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Abyssinian Chronicles

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  537 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
Like Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Moses Isegawa's Abyssinian Chronicles tells a riveting story of twentieth-century Africa that is passionate in vision and breathtaking in scope.
At the center of this unforgettable tale is Mugezi, a young man who manages to make it through the hellish reign of Idi Amin and
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Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 13th 2001 by Vintage Books USA (first published 1998)
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Africa
1,290 books — 1,328 voters
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Books Set in Uganda
86 books — 29 voters


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Community Reviews

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Harry Rutherford
I’ve just finished Abyssinian Chronicles. Which is a bit of a relief, because I found it quite hard work. The good stuff first: it’s a story that traces a couple of generations through the history of modern Uganda, with the arrival of Idi Amin and the collapse of his regime, the sequence of messy guerilla wars, the rise of AIDS and so on. The central character is initially brought up in a village before moving to Kampala, is from a Catholic background and is educated in a rather brutal seminary; ...more
Katie
Sep 18, 2007 Katie rated it it was amazing
In Moses Isegawa's riveting first novel, the writing is big, but the story is even bigger. It is a coming of age chronicle of post-colonial Ugandan history, as told by the narrator, who is also coming of age, Mugezi. Isegawa candidly touches on many subjects: Obote, Idi Amin, civil wars, corruption, rapes, religion, party politics, the AIDS epidemic, culture, tradition, morals, and community folklore. While much of the novel contains serious subject matter, humorous sections are abundant, and I ...more
Dora Okeyo
Dec 09, 2015 Dora Okeyo rated it really liked it
I would listen to Mugezi, the narrator of the Abyssinian Chronicles, over and over like the sound in my head when I'm at peace and in turmoil.

The story begins in Uganda and ends in Amsterdam- but it is not about the geographical locations, it is about the events and experiences that shape Mugezi's life. The choices he makes, the women in his life and how religion, war, corruption influence his quest for both identity and belonging.

The book is not one to be read at a sitting and it takes time to
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Bettie☯
Opening sentence - Three final images flashed across Serenity's mind as he disappeared into the jaws of the colossal crocodile: a rotting buffalo with rivers of maggots and armies of flies emanating from its cavities; the aunt of his missing wife, who was also his longtime lover; and the mysterious woman who had cured his childhood obsession with tall women.

There is no reference as to whom the translator might be, neither is there a dedication.

halfway mark and I must remark on a few thoughts so
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nicebutnubbly
Jun 05, 2007 nicebutnubbly rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This was billed as the Great Ugandan Novel and reviewers kept comparing Isegawa to Rushdie and Marquez. Not so, my friends. There are enough technical issues with the writing that it took me fifty pages in to really figure out who was who, and another hundred to give a shit at all. I mean, it may still be the Great Ugandan Novel - and it certainly shares the national family epic genre with Rushdie and Marquez - but so far it's more of a mildly scatological Bildungsroman. Still interesting - but ...more
Katherine
May 28, 2012 Katherine rated it liked it
Recommended to Katherine by: World Affairs Council Book Club
I didn't anticipate I would take so long to read this book, but ultimately it did take me six months to get through it.

It wasn't that the story wasn't fascinating - a saga of a family in Uganda - I believe it was the writing style. The writing could be too descriptive at some points and at others it felt there were too many sentences to describe one point that it became a little too much to bear. In any case, this was not a page-turner YET every time I would pick it up, I was curious about the
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Daniel Simmons
Jul 13, 2015 Daniel Simmons rated it liked it
A crazyquilt of familial and political storytelling that adds up to... what, exactly? Isegawa offers up some great set pieces (the chapter on main character Mugezi's seminary schooling is a particular highlight), but I found myself grasping at straws for a sense of the author's overall plan. Or IS there a plan? Example: a variety of characters fall victim to gruesome encounters with wild animals (a puff adder, a buffalo, a crocodile)... for what purpose? To emphasize the randomness of fate? Natu ...more
Rita
Nov 24, 2014 Rita rated it liked it
Shelves: world-literature
*** and 1/2 is my actual rating. This is a generational story about a Catholic Ugandan family. Mugezi takes us through his childhood being raised by a cruel religious fanatic mother, his days in seminary where abuse of power persisted, life during the Amin torturous regime, guerilla warfare and Aids, all taking away people precious to him. I found turning to a map of Uganda while reading gave me a sense of place (smart phone worked great!)

