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Interview

‘‘Now The Heart Beat Of My Country Sounds Like Dertogada” Yismake Worku

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It is natural when human beings grow up physically and psychologically, they will be matured in every aspects of life as far as time goes on. However; it is not common to see when the body growth or the intelligence maturity of some people exceeds more ahead of their age. Actually some old people are also as active as young men when they respond something which is not expected from them.

         Today, we brought you a young man whose name is Yismake Worku. You might have not heard this name before but we are sure that you heard the word of DERTOGADA in some moment. DERTOGADA is the title of his Amharic novel. This word could be a brand name for his personality. Yismake is a university student. What makes him unique other than his friends? To know more about his potential, you have to read the book. This fiction book has its own class in the Ethiopian literature history. We have done some interview with him, please take a little bit time to read it.

 

Dear young man, could you introduce us yourself?

My pleasure! My name is Yismake Worku. I am 22 years old. I am an Ethiopian.

 

Let’s go directly to your book, DERTOGADA. Please tell us the theme of the book

Regarding to the theme of Dertogada many people have different views. It is better to leave this part for the readers. Telling the theme of the book is just shadowing their spectrum of understanding. They have to interpret it according to their lives. I don’t want to narrow them. Some people say, Dertogada is the song of the Renaissance; Dertogada is about filling the generation gap; Dertogada is about searching ourselves, Dertogada is about working together for the common good; Dertogada is about love and promise; Dertogada is the picture of this time; Dertogada is about the need of social, political... revolution of Ethiopia, Dertogada is about brain... Dertogada is the song of freedom of this generation… For me, it is better to listen these all songs and keep silent. A man who draws a picture should not tell the theme of the picture for every visitor. Otherwise if his mixture of colors could not tell something, his words are the sign of unsuccessfulness in his drawing.

 

Do you have reason why you wrote it? 

Sure! I have lots of reasons. Once I was wondering about our educated people. I was asking myself that, why my people (especially the educated one) lack the habit of working together? Look! Each year our universities give engineering degrees for many people, but we didn’t constructed even one bridge across a single river. Our roads and bridges are constructed by foreigners. Our doctors are known by referring their patients. Our politicians are not capable of raising and solving our overall problems. What is the main problem? Can we point our fingers only on this generation? No! Many people who are on the head of this young generation, even writers, politicians, officers are the people of 1960s and 70s. In spite of their ignorance to this generation, they are not capable of transferring their so called knowledge; look everything is imported, our clothes, our shoes, our vehicles... even our thinking is also imported. What is not imported is our physical body only. I was also asking myself that who am I to ask these all questions? Even if I was not matured enough to write a book like Dertogada, “I act locally, thinking no one” … I said to myself  “Yismake, you are young; you have plenty of time to correct Your mistakes if you are mistaken; do it!”  Then I did it. For positive thinkers it is enough reason; It is the song of my heart and it is the heart beat of my country. Now the heart beat of my country sounds like Dertogada.

 

I saw that many Ethiopians have been reading your book. How is the feedback of the readers? And what did you understand when you heard their response?

It is unbelievable! Ethiopians outside and inside the country are amazed. The cause of their amusement is that, they didn’t expect such kind of work from this generation, especially from 22 old boy. I have got many letters and messages. It is beyond of my expectation. What I understood from the response of the readers? We have one heart; we need to bring about social, cultural, political, scientific and thinking revolution towards ourselves. I understood that every Ethiopian wants to be out of incredulity game. Here I remembered CHARLES DICKENS “A TALE OF TWO CITIES”. Let me make it for our time. “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness, it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity, it is the season of light, it is the season of darkness; it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going to heaven, we were all going to hell”. it seems to us. The generation is in such illusion; believes no one; many people are telling me that Dertogada is the spark of light in this Darkness. I understood that we need overall enlightenment for Ethiopian resurrection.

 

When I read your book, I recognized that you have some style which is related with the western writing culture. Are you influenced by them?

