Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Ethiopia in German Creative Literature

In recent issues of Capital we have been looking at literary images of Ethiopia in English, French, Russian and Swedish creative writings.
Let us now turn to German.
German literature on Ethiopia began relatively late, around the end of Menilek’s reign in 1913. One of the first was a translation by Elisabeth Hobirk of William Dalton’s adventure story, Tiger Prince, or Adventures in the Wilds of Abyssinia (London, 1863). This was published as Der Tigerfürst. Erlebnisse und Abenteuer. Natur und Sittenschilderungen aus den Wildnissen Abessiniens (Leipzig and Berlin, 1881). i.e. ‘The Prince from Abyssinia Descriptions of Nature and Customs from the Wilds of Abyssinia.”
Another early work was Josef Eckerskorn’s one act play set in Ethiopia: Der Prinz von Abessinien” in 1913.  It was performed in Bonn and we hope to report on it in the near future.
Several other German fictional works relating to Ethiopia followed in the ensuing decade. The first, which reflected increasing international awareness of the Falasha, was Selig Schachnowitz’s
Salomo der Falascha: Eine Geschichte aus der Gegenwart, i.e.  “Salome the Falasha: A Contemporary Story” (Frankfurt, 1921).
Increasing German interest in early 20th century Ethiopia was soon afterwards reflected in the publication of two fictional works by Kurt von Gagern-Frankenthal, both published in Leipzig in 1926: Der Abessinier, i.e. ‘The Abyssinian’, and Kaiser Menelik, i.e. ‘”King Menelik”. The latter work, which was intended for young readers, told how Prince Menilek had escaped from detention at Maqdala, to become a King of Shawa, and was later renowned as the victor of the Battle of Adwa in 1896. Scarcely less exciting was Edwin Demel’s novel In der Gewalt der Galla: Abenteuererzählung aus dem abessinichen Hoheitsgebiet , i.e. “In the power of the Galla: Adventure Story from the Abyssinian Highland’’(Reutlingen, 1928).
Sundry works of this kind continued to appear in the decade prior to the Italian Fascist invasion. They included Willi Wolff’s Der Magier Good. Roman aus Abessinien, ‘i.e. “The Magician Good. Romance from Abyssinia” (Hamburg, 1931), which was published pseudonymously as from the pen of Georg Westfalen.  Uthmar Krainz’s novel about oil diplomacy, Ől um Rickett. Spiel mit Abessinien (Berlin, 1935) Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg followed with the children’s story, Arme Kleine Prinzessin: Abenteuerlichdes Schicksal in Abessinien, i.e. “Poor Little Princess: Adventurous Fate in Abyssinia” (Cologne, 1935). In the following year Alfons Zech, using the nom de plume Peter Rauenberg, published Weisse Mädchen in Abessinien, i.e. “White Girls in Abyssinia”. (Niedersedlitz, 1936).
Fascist Italy’s subsequent involvement in the European war as an ally of Nazi Germany had its influence on two works of this period. The first, W. Hintersatz’s novel Schwartz oder Weiss: Ad Imperium Romanum versus, i.e. “Black or White, Towards the Roman Empire (Berlin, 1940), introduced a racial element lacking in previous German writings on the war. Heinrich Maria Tiede’s Korporal Giambetta: Erzählung aus dem Feldzuge Italiens gegen Abessinien, i.e. “Corporal Giambetta: A Story from the Italian Campaign against Abyssinia” (Reutlingen, 1941) was likewise unusual in looking at the Italo-Ethiopian war from the side of Italy rather than of Ethiopia.
With Ethiopia’s liberation in 1941 the scope of German writings naturally changed. Works in this period included such titles as Herbert Hahn’s Im Lande des Bülbül: Romantische Tierfangreise durch  Abessien, i.e. “In the Land of the Bulbul: Romantic Journey to Hunt in Abyssinia”; Johannes von der Planitz’s Erdöl in Harar: Abenteuer im  Lande des Negus, i.e. “Oil in Harar: Adventures in the Land of the Negus”, written under the nom de plume of Hans von Derp (Hanover, 1954). Mention may also be made of Helmut Wuzanig’s short story Schifta, i.e. “Rebel” in Merian magazine for 1966, vol. XIX, no. 10, and Ernst Otto Gläser’s Die Zeit  – es ist noch weit. Ausgewählte Gedichte, i.e. “Selected Poems; Time is not far away” (Addis Ababa, 1967).
German literature for children included Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg’s Man nennt mich Lillith, i.e. ‘They call me Lilitth” (Stuttgart, 1955), Otto Strada’s  Karawane ins verbotene Land, i.e “Caravan into the forbidden land” (Berlin-Grunewald, 1957); and Corry Blei-Strjbos’s Mark und Anne in Äthiopien, i.e. “Mark and Anne in  Ethiopia” (Konstanz, 1977).