on…’The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance’ by Philip Marsden

Posted: 21/03/2011 in History, Literature, Review
Tags: , , ,


A lyrical travel treat

I read this on the strength of Marsden’s other book: “The Crossing Place“, he seems to have a knack for writing books about countries I’m slightly obsessed with. I hate to get bogged down in clichés, even though I always do, but this is another modern classic. Within any travel book there needs to be a sound motivation for the journey, without this central motivation it often seems like somebody is just writing a book for money, or doing something to please a publisher. Everyone has to get paid but this isn’t telesales or factory work, it is literature. All my cynicism was left behind as I followed Marsden and his numerous guides through both the difficult topography and turbulent history of Ethiopia. He retraces a former visit so the comparisons are also interesting, especially with regards to changes in the political situation.

I recommend this book to casual readers in search of some escape or serious students of history and theology. The strong point of the book is that he undertakes the journey on foot so we get highly lyrical descriptions, written from someone who has had alot of time to compose their thoughts and take in surroundings.
There has been little written about Ethiopia and it is still tarred with images from news footage of famines. Marsden offers us a new reflection on a truly unique place, unique in culture, customs and in it’s general isolation from the West and the rest. If you intend on learning more about this quirky corner of Africa I recommend reading both “The Emperor” and “The Pale Abyssinian”.

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