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Description - Ciao Asmara by Justin Hill

Asmara is the capital of Eritrea - a surreally Italian city at the centre of an ex-Italian colony that has been at war with its neighbour Ethiopia (who claim sovereignty over Eritrea) for over ten years. Amidst broken palaces (built by the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie), nomadic desert encampments and war-torn towns, Hill found a god-fearing people remarkably resistant to everything fate has thrown at them. This book is a tribute to their resilience and will stand beside Philip Gouravitch's Rwandan book, WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW YOU WILL BE KILLED WITH YOUR FAMILIES, as a classic account of contemporary Africa.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349117744
ISBN-10: 0349117748
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 126mm x 11mm)
Pages: 224
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 1-Apr-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Ciao Asmara by Justin Hill

Book Reviews - Ciao Asmara by Justin Hill

UK Kirkus Review » Unlike his previous books which have focused on Asia, and on China in particular, Justin Hill's latest release pays homage to the troubled African state of Eritrea. Sent to its capital city to teach English, Hill quickly falls in love with a country trapped in a constant state of flux. As he immerses himself in the culture and interacts with Eritreans both young and old, he finds himself researching the country's history in an attempt to explain the strong nationalistic feeling endemic in its people. What follows is a beautiful aural tapestry woven from historical fact and personal testament, a captivating memoir tinged with tragedy and regret. Initially, Hill celebrates the fighting spirit of a people living in fear, but then laments the fact that his students skip school to learn about politics and warfare. As his story draws to a conclusion, we find the country once again thrown into a state of turmoil by yet another Ethiopian invasion. Eritrea's future remains uncertain, but Hill's parting message rings loud and clear: beneath the confusion, destruction and chaos, there lies a culture crying out for recognition. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Hill, who taught in Eritrea for two years, beginning in 1996, digs deeply, humanely, and with political keenness into the country's history. In 1993, after more than thirty years of fighting against their Ethiopian occupiers, 99.81 percent of Eritrean voters cast their ballots in favor of independence. It doesn't take much of a stretch to imagine why, writes the author: the Ethiopians had been brutally destructive. Hill provides a crisp, colorful history of this strip along the Red Sea, from the ancient kingdom of Axum through the period of Italian colonial rule to the quashing of Eritrea's post-WWII dreams of independence due to the duplicity of the US government, determined to reward Ethiopia's Haile Selassie for his anti-communism. The author then chronicles the long-odds struggle of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) against Selassie's troops and those of the foul junta that overthrew him. As most of Hill's acquaintances were EPLF fighters, readers get a good inside look at their political vision, a kind of Maoism scrubbed of Mao that advocated land reform, education, health care, and gender equality. Here, Hill (the novel The Drink and Dream Teahouse, 2001, etc.) shows, things get tricky: the Eritrean government, now under EPLF control, was still dedicated to social revolution, but the EPLF at its height had 60,000 members, and the nation's three-million civilians would not so quickly adopt their policies. In a country that had essentially been reduced to rubble, full of war-ravaged people without jobs, any prospects for a rapid swing into democracy were slim. The new government played favorites, and the acting president seemed not at all eager to call elections. The revolution was crumbling, dreams were turning sour. All this emerges in Hill's descriptions of his trips about the country with Eritrean friends, painted with the exquisiteness of Persian miniatures. Then it was back to fighting and goodbye to well-meaning foreigners. At embarkation, Hill writes bitterly, "Eritrea was returning to war and we were leaving them to it." A grim filigree of turmoil during peacetime. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Justin Hill

Justin Hill was born in the Bahamas, and grew up in York, attending St Peter's School. He studied Old England and Medieval Literature at Durham University, and spent most of his twenties on postings with Voluntary Service Overseas in rural China and East Africa. He has written poetry, non-fiction and fiction, which spans eras as distant from one another as Anglo Saxon England, in Shieldwall, to Tang Dynasty, China, in Passing Under Heaven. His work has won numerous awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, a Betty Trask Award, as well as being selected as a Sunday Times Book of the Year (Shieldwall) and a Washington Post Books of the Year (The Drink and Dream Teahouse). In 2014 he was selected to write the sequel to the Oscar winning film, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. He lives near York.

Books By Justin Hill

Viking Fire by Justin Hill
Hardback, September 2016
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Justin Hill
Paperback, January 2016
Shieldwall by Justin Hill
Paperback, April 2012