Available on JSTOR at: doi.org/10.2307/3334511

Abstract

We were particularly pleased to receive the contribution from Tesfaye Gessesse of Ethiopia. It is dangerously easy for the outsider to assume that most of the better African writing will employ the major European languages, especially French and English. And indeed there have been most powerful and distinguished works by Africans in these languages. Such work has apparently not been in the least inhibited by the use of the second language which the writers employ with such virulent and accomplished skill. Yet there is also a large amount of literature being written in the indigenous languages of Africa and published locally, which is too readily neglected. This neglect stems initially from the blank incomprehension that must affect a westerner when presented with a piece of writing printed in the standard orthography of Yoruba or Xhosa. Yet even this is not the whole problem. Writing can readily enough be translated–and many of us have no nearer connection with the great European novels such as “War and Peace” or “Don Quixote” than the language of the translator. But in the case of African writing often the translation, though accurate enough in the words into which it transposes the words of the writer, becomes in the transmutation far removed from the culture of the writer. In such a circumstance little remains that is intelligible enough to allow the external reader to understand the situation of the protagonists and their motivation. Rendering the tale into another language may destroy its effect. Mr. Gessesse submitted his story in Amharic, his own first language. With some apprehension we had it translated by a skillful student of Amharic at this University. The result, owing much to Gessesse's effective style and no little to Yonas Admasu's accurate and lively idiomatic translation, was a story that could clearly appeal to all our readers in its lively realism and sardonic truth. Ayee My Luck is deeply rooted in the urban events of Addis Ababa but it becomes a vividly generalized experience of all the disasters of those who struggle amongst the wretched conditions of poverty and slum living.