Encyclopedia of African Literature

By Simon Gikandi | Go to book overview
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Taddese Liben

b. 1930, Ethiopia

short story writer

Taddese Liben is Ethiopia's greatest short story writer. Although he has published only two volumes, Meskerem (the name of the first Ethiopian month) (1956/7) and Lélaw menged (The Other Way, or The Alternative) (1959/60) his style and mode of storytelling have popularized the short story in Ethiopia. In his collections, he surveys and characterizes the best short story writers in the world (perhaps mostly Maupassant and Maugham), from whom he has learnt much; but he maintains that it was the Ethiopian oral tradition (see oral literature and performance) that made him an author. He deals with moral issues confronting urban youth, but also humorously treats traditional beliefs. He was educated in mission and government schools. After some teaching, he started a banking career which continued well to the end of the twentieth century, but he maintains that stories constantly live in his mind and he has been waiting for a chance to get them down on paper.

Further reading
Molvaer, R.K. (1997) Black Lions , Lawrenceville, New Jersey: Red Sea Press.


Tadjo, Véronique

b. 1955, Paris, France

author and illustrator

Véronique Tadjo, the Ivorian author and illustrator, claims the whole of African culture as her main source of inspiration. She sees the retrieval of elements of the African precolonial past as necessary to redeveloping a social consciousness and helping the individual rediscover her/his place in space and time. In an interview with Jean-Marie Volet, she states that her writing represents a quest for an understanding of the world and human beings and for "order, logic, and meaning in the world." The theme of love of life, of country, of the earth, and between man and woman serves as a unifying thread running through her work, from her first book, Latérite (Red Clay) (1984), to Champs de bataille et d'amour (Fields of Battle and Love) (1999).

In Latérite, a work of poetry, the theme of love and communication between man and woman parallels that of retrieving the past to help understand the present and influence the future. Much of the imagery in the book derives from nature. The theme of love recurs in Tadjo's other works, but in some of her later works she explores the theme through the intricate web of human relationships, relation to self and to the world. As in other works written in the 1980s, Tadjo considers women to be central to the issue of change. Issues of war and social justice are also important themes in Tadjo's writing, and the Rwanda genocide of 1994 is the


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Encyclopedia of African Literature


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