Beneath the Lion's Gaze

Beneath the Lion's Gaze

by Maaza Mengiste


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"An important novel, rich in compassion for its anguished characters." —The New York Times Book Review

This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement—a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has rarely been explored in fiction. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution. Emotionally gripping, poetic, and indelibly tragic, Beneath The Lion’s Gaze is a transcendent and powerful debut.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393338881
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 01/03/2011
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 308
Sales rank: 319,920
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A Fulbright Scholar and professor in the MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation program at Queens College, she is the author of The Shadow King and Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, named one of the Guardian’s Ten Best Contemporary African Books. Her work can be found in The New Yorker, Granta, and the New York Times, among other publications. She lives in New York City.

What People are Saying About This

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"With...a compassionate imagination that transforms everything it touches on, Maaza Mengiste delivers an important story." —-Chris Albani, author of Graceland, a Today Show pick

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Beneath the Lion's Gaze 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am living is Ethiopia at the time of Red Terror. Meaza Mengiste writes of what many experienced. Thank you, Meazi, for this story!
grandebouche More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended for readers of international literature.
gregandlarry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As historical this only partly worked. It gave the history and a feeling of how horrible it would have been to live in Ethiopia then. However, it failed to give muchof an impression of what Addis Ababa was like.
exploreacademy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dawit's mother is dying and his family struggles to keep it together amidst an Ethiopian revolution. Then, Dawit chooses to support the revolution despite his father's wishes. Then to add another challenge, Dawit finds himself on the opposite side of the fight than his childhood friend Mickey. The whole revolution changes what Dawit and his family new to be normal. After his mother dies, and his father goes to rail, it's just a matter of time before everything falls apart. Beneath the Lion's Gaze is a story about challenges and how to overcome them.
KendraRenee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A disturbing story about human rights abuses that occurred during the Derg's rise and reign in Ethiopia, in the 1970's. And Maaza Mengiste doesn't flinch from the gory details--in fact, she indulges in them, which makes this book hard to read... at least for me. My soul felt cut up by the end, because of how much the characters suffered in this book.Beneath the Lion's Gaze follows the lives of one family and their friends and neighbors throughout the height of Ethiopia's changeover to communism. The author tells their story well, though perhaps somewhat jerkily, as her words just don't have that flow that is the signature of the best writers. On the plus side, Mengiste is a masterful story-creator, if not teller. She does pull one into the narrative just by the gripping strength of the plot. I know I expose my own ignorance in saying this, but I never knew any of this occurred, even though I have several Ethiopian friends from college and my travels. More than anything, I'm grateful to Mengiste for opening my eyes. I'm thinking of recommending it for my book club.
Boobalack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, who claimed to be descended from King David and thought of himself as the Conquering Lion of Judah and the beloved of God, was deposed and later executed. Some were horrified, but others expected better things for Ethiopia upon the forming of a new government. This was not to be. As is usually the case in the overthrow of a government, the military regime was treacherous and intended to exercise complete control over the country and its citizens. In time, a resistance movement was formed. You probably know the history, which serves as the background for this tale of families and friends.The main family consists of a father and a mother and their two grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and one granddaughter. The sons find themselves with opposing viewpoints and become estranged from each other. This, of course is terribly difficult for the father, whose wife is in the hospital, desperately ill.People are arrested for no real reason and tortured. Most die. The torture scenes are well-written. They give you a picture you can almost see, without being overly long. In some novels, the torture scenes seem to be so drawn out, they become boring rather than horrifying.As a scare tactic, which worked, people are killed, and their bodies are thrown out into the streets. Anyone who tries to move the bodies is pushed back and told to leave the bodies alone or face death. Eventually, several persons form a body-retrieval operation, and at great risk to themselves, remove the bodies and take them to a burial spot.There is a sadness which prevails throughout the story, but how could there not be? The above paragraphs don¿t begin to cover all that happened.This book made me cry more than once, and I found myself holding my breath occasionally. I could almost feel the despair, the heat, the humiliations, the fear, and the hunger. The author has a knack for description but is not verbose ¿ a welcome relief.
