The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Book Festival - The Grandmothers' Tales

Aida Edemariam & Inara Verzemnieks

Monday 20th August 2018

17:45 - 18:45pm Garden Theatre, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh, EH2 4DR - Tickets £12 / £10


Aida Edemariam's The Wife's Tale is the extraordinary story of an indomitable 95-year-old woman – and of the most extraordinary century in Ethiopia’s history. A new Wild Swans.

A hundred years ago, a girl was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. Before she was ten years old, Yetemegnu was married to a man two decades her senior, an ambitious poet-priest. Over the next century her world changed beyond recognition. She witnessed Fascist invasion and occupation, Allied bombardment and exile from her city, the ascent and fall of Emperor Haile Selassie, revolution and civil war. She endured all these things alongside parenthood, widowhood and the death of children.

The Wife's Tale is an intimate memoir, both of a life and of a country. In prose steeped in Yetemegnu's distinctive voice and point of view, Aida Edemariam retells her grandmother's stories of a childhood surrounded by proud priests and soldiers, of her husband's imprisonment, of her fight for justice all of it played out against an ancient cycle of festivals and the rhythms of the seasons. She introduces us to a rich cast of characters emperors and empresses, scholars and nuns, Marxist revolutionaries and wartime double agents. And through these encounters she takes us deep into the landscape and culture of this many-layered, often mis-characterised country and the heart of one indomitable woman.

In her memoir Among the Living and the Dead, Inara Verzemnieks learns what happened to her family in World War II.

"It's long been assumed of this region, where my grandmother was born… that at some point each year the dead will come home," Inara Verzemnieks writes in this heartrending story of war, exile, and reconnection.

Raised by her grandparents in Washington State, Inara grew up among expatriates, scattering smuggled Latvian sand over the coffins of the dead, singing folk songs about a land she had never visited. Most of all, she listened to her grandmother's stories—stories which recalled one true home: the family farm left behind in Latvia during the Second World War. There, her grandmother Livija and her great-aunt, Ausma, were separated. Livija fled the fighting to become a refugee; Ausma was exiled to Siberia under Stalin: the sisters would not see each other again for more than fifty years.

One day, in a box of her grandmother's belongings, Inara discovers the scarf Livija wore when she left home. This tangible remnant of the past points the way back to the remote village where her family broke apart. In Latvia, Inara comes to know Ausma, her family, their land and its stories, and there pieces together Livija's survival through years as a refugee. Weaving together these two parts of the family story in spellbinding, lyrical prose, Verzemnieks gives us a cathartic account of love, loss, and survival.

Two forthright writers talk about love, loss, survival and resilience.


Tickets, on sale at 8:30am on Tuesday 26 June, are available from the Edinburgh International Book Festival website



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