The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance by Philip Marsden - review by Richard Dowden

Richard Dowden

Over the Mountains and Far Away

The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance


HarperCollins 298pp £14.99

This is the land where the 1984 famine took place – the famine ‘of biblical proportions’, the phrase that Michael Buerk used to jab the suffering into our souls. It was a resonant allusion. We know this place. Almost every year since then the television cameras have been back to remind us, panning across the vast, harsh landscape of barren mountains, thatched huts and meagre fields. And we know Ethiopians too. Wiry little people dressed in white garments, with wrinkled faces and dark, patient eyes, tending their goats and sheep and hacking the soil with mattocks or ploughing with oxen. That is how Moses, Isaac and Jacob lived, and Ethiopians knew those names before they were known in most of Europe. Biblical is the word. 

National Geographic recently produced a map showing the impact of human beings on Africa. Predictably the Sahara Desert and the Congo Basin are almost blank. South Africa and huge conurbations glow with roads and buildings, mines and factories. And Ethiopia shows the same intensity of human impact as dense urban

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