Hill, Justin Ciao Asmara

ISBN 13: 9780349115269

Ciao Asmara

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9780349115269: Ciao Asmara
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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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Review:

The book is a love letter to the country he had to leave...The tone is low-key, but the story is anything but that: a brief and beautiful moment of calm in between storms (SUNDAY TIMES)

Hill is a great and passionate storyteller, and his account is both readable and important (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

Exquisite...CIAO ASMARA tells of hope deferred... His valediction has all the bittersweet anger and gratitude of Orwell's escape from Barcelona (INDEPENDENT)

A tapesty woven with fact and testament, a captivating memoir tinged with tragedy. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

From the Author:

Back in 1999 I sat and read yet another letter, telling me that there was no market for a book about Eritrea. I was penniless and decided to consign Ciao Asmara to my shelf and start my first novel: which became The Drink and Dream Teahouse. In the next year and a half I thought about Ciao Asmara at times, but I had pretty much given up hope of getting it published. It was one of those books that writers have ‘under the bed.’

Two years later I was sitting at my desk in an internet company and listening to Thomas Mapfumo’s Buka Tiende. It took me straight back to my time in Eritrea. When I got home that night I turned to page one and began to read. I sat up till 2am, making scribbled notes in the margin. There were many things I had forgotten or not thought about since I was evacuated in the American air lift. Even though I had written the book the book had had a physical affect on me. When I got to the end and turned over the last page I walked round and round my apartment: I had to get this book published.

I made changes. I phoned my agent. I told her that I had this travel book about Eritrea. She told me to send it over. I did.

My conviction grew while I was waiting to hear back. At readings of The Drink and Dream Teahouse people came up to ask me about Eritrea, not China. Three weeks later my agent had finished reading the book. When he spoke about it he had tears in his eyes. I began to get a real buzz. It wasn’t just me who thought this was a book that just had to be published.

There are many extraordinary things about Eritrea: its Art Deco architecture, it’s long recorded history from the Queen of Sheba through to the modern day; the fact a third of the EPLF’s front line troops were women, the fact that food aid sent to Ethiopia was redirected to the USSR in return for arms to help fight the Eritrean people. What is most extraordinary is the fact so few people know about Eritrea. No one who visits the country is able to forget it – not the dry dusty hillsides, the Arabic island town of Massawa, where Sinbad once roamed, but most especially the people.

The publication of Ciao Asmara is a great personal moment for me – but far more significant is the fact that through Ciao Asmara the stories of my friends and the people I met in Eritrea will now be told. What else is there to say? Ciao Asmara speaks for itself.

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Hill, Justin
ISBN 10: 0349115265 ISBN 13: 9780349115269
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