The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Book Club - ONLINE - Oromay

Bealu Girma, Translated by John Cunningham

Tuesday 23rd November 2021

Online event starting at 19:00 GMT - Public event (all welcome to join).

Note - Register for the event on Eventbrite and you'll be emailed a Zoom link shortly before the event.


The Anglo-Ethiopian Society's book club will discuss the new first complete English translation of the classic Ethiopian novel Oromay by Bealu Girma.

"Originally published in 1983 in Ethiopia, the novel served as a critical account of the Red Star Campaign, the Communist Derg government's attempt at a final comprehensive victory over the secessionist rebellion in Eritrea. A passionate and turbulent story of love and war, Oromay mocked high-level members of Ethiopia's communist regime and criticized the Derg's actions in Eritrea. The criticism contained in this incisive political allegory put Bealu in considerable danger owing to the repressive environment in which it was published. The novel was almost immediately banned after publication. Government officials attempted to confiscate all available copies but bootleg versions continued to circulate. In the aftermath, Bealu was fired from his job in Ethiopia's Ministry of Information and a few months later disappeared. It is generally believed that he was abducted and killed on the orders of government officials in retaliation for Oromay.

Bealu's life had a dramatic arc of its own. Born in rural Ethiopia to an Ethiopian mother and Indian father, he was a graduate of Addis Ababa University and later studied journalism in the United States. In addition to serving as editor of several of Ethiopia's most respected magazines and newspapers (including Addis Zemen and The Ethiopian Herald) he also worked as a civil servant in Ethiopia's Ministry of Information. This position allowed him access to government officials during both the Imperial and Communist governments. Prior to Oromay, he wrote five other popular and critically-acclaimed Amharic-language novels: Beyond the Horizon, The Bell of Conscience, The Call of the Red Star, Haddis, and The Author. His integrity as a journalist, courageous criticism of repressive regimes, and martyrdom to the cause of literary freedom make him a significant figure in modern Ethiopian history and Amharic literature."

The translation is by an otherwise anonymous John Cunningham, who also wrote a single page introduction to the novel. The book is independently published, but no details are given apart from the fact it was published in March 2021.

How does it compare to the original Amharic? It's so difficult to capture all of the hidden meanings that it is probably not going to be quite the same, but the translator has clearly taken great care to ensure that the English is very readable. There are no footnotes or explanations, apart from the short introduction at the beginning; the book has been kept as a novel, rather than made into a textbook.


Book a place using Eventbrite in order to be sent a link to the session. More registration details are on the Eventbrite page.

Eventbrite Tickets - Oromay by Bealu Girma



oromay Oromay by Bealu Girma.
Translation by John Cunningham

Publisher : Amazon, March 2021

ISBN : 9798709022348 (paperback)
UK price £14:43

Kindle edition £2:87

First Published in News File Spring 2021

Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of the Society.
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