Nega Mezlekia

Engineer and Author

Nega Mezlekia

Nega Mezlekia is a professional engineer with degrees from Addis Ababa University, the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, the University of Waterloo, and McGill University. His memoir Notes from the Hyena's Belly won the 2000 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. He received international praise for his first novel, The God Who Begat a Jackal. Nega Mezlekia left Ethiopia in 1983 and now lives in Toronto.

Notes from the Hyena's Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood
Nega Mezlekia

In this powerful memoir, Nega Mezlekia recalls in vivid detail his boyhood in the arid city of Jijiga, Ethiopia, and his bold journey to manhood during the 1970s and 1980s, his country's most turbulent period.In a narrative that sparkles with wit, Mezlekia traces his personal evolution from child to soldier. We meet Wondwossen, his best friend and collaborator in mischief; Mr. Alula, their embattled teacher; Mr. Tadesse, full-time school director and part-time poacher; Ms. Yetaferu, the Orthodox Christian boarder who manages to find a saint to worship each day of the year and thus to avoid gainful employment; and Yeneta, the local priest who is privy to the languages of heaven and hell.

Mezlekia describes the hardships that consumed Ethiopia after the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie and the rise to power of the communist junta, whose merciless Red Terror slaughtered 100,000 Ethiopian youths. Mezlekia himself was forced, at the age of eighteen, to join a guerilla army, and had several brushes with death at the hands of reactionary exorcists, but he somehow survived the bloodbath.

Notes from the Hyena's Belly teems with the smells, sights and sounds of life in the Horn of Africa-its violent, ingenious humans and its underworld of screeching monkeys, lions and hyenas. Part autobiography and part social history, this is an unforgettable portrait of a world where the boundaries of credulity are challenged daily. Out of this rich, sundrenched land where modern corruption rides ancient custom like a predator, Mezlekia crafts a world elegant in its aridity, extreme in its absurdity and vast in its ironies.

Author Biography: Nega Mezlekia left Ethiopia in 1983 with little more than the clothes he was wearing. A professional engineer with degrees from Addis Ababa University, University of Wageningen, the Netherlands, University of Waterloo and McGill University, he now lives in Toronto, where he is working on a novel.