Recognizing that the author, Moses Isegawa, is writing in
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Natalie
Een mooi verhaal. De schrijver weet een beeld te schetsen van een land waar ik eigenlijk niets van af weet. Wat ik goed vind is dat de schrijver van vertelperspectief wisselt. Het verhaal wordt verteld door Moegezi (ik-vorm). Maar Isegawa weet op een handige manier ook de rest van de familie het woord te geven (personale vertelperspectief). Zo krijg je als lezer een goed beeld van het leven in Oeganda. Maar er zijn meer goede punten aan te wijzen: hoe een familie min of meer uiteenvalt door oorl ...more
Ishita
Oct 21, 2010 Ishita rated it really liked it
A sample from Isegawa's literature - "given an ear, her mouth loosened and grief flowed out with the sinuousness of a sloughing serpent". Isegawa's words flow somewhat similarly. For a debut novel, he puts up a magnificent show of how he can write, and write he can. But somewhere along the narrative, Isegawa loses his vision. What started off as a brilliant analogy between the protagonist's own small world and Amin's larger than life times, soon degrades into a narrative of everything and anythi ...more
Martyn F
Jul 29, 2015 Martyn F rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's different than other books. And that's good in this case. It's interesting from a historical point of view. The characters are also interesting. There are a lot of them, though. And some turn up to never be heard from again.

Moses Isegawa is brutally honest. Describes everything from children bleeding out to rape and murder. Sometimes he repeats himself. And his story is not exactly fast paced.

