Waugh in Abyssinia Again

Evelyn Waugh is quoted prominently in an article appearing on an Ethiopian news website called ethioexplorer.com. The quote is in the original English although the text of the article is in Amharic:

“Abyssinia could not claim recognition on equal terms by the civilized nations and at the same time maintain her barbarous isolation; she must put her natural resources at the disposal of the world; since she was obviously unable to develop them herself, it must be done for her, to their mutual benefit, by a more advanced Power. “Evelyn Waugh, Waugh Abroad: Collected Travel Writing/ Evelyn Waugh (New York: Everyman’s Library)

This quote originally appeared in Waugh’s 1936 book Waugh in Abyssinia, p. 40. It comes from the first chapter entitled “The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to the Ethiopian Question.”

The quality of the translation by Google of the Amharic text is not particularly good, although it appears that the article is about the humiliations suffered during the conquests of Ethiopia and other African countries by European empires. Waugh’s quote is obviously cited as presenting the case in favor of colonization. The article’s message is perhaps best summarized in its concluding paragraph, which is more coherently translated than the others:

The Battle of Adwa is not just a celebration of the independence and sovereignty of Ethiopia. Obviously, the victory of Adwa is a pioneer in the struggle for equality and freedom for Africans. It is a symbol of equality and freedom for all black people in the world, not just in Africa. The victory of Adwa is a symbol of victory and perseverance not only to black people but also throughout the world and throughout history.

Adwa (referred to by Waugh as Adowa) was the 1896 battle in which the Italian effort to annex Abyssinia to their African possessions was defeated. Waugh described the battle (p. 20) as “decisive but far from ignominious.”

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