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The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuściński
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Jun 22, 12

Read in June, 2012

** spoiler alert ** p. 51
Next, he abolished by decree a method that we call lebasha, for the discovery of thieves. Medicine men would give a secret herb to small boys, who dizzy, stupefied, and directed by supernatural forces, would go into a house and point out the thief. The one who had been point out, in accordance with tradition, had his hands and legs cut off.

p. 94
To protect themselves from the plage of informers, people learned - without anyone knowing how or where, or when, without schools, without courses, without records or dictionaries - another language, mastered it, and became so fluent in it that we simple and uneducated folk suddenly became a bilingual nation.
Each of the two languages had a different vocabulary, a different set of meanings, even a different grammar, and yet everyone overcame these difficulties in time and learned to express himself in the proper language. One tongue served for external speech, the other for internal. The first was sweet and the second bitter, the first polished and the second coarse, one allowed to come to the surface and the other kept out of sight.

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Michael Clark don't those excerpts make Ethiopia sound like a savage, barbaric, uncivilized nation? abolishing such alleged traditions would seem like a good improvement accomplished by the Emperor. yet, somehow the author merely emphasizes the apparent hopeless backwardness and ineptness of a struggling monarch.

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