The Odds against Eritrean Literature

Authored by: Charles Cantalupo

Routledge Handbook of Minority Discourses in African Literature

Print publication date:  May  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367368340
eBook ISBN: 9780429354229
Adobe ISBN:


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A Google search of “North Korea of Africa” to describe Eritrea produces over 20,000 results. “Hermit Kingdom” is another popular epithet applied to Eritrea. No other African nation has a more marginalizing epithet, much less two, so widely circulated. Sharing a thousand-mile border with the three African nations of Sudan, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, along with a seven hundred-mile coast line on the Red Sea, Eritrea is hardly Asian, and it’s over five thousand miles away from North Korea. While various kingdoms have ruled Eritrea, it has never been a kingdom on its own and is currently a single-party presidential republic. Furthermore, as anyone with familiarity of the Horn of Africa knows, while it has a tradition of religious hermits, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia are hardly countries of solitude and isolation. On the contrary, neither the region’s politics nor its populations seem to abide such limitations, notwithstanding the many occasions when they have been imposed. Frankly, the history is long of their minding each other’s business.

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