The main thing that lacked for me, I think, is that this is not so much a story as a life described
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Val
May 20, 2012 Val rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-tour, world-tbc
"Abyssinian Chronicles" is the chronicle of a family and of Uganda, with power struggles, disasters and small triumphs. It is well conceived and tells the interlocking stories of family and country in an interesting way.
The only problem is that the author is a little bit too much in love with the English language and what he can do with it; he has a simile for everything. It gets a little wearing to read after a while, unless you share his love of reveling in every image like a flea-bitten dog i
...more
Teo
Dec 10, 2015 Teo rated it really liked it
Abyssinian Chronicles picks up steam after the first book, with humorous confrontations between Mugezi and authority figures, and rumbles along for the next four hundred pages. The writing is peppered with evocative phrases and paragraphs, many of which shine brighter when the reader knows something about Uganda. Transitions between the bildungsroman and the national context become more seamless as the novel progresses and, happily, Isegawa avoids just shaping his characters around historical ev ...more
Jamie
Dec 29, 2009 Jamie rated it liked it
A great portrayal of life in Uganda, capturing well the chaos and serenity that wash like waves over the actions of people each day. The book also provides valuable insights into what life was like under Idi Amin's rule. The story however lacked heart, humor, compassion and love. I feel there is much hope and optimism embodied in the Ugandan culture and people and no account can be considered complete without capturing this spirit.
Aprille
Apr 07, 2008 Aprille rated it liked it
Book #23 of 2008. Traces the chaotic life of Mugezi, a guy growing up in Uganda, from the end of colonialism through the reign of Idi Amin and rebel government after rebel government, into the era of AIDS. I was struck by the ways in which the various elements of Ugandan society needed to transform themselves, and how often, in order to survive the latest crisis. Powerful, if a bit dry and dull in spots.
Sally
Jan 07, 2012 Sally rated it liked it
I read books about modern Africa trying to figure out how humans survive lives so filled with losses. Uganda's history is so gruesome that I was halfway through this book before I realized that there was, after all, some humor. Humor and a resilience that I fear has been bred out of America's gene pool.
Isegawa's writing is wonderfully colorful, packed with seemingly effortless similies and metaphors that would have earned A+ from Mrs. Adamson, my high school senior comp. teacher.
Sarah
May 13, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent took a trip through Uganda from the 60's through to the 80's following the story of the narrator Mugezi his coming of age story during the time of Idi Amin's reign and fall.
This book will have you literally laughing out loud well it did with me anyway and then next minute it will move you to tears.
This is Moses Isegawa's first novel and it is very impressive so much so I was sad when it came to the end, I will definitely be reading more from this author.
J. Trott
Oct 13, 2007 J. Trott rated it liked it
This book features a cunning hero who bounces through life with gentle attention to his dick and stomach, and generally a laize faire attitude toward everything else, including his country, Uganda, which is getting ripped apart by Abote and Amin. While he's not super likable to me he taught me a lot about the survivalist values of a Ugandan.
Sonya
Mar 12, 2008 Sonya rated it liked it
I liked this novel, which is set in Uganda during the Amin and Obote years. This is also the time when AIDS came on the scene in Uganda. The story takes a while to get into it and it's pretty long, but I recommend it, especially for those who have spent time in Uganda or have an interest in the country.
Hellen
Nov 09, 2008 Hellen rated it liked it
I'd give 3.5 stars. It was a good book, but a bit too long. It's fiction, but it gave me sense of the corruption of the government and the suffering of the local people during Idi Amin's dictatorship.
SL Wong
Jun 30, 2013 SL Wong rated it it was ok
I read it while I was studying in Uganda. There are so many interesting parts of the story, but it tends to feel as long as it is, often dragging and adding in anecdotes that don't match the progression of the story.
NoBeatenPath
Oct 23, 2016 NoBeatenPath rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-but-unowned
The coming of age story of a man who grew up through the greatest horrors of Ugandan history. At times depressing, but ultimately hopeful, a spectacular debut novel from a talented writer. You are sure to be carried along by Mugezi's story
Kaper
Aug 19, 2009 Kaper rated it it was amazing
the horrors of the Obote regime, then Amin, Obote again, then AIDS - like falling into an abyss where each time the worse seems over, a further abyss opens up underneath. Such is the Uganda in which this remarkable novel is set.
Lois
Aug 10, 2012 Lois rated it liked it
I find myself migrating away from this book to read something a little more compelling. I want to love this book because I was so moved by the people of Uganda. But find myself working harder than I want while reading.
Geert Vissers
Nov 14, 2016 Geert Vissers rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. Breathtaking account of Uganda history. Obote, Amin, and the wars that were fought. But in the end also a nice, almost anthropological sketch of Amsterdam, seen through the eyes of a young guy from Africa.
César Lasso
Em Portugal é bastante habitual ler livros de literatura africana em língua portuguesa (Angola, Moçambique...) mas não é assim tão frequente debruçar-se sobre outras literaturas do Continente Negro. Eis um livro interessante e divertido que retrata o Uganda da segunda metade do século XX.
Fred Rose
Mar 30, 2013 Fred Rose rated it did not like it
Shelves: literature, africa
Couldn't finish this. I read it on a trip to Uganda but it just didn't make sense. The story and characters just didn't hold my interest. I made it halfway and just couldn't work up any interest to finish.
Lauren
Jul 10, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it
Very intense book. Parts of it are spellbinding but others seem to wander or seem out of place. Recommended.
Tiziana
Interessante ma un po' confuso. La storia dell'Uganda non viene fuori come si vorrebbe da un romanzo che ha chiare ambizioni storiche
Rudi
Mar 06, 2013 Rudi rated it it was amazing
wonderful writing.. but the ending sloped off in comparison with the earlier parts of the book.. still a recommendation!
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Moses Isegawa, also known as Sey Wava (born 10 August 1963), is a Ugandan author. He has written novels set against the political turmoil of Uganda, which he left in 1990 for the Netherlands. His debut novel, Abyssinian Chronicles, was first published in Amsterdam in 1998, selling more than 100,000 copies and gaining him widespread national attention. It was also very well reviewed when published ...more
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“Each jubilating hand hand the potential to vivisect, each hailing mouth had the power to condemn someone to death.” 1 likes
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