Thursday, 2 August 2012

Interpreter: Author Interview: Getty Ambau

Shah Fazli

Getty Ambau, We are so pleased to have you with us today. Do you want to tell us something about yourself and about your background please, before we ask about Desta?

Getty Ambau Thank you, Shah. My academic background and work experience, to a large extent, have been in the sciences but I've always felt that writing is my inner calling. I wrote on health and wellness before I embarked upon novel-writing four years ago.

Shah Fazli Tell us please what people love about Desta, what do they say about it?

Getty Ambau It's a wonderful, touching story of this shepherd boy named, Desta, who dreams of climbing one of the mountains that circle his valley to touch the sky and feel the clouds in his hands. And his middle-aged father, Abraham, who yearns to find his long lost father and an ancient family heirloom, a gold coin, that went missing along with the missing grandfather 40 years earlier. People who have read DESTA say that they found the book to be magical, inspirational and fullfilling. They also like the spiritual aspects of the story or rather how the story makes them feel connected with their own spirits and with their past (or childhood).

Shah Fazli Thanks. Tell us as a writer of the book what do you find fascinating about this book, not what people say about it, it's interesting for us to know?

Getty Ambau Although the main theme is about the boy’s journey to the mountaintop, it’s also a 3-generational epic family saga, involving the grandparents, the parents and, of course, the boy Desta himself. What people find fascinating about this story is that there are many cultural, historical and geographical aspects of Ethiopia wrapped in the overall theme. These things can be transporting to many. Those who have read Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone will find DESTA to be a great follow-up read.

Rebecka Vigus Where can the book be purchased?

Getty Ambau or for a signed copy.

Desta and King Solomon's Coin of Magic and

Shah Fazli

A moving and riveting family saga, spanning three generations and dealing with t
heir dark and mysterious past, set in a magical mountainous countryside, in a world of monkeys, goats and spirits. Desta, a seven-year-old boy and Abraham, his middle-aged father, are on separate but paral...

Shah Fazli

A moving and riveting family saga, spanning three generations and dealing with t
heir dark and mysterious past, set in a magical mountainous countryside, in a world of monkeys, goats and spirits. Desta, a seven-year-old boy and Abraham, his middle-aged father, are on separate but paral...

Rebecka Vigus thanks guys

Shah Fazli Tell us bout the boy Desta in details please, as much we know this character, like we know each other in real life?

Getty Ambau Like I mentioned, he is a shepherd, a very precocious one. The Desta of his time and place is the explorer and adventurer of the western frontier’s man. Desta was so much into his environment. What he saw in the sky, on the mountains and the woods around his home enthralled him. Because his valley is enclosed by mountains, he thought the space within is all what there was to the world. There is no formal education in Desta's valley. Most people are farmers and animal herders. With a help of a cousin Desta taught himself how to read and write--using a straw for a pen and his thigh (skin) for a writing slate. For many of his family members learning how to read and write is considered wasteful, interfering with his responsibility of his looking after the animals. Yet he still manages to know his alphabet and read and write some, even with threats and eventual punishments by one of his brothers for his transgressions. Here is a scene from the book:

Desta was writing furiously, deep in concentration, when Asse’ged materialized out of thin air.
“What are you doing?” he asked, glaring at his little brother.
“Nothing,” said Desta, startled. He quickly folded his page and put it underneath him.
Asse’ged saw the little book, the ink cup and the bamboo pen. “Let me, let me see . . . how . . . where did you get all these?”
Desta scrambled for a safe answer.
“Let me see that paper you hid!”
Desta shook his head.
“Either you give it to me peacefully, or I will help myself.”
Desta slowly pulled the paper out and handed it to his brother. Asse’ged looked at it, silently reading—or pretending to read. . . .
“What have you written here?” said the big brother, dropping the hand that held the paper. His eyes bore down on Desta.
“Some of them are names. Others are just words I copied from this book,” said Desta, pointing to the little booklet. . . .
“Let me see the book.”
Asse’ged leafed through the pages, finally coming back to the beginning and stopping at the alphabet.
“What I want to know is, how in the world did you learn to write? Did Tamirat get you started? . . . Where did you get all this stuff?”
“Awoke Yisehak taught me the alphabet. The rest I did on my own.”
Asse’ged’s eyes grew bigger. “Does Awoke know how to read?”
“Yes. Some Deb’tera had taught him how. But he said he learned a lot of it on his own too. He told me I could as well. All this stuff is his. He loaned it to me.”
Asse’ged’s eyes grew wider still. He looked away again and thought for a long time. “I hate to tell you this,” he said looking back at Desta. “It’s a complete waste of your time. As the keeper of the animals and a future farmer, you will never get to use what you learned. . . .
“I hope to become a priest.”
Asse’ged snickered.
. . . We have no one else to tend the animals. Stop fantasizing! You need to give all this back to Awoke and concentrate on keeping the animals safe and out of the crops.”
Desta pressed his lips together and looked away. He wondered if he should believe what his brother was saying.
“I need to go,” said Asse’ged. “Don’t let others see what I just saw. You’ll be in real big trouble.”
As he watched Asse’ged shuffle away, Desta thought about what he had said and realized sadly that his brother was probably right. No matter how much he desired to learn, he had no say in the matter. He had to do whatever the adults chose for him.
He put his face down on his gabi and wept until his eyes stung and his cheeks were flushed red. When he stopped crying he dried his eyes and vowed to continue his reading and writing. He was not going to let anyone deter him from learning.

