical Ethiopianist, referring here to work by experts on Ethiopia, and Ethiopic literature is deemed no less important than alerting them to masterpieces hot off the press. Our reviews will range from pithy summations of old and enduring tomes to overviews of current scholarly commentaries. Vaunted gems like the Kibre-Negest (the Royal Chronicles) and Lefafe-Tsidk (Bandlets of Righteousness) will be on the menu as will fascinating recent Amharic publications like Gizitina Gizot and Gedl weys Gedel.

We hope that the section will be very interactive. We invite our readers to suggest material for review and alert us to work they are impressed by.

The book review editor can be reached via e-mail at


Book Reviews by Prof. Awetu Simesso