Eloquent and thought-provoking, this classic novel by the Eritrean novelist Gebreyesus Hailu, written in Tigrinya in 1927 and published in 1950, is one of the earliest novels written in an African language and will have a major impact on the reception and critical appraisal of African literature.
The Conscript depicts, with irony and controlled anger, the staggering experiences of the Eritrean ascari, soldiers conscripted to fight in Libya by the Italian colonial army against the nationalist Libyan forces fighting for their freedom from Italy's colonial rule. Anticipating midcentury thinkers Frantz Fanon and Aime Cesaire, Hailu paints a devastating portrait of Italian colonialism. Some of the most poignant passages of the novel include the awakening of the novel's hero, Tuquabo, to his ironic predicament of being both under colonial rule and the instrument of suppressing the colonized Libyans.
The novel's remarkable descriptions of the battlefield awe the reader with mesmerizing images, both disturbing and tender, of the Libyan landscape-with its vast desert sands, oases, horsemen, foot soldiers, and the brutalities of war-uncannily recalled in the satellite images that were brought to the homes of millions of viewers around the globe in 2011, during the country's uprising against its former leader, Colonel Gaddafi.
Publisher: Ohio University Press
Number of pages: 64
Weight: 113 g
Dimensions: 216 x 140 x 10 mm
"This translation from Tigrinya into English by Ghirmai Negash brings the slim, fascinating novel to a broad readership so that we might appreciate its value as a complex and moving reflection on Eritrean involvement in the Libyan anticolonial war. ...The colonial encounter, as represented in Hailu's novel, is messy and multifaceted, and this is, perhaps, the novel's most important insight, one that could usefully be shared with students in African history or literature courses."
"A fine, nuanced translation."
"The Conscript gives the Tigrinya novel its early framing contour, as it shows sophistication and maturity in the depiction of the inner turmoil and real-life characteristics of its characters. It is a novel that grapples with issues of identity, self-agency, war, and the traumatic effects of (de)colonization on the human psyche. Read it and see for yourself how canonical novels like Things Fall Apart, Weep Not, Child, Houseboy, The Bluest Eye, are eerily prefigured in an early African-language novel." -- Ali Jimale Ahmed, Professor and Chair, Department of Comparative Literature, Queens College, CUNY
"The Conscript is a harrowing journey into the experiences of an Eritrean man who, after being recruited into the Italian army, is forced to fight in its war to subjugate Libyans. This is a novel of great irony and power. Its translation into English is a gift to American readers." -- Laila Lalami, author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and Secret Son
"This work was written in the author's native language and it was only recently translated into English. I love the style and the power of this novel. One can see Hailu's theology training and grooming in the pastoral style of his writing. But, the tremors of Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, and the Negritude Movement are inherent in this book too. I enjoyed reading this novel and being educated."
"Negash has mastery of the two languages (Tigrinya and English) and he has done tremendous job in giving an accurate translation of the original."
"(N)ow another monumental achievement by Negash has dawned: one that will rewrite African literary history of the 20th century. He has translated The Conscript, a novel written in Tigrinya by Ghebreyesus Hailu, initially in 1927, and first published in 1950. The novel is remarkable, and its translation is momentous."
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