Getty Ambau When writing on his skin became difficult and not lasting, he borrowed ink and a bamboo pen from his cousin and paper from his father and continued with his learning how to read and write.

Shah Fazli Thanks, tell us please how did you come up with the idea of writing Desta, what made you write this book?

Getty Ambau Initially I wanted to write about the mountains which I was familiar with. They used to fascinate me. Thought they had spirits/souls of their own. Then I wanted a real story with a plot. So I came up with the little boy, Desta and his dream of climbing one of the mountains--the physical as well as the personal hardships he goes through to travel there.

Shah Fazli Thanks, describe one scene of a chapter in your own words please?

Getty Ambau In the opening chapter, Desta’s father, Abraham, as he was preparing to hold a rite-of-passage ceremony for his son, recalls an image from his boyhood. In this scene, Abraham is outside his home waiting for his father to return from town where he had gone to buy him his 7th birthday gift. It is evening time. Then when he looks up at the western horizon, he sees the setting sun painting the sky with red ink. On close examination, he sees a gargantuan of a man lying, his mouth gaping open, along the horizon where the sun is setting. There are two horrific-looking men standing on either side of this man. On further examination still, the red ink on the sky looks like human blood. Moments later the sun enters the man’s opened mouth where he swallows it. Then the scene transmutes. The reclining man turns into just ridges on the horizon and the two men into hanging clouds. The boy Abraham never figured the earlier horrific image but it never left him the rest of his life. That murder scene is the anchor of the DESTA’s story—the beginning of the family saga.

Shah Fazli Who else is in the book apart from Desta, is there a female main character, describe the rest of people being involved in the book please?

Getty Ambau There are female characters--his immediate older sister, Hibist, is his best friend and confidant. He has two more older sisters who also play a major part in the boy's life. His mother, a rather enigmatic character, is also there although the two have a love-hate relationship. Desta also has four brothers with home he has love-hate connections. One of the brothers is the boy’s antagonist.

Shah Fazli Getty, we aim to ask our guests about what they have learnt in the process of finishing their works of art in terms of writing, what do you have to say to those who are new in writing, anything that they can learn from you?

Getty Ambau Writing is truly a wonderful experience. I wish every person out there gives himself/herself a chance to write. Until he/she starts writing he/she has no idea what's in them. As Virginia Wolfe once said anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write for a lifetime. So all I can say is sit down and write something. Follow a thread that comes to you. Take it as far as you can go with it. As most writers know, it's also a very hard, lonely work. It's kind of medium that brings you closer to your spirit/soul. So just keep writing. The first draft my sound terrible. It can improve dramatically overtime as you rework it.

Shah Fazli Getty, I am afraid this is our last question for this interview. Do you want to say anything else about Desta?

Getty Ambau Sorry I jumped around. My brain sometimes goes way faster than my fingers. . . Desta is a seven-book series. In the center of the story is a 2800-year old gold coin that came down from King Solomon. It's one of the two coins the famous king had made for his two daughters. One of them came down through Desta's family line. The second coin nobody knows where it's. Desta is Destined to find this coin--so there is going to be a world-wide adventure ahead for Desta . Ultimtely, when the two coins unite a major event is predicted to take place. There is many aspects to this side of the story that people can glean from reading the first novel.

Shah Fazli Getty, we appreciate your time, and we thank you so much for giving this interview, hope to see you soon.

Getty Ambau Thank you, Shah. It's a pleaure.

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