“Wore Negari”: Book review by Wase Alemayehu
Wore Negari – A book by Mohamed Yimam
Book Review by Wase Alemayehu
November 26, 2013
While reading “Wore Negari,” I could feel the nervousness and excitement bubbling in my head and was unable to put the book down. With all of these thoughts and feelings swirling inside me, it occurred to me that I am reading a book about the agonizing and improbably personal journey of a young Ethiopian man.
It is agonizing because his inner conflict made me wonder about his threshold for cognitive and psychological pain. Improbable because there is nothing in his background that would foretell he will end up with that much responsibility within the party. There was nothing that would enablethe reader to predict that he would escape from prison, travel to Djibouti and end up in Philadelphia.
Knowing the era and knowing Addis Ababa’s political environment at that time, the chances were overwhelmingly high that he would have been tortured and eventually murdered. Several around him perished.The author attributes his survival to luck, and I have no basis to question that for I know the atrocious act of the military government created an environment where justice dispensation was random. That at is precisely why I have used the word improbable, and I am thrilled he was able to survive to tell us HIS OWN story.
What comes through clearly and unambiguously is the seeming authenticity of the author both in style and tone, and I do believe that is what provides him the credibility which compels the reader to open up and do quick self analysis. I found myself not simply reading the book but searching and putting it in my own context and relive that ear. For me it was shading tears about the loss of friends, the loss of innocence, the loss of neighbors, or the decimation of the young, for others it might be puzzlement, and yet for others it could be “What might have been?”
What makes the book remarkable is the author’s ability to connect with the reader in every facet of his journey. If you’ve been touched by the EPRP movement (who amongst us was not), if you have been part of the struggle regardless of scale (that is a large group of people), this book is for you. If you are interested to learn how a political party that emerged out of a decades-long struggle of the masses could win the political and social arguments but yet loses the major battle, then this book is also for you.
“Wore Negari,” by any stretch of imagination, is not and cannot be the story of EPRP. This book is designedneither to assign blame nor to glorify party leaders. It is a bold, audaciously frank journey of the author from his childhood to his arrival in the Sate. Those who live in a stark black and white world where rights and wrongs can be and are neatly categorized, those who live in a world of us against them would have trouble understanding the authors’ practical and emotional journey. While I might understand that point of view, I personally found his internal conflictagonizing, at times unbearable, but irresistiblyappealing.. It gave me a better appreciationof my own internal struggle with social, religious, and political constructs.
Mohamed’s journey, like a Russian babushka doll, is nested in wider contexts, but what the author was able to stunningly achieve is to have the reader focus on his journey as an individual. That is the context under which this book should be scrutinized and more appropriately appreciated. Could he have brought the savagery of the “Derg”, maybe, but that was not the focus of the book. Could he have painted a picture of perfection about the party leaders, maybe, but that will be taking him in tangent to the story he needed to tell.
Mohammed has produced a very powerful, enchanting, and multidimensional book that different readers could take different lessonsfrom based on their own experiences and how much involvement they had in the struggle. . My appreciation for the author is enormous not because he wrote a definitive book but because he allowed me to share his private journey and let me know about his doubts and fears. He deserves accolades for that, and I only hope that other “wore Negaris” will come forward and tell their equally compelling “wore” so that the sordid story of that ugly era is captured for posterity