It is not a matter of influence by the westerns. It is the life style of this time. Don’t forget that some of the characters in Dertogada are the direct reflections of western life. For example, MERODA, SHAGIZ, MIRAX, GERA, SIPARA – have been living many years in the western world. The writer should follow his character. Their skill, culture, thinking, psychology... must be written according to their life style. Otherwise it could be fantasy if Meroda wears “Habesha Kemis” in CIA ‘office. The homeland characters, in the other way are typical Habesha. For example you can think of monks in the monasteries. Their culture, psychology, thinking… has been tried to be written accordingly. By the way it is not amazing if I follow the westerns way of writing. It is the reflection of this time. I told you all life style is westernized. Do we have our own writing Style? Our old novels are also the reflections of soviet & Europe literature. Which style is our own? It seems that our alphabets are the only elements of our literature. In Dertogada I have tried to give it our flavor. My traditional school knowledge has helped me to give it Ethiopic sense.

 

Some readers suggested that you are a visionary writer and on the other hand some readers called you as a fantasy author. What is your response for those kinds of opinions?

Imagination is one element of literature. In my opinion, literature is not only reporting what we see around. Imagination makes us to see forward. It is the key to open the other eye; the hidden eye. Is there pure naturalism? Is there pure realism? I think now days human feeling is a matter of knowing the invisible; being super human. For those who say he is a visionary writer, I am afraid their generalization is poor and shallow. For literary matured reader, DERTOGADA is not fantasy. They have forgotten the scientific evidences, realistic characteristic of the book and the logics and reasoning to twists. It tries to convince the reader. Also there are many realistic approaches. Considering the whole story settings one cannot say it is fantasy. It is really shallow and immature plus infancy view point.

 

Could you tell us your view on the Ethiopian literature level regarding on time which mean the past and the present?

To compare the past and the present Ethiopian literature, it needs deep research. Before we compare them, we have to ask that do we have a shelf full Ethiopian novels and poems? Look at your shelf, and search original books of Ethiopia, you will be ashamed. One may count five or six best novels. Even these books are almost similar in genre and theme. Most of them are about the past obstacles. They do not show our good values. They do not point to the solution. They direct you to the darkness. The best character in Ethiopian novels is the one who is poorer. This is the reflection of Russian writers of that time. The present day Ethiopian literature is also the reflection of the past. You may not see different techniques. Think of French people their psychology is shaped by their great writers like victor Hugo. Think of American civilization their technologies are first created by their imaginative writers. Writers lead scientists, leaders, technologists in the outside world. Now, think of Ethiopian writers what wisdom have left for the people? Where is the manifestation of their work?...

 

Do you think the Ethiopian writers can bring revolution on the country’s socio-political development?

Yes my dear! I believe in that. If Ethiopian writers struggle against the real problem of the generation (not “around the bush” way), they can bring about social, economical, and political development. Even some African writers have done this. Civilization starts from enlightenment, enlightenment is what we have lack. 

 

Who are your wonderful writers among the Ethiopians and foreign writers? And how do you explain their works?

I can mention some wonderful writers like Dagnachew worku (‘’Adefris’’ is one of our best novels. Technically different from other Ethiopian novels.), Kebede Mikael (He is a man who struggled to civilize his motherland. I wish to see his monument at the middle of Addis Ababa. Haddis Alemayehu, Tsegaye Gebre medihin, Bealu Girma… are wonderful. There are also at the present day writers who are Wonderful. From the foreign writers I can mention a lot. But I better focus on their works. The past writers have sown the seed of civilization. The present day writers are leading the modernity of this planet.

 

What are the basic things to be an effective writer?

To be effective writer, in my opinion, needs to be effective reader, cultivating ones gift, inclination of expressing oneself without afraid of any one, being eager to know everything, investigating ones surrounding, investigating oneself, searching and understanding of human nature and feeling, patient to sit a lot, ability to re-write again, searching the truth, etc.

 

Do you believe Ethiopia will get some achievement from the young generation?

Sure! But it needs some kind of reformation. There are many boring things for the young generation. The education system especially is boring and also fruitless. There is pure lying. No icon. There are illusions. There is incredibility. There is ignorance and lack of respect for this generation. The Icons are not this much trustworthy. The old generation which comes from the Dark Age should wash his hands first. The old generation should teach the young one how to forgive, how to say no for the evilest acts, how to be honest… then you can see what will happen.

 

Please feel free to express any thing what you want to say

Did I afraid of expressing my feelings?  No. I fear no one to speak about my work. It is not my nature. Once I have written it. I stand firmly for my present opinion.

 

Thank you

Thank you

December 2009

 

Updated 2012: Yismake has published 6 books, and his best novel book “DERTOGADA” is translated by Zelalem  Nigussie