Van Aggelen African Literary Agency

The Abyssinian Rimbaud

Set against the religiously contested and turbulent background of Harar, Ethiopia, Haji Jabir tells the story of a forgotten member of history. Against the backdrop of the infamous 19th Century French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s secretive years spent in the city, The Abyssinian Rimbaud tells the story of an Ethiopian woman, forced from her home, who returns in disguise before becoming Rimbaud’s lover. 

Jabir’s athletic and poetic writing style smoothly blends Rimbaud’s history with that of the Ethiopian city and its people. This is the untold story of a woman from the Harari people who was the companion Rimbaud during his final years in Ethiopia. Although Rimbaud was silent about his lover in his letters to his mother, this novel gives her a name, voice, history, and a memory, and through her we gain a new perspective on Rimbaud himself – that of the Ethiopians. 

The novel is centered on Harar, city of coffee and khat, the Mecca of Africa, which non-Muslims were forbidden from entering. Enticing tales were told about the city, drawing travelers from all over the world, at a time when the great powers were reshaping the African continent.

A world-renowned poet nee trader, a love triangle, a religious war and a devastating illness, come together in this historical fiction that transcends preoccupations with the post-colonial stage so often associated with southern literature.


Author: Haji Jabir