Maaza Mengiste Portrait
© Nina Subin

Guest 2017, 2021.


Unter den Augen des Löwen

Verlag das Wunderhorn

Heidelberg, 2013

[Ü: Andreas Jandl]


Der Schattenkönig

dtv Verlag

München, 2021

[Ü: Brigitte Jakobeit, Patricia Klobusiczky]

Maaza Mengiste [ Ethiopia, USA ]

Maaza Mengiste’s (Ethiopia, 1971) first novel »Beneath the Lion’s Gaze« was published in 2010. The story is told from the perspective of one middle-class family and opens during the days of the coup in Ethiopia in 1974. The paterfamilias, a doctor from Addis Ababa, tries to protect his family during these times of unrest. Yet while his older son behaves pragmatically, his younger son takes part in student protests against Emperor Haile Selassie and his regime. The second part of the novel takes place a few years later; the coup has ushered in a socialist military dictatorship, where the execution of dissidents, expropriation, and house arrests are commonplace. Here too, each of the men in this family reacts differently towards the political situation. With great clarity and while only allowing herself the occasional surrealistic reverie, Mengiste compellingly describes the unfolding of events during this gruesome chapter in Ethiopian history. »Beneath the Lion’s Gaze« was selected by »The Guardian« as one of the 10 best contemporary African books, and was a Dayton Literary Peace Prize Fiction Runner-up. Mengiste’s second novel, »The Shadow King« (2019), was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Set in Ethiopia at the beginning of World War II, it tells the story of the orphaned Hirut, who works as a maid for an officer in Haile Selassie’s army. When the emperor goes into exile, Hirut hatches a plan: She helps disguise a peasant as the emperor – but then she herself falls into captivity with one of Italy’s most vicious officers. The novel’s multiple perspectives allow Mengiste to delve deeply into the psyche of her characters. The fact that a chorus comments on the action is not the only allusion to ancient drama. Maaza Mengiste teaches creative writing at Queens College, City University of New York. Mengiste also regularly writes about Ethiopia and the revolution, human rights and problems of migration for various American newspapers and magazines. She is also on the board of Words Without Borders and actively supports the children’s aid organization Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. She lives in New York City.