Sparhawk2k on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't write many reviews so lets see how this goes...It was a tragic but engrossing story that has left me wanting to know more about what transpired in both Ethiopia and Eritrea at the time. The book is very focused on the characters but it's set on an epic backdrop and I found the balance between the small details and big picture worked really well. There were plenty of times when I might have wanted to know more background but it probably would have been distracting and the story wouldn't have been nearly as compelling. Many of the events were heartbreaking and tough to stomach which did slow me down a bit but the characters always kept pulling me back. Overall it was a very enjoyable book.The focus was always the story more than anything for me but I did enjoy the writing too. I liked the pacing as it jumped between characters. The use of small side-events also helped and gave the book something of a film-like feel at times. I would definitely recommend this book and I haven't even set it down for a day before somebody else in my house is picking it up.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the 1970s, Emperor Haile Selassie's regime brings famine and growing discontent among the people. The civil war that ensues sees greater tragedy, fear with a military that grows in power and Communistic fervor. This civil war forms the background of a family torn asunder in the process. A prominent doctor, Dr Hailu, suffers through his wife's death, is confused by his younger son's growing distance and dangerous pursuit of revolution, and is brought sharply to the present by a young girl severely tortured, brought to him by 2 soldiers with orders that he heal her. The idealism of those who fought with the military to bring down Emperor Selassie's regime is quickly and shockingly smashed when news break that the entire cabinet and the Prime Minister had been executed in the night without the trial the military promised. With the later execution of the Emperor, Ethiopia's citizens now live on ration cards and curfews set by the military who court the Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea. Revolutionaries continue their dangerous quest to drum up more support to overthrow the current government, spies live among neighbors, and a new prison is built, into which many are brought by soldiers, but few are seen to leave. All Dr Hailu wants is to have his family around him, and for him to continue doing his work at the hospital. But after he himself is summoned to the prison, his beliefs are severely tested, and he has to draw on reserves he did not know he possessed to keep his family safe.Into this chaos, we also see a weak and poor boy, who finds himself in and believing the uniform, who later hates the uniform but fears life for himself and his mother without it. Can he find a way to accept his orders without losing his soul?The amount of tension and hopelessness in this book is what makes it a compelling read. It leaves the reader to consider if it's better to live with devil you know or if it's better to risk opening Pandora's Box.
iheartbookgossip on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very good, interesting read. Enjoyed the characters.
aud123 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A heartbreaking and tragic story of a family in Ethiopia at the time of Haile Selassies deposition. A father and his two sons struggle to survive against terrible odds. Very moving.
reader247 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a heart-wrenching story of a father and his two sons set approximately 30 years ago, during the Ethiopian revolution. The war torn country has a face when this story unfolds and we first experience the mother giving up everything that is dear to her. The struggles of the people in one small close knit community (keble)are laid open to be used against their own family and friends and neighbors. This is a very sad and disturbing read.
jaimjane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this gripping story of a family during the reign of Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian emperor. He defined the words corruption, incompetence, and apathy. One of the fascinating aspects of this book was seeing how people dealt with living under such regimes. Dawit's family was not poor but actually relatively stable, if that is possible. The parents wanted it to stay that way. His mother chose to turn a blind eye to injustice, any injustice, and blame the victim. His father resisted when he was young and was utterly crushed. His hopes to overthrow the government had died long ago. Dawit's convictions were met with suspicion and fear, an attitude that was entirely justifiable considering. The story is filled with heartbreak but it is an important one to tell.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written yet difficult to read book about Ethiopia in the 1970s. Difficult to read mainly due to the violence and oppression that is all to characteristic of African novels I've read but to a lesser extent due to the large cast of characters. I learned many things from this novel including that although Haile Selassie was respected as a world leader (and revered by Rastafarians) he was thought cruel in Ethiopia. I learned that there was a major famine in 1972-74 and a revolution that overthrew the emperor and in his place reigned the Derg who imprisoned and executed tens of thousands of people. This novel tells the story of these troubled times through one family all facing difficult choices amid the horrors of war and oppression. It took me a long time to finish this book, but I'm glad I did. Thomas Jefferson wrote "Travel makes a person wiser, if less happy." I think reading around the world has the same effect.
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very dark story about a very dark time. War is bad; civil war is very bad. It can tear families apart, both literally (through death) and figuratively (through betrayal and secrecy). Set in 1979 Ethiopia, a time of revolution and counter-revolution, the author shows in graphic detail the evils of war.
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