The God Who Begat a Jackal

Written by Nega Mezlekia
Review by Kelly Cannon

From the author of the acclaimed memoir of Ethiopia, Notes from the Hyena’s Belly, comes a haunting first novel steeped in African folklore and brimming with the class, ethnic and religious struggles of pre-colonial Africa. Aster, the beautiful and intelligent daughter of a feudal lord dares to love one of her father’s slaves. Gudu is a deep thinker, a gentle soul born into the lowest stratum of a brutal society. A captivating storyteller, he is among the most prized possessions of Aster’s father, Count Ashenafi.

When Gudu and Aster’s love is discovered, Gudu barely escapes with his life. He finds refuge and acceptance among Count Ashenafi’s enemies, eventually leading them in war against the Count. All the while, the two lovers still dream of being together. Gudu builds a mansion for Aster in his adopted city, while Aster plots to avoid a forced marriage to a man of her father’s choosing.

Through a spare and lyrical prose, Mezlekia weaves a deeply felt tale that occasionally surprises us with its mythic occurrences, not the least of which involves the ultimate fate of the heroine.