I am in Eritrea the country of my father and my fathers family. They are good people. They are strong people. Eritrea, once a part of Ethiopia and now after thirty years of war, the longest war in the 20th century that ended in 1991, a fiercly independent country. Tonight a reading by a novelist, The Journalist, with whom I am visiting the country
The audience of 200 at The British Council take their seats and after an introduction by Gisella the wife of the acting british ambassador the journalist gives an amazing reading. The audience is full, from Ministers to The Journalists family. The question and answer session is lively and appreciative and mainly centres around whether or not her book will be translated into Tigray the national language.
I realise how famous The Journalist is when I see her stood in front of this adoring and critical audience. The British council lay on an excellent spread of food and drink. The PA is perfect and they have to be commended for doing such an accomplished job. But most of all Gisella, the pregnant background woman and “wife of diplomat” who is the real force for good in this entire story and without whom none of this would have happened.
Afterwards outside I am having a cigarette. A man says hello and asks for the light. He asks my name “Lemn Sissay” I say to him. He repeats my name bringing his hand to his face in shock. “I wrote to you” he says and produces both the letter and two of my books of poetry. “I was at leeds university”. He was then minister for cultural affairs. He produces my letter and the books. I am honoured to met him again. He had come to the reading tonight. This is the man who wrote the Eritrean national anthem!! I am so pleased to be here.