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The Shadow King


An unforgettable epic shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, and named a best ...
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Discuss The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste:
How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

Created: 09/16/20

Replies: 15

Posted Sep. 16, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2332

How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

Why does Emperor Haile Selassie flee Ethiopia? How did the sections from his perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?


Posted Sep. 18, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janines

Join Date: 11/21/16

Posts: 17

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I wasn't surprised that Selassie had to flee his country given the Italian's sheer military strength vis-a-vis the Ethiopians rather rudimentary army. The scene where he listens to the aria from Aida before he flees kind of off put me and gave me a sense he was more of a dreamer than a leader but my investigation after reading the book indicated that during his exile he worked countering Italian propaganda so I put aside this thought. I think the author uses those section with Haile Selassie to show that he tried to remain connected to his people and that they drew hope from this.


Posted Sep. 18, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 301

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

It was clear to me that Selassie's army would have preferred him to be present. While he did work for his country while in exile in a certain sense he appeared more concerned with self-protection than with protecting his country and standing behind his supporters. It's unlikely he would have prevailed against greater Italian strength, but I felt he owed his supporters something.


Posted Sep. 19, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lindac

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 15

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I found him very off-putting and felt his exile was an abandonment of his people. Listening to his arias, to me, was a symbol of his disconnect and made him seem unable to deal with reality. Like a captain not abandoning his ship, he failed to be a leader to his people , despite the fact that the Italians were a much stronger force.


Posted Sep. 19, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
carolt

Join Date: 03/25/17

Posts: 61

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I have to agree with lindac.


Posted Sep. 19, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marcia S

Join Date: 02/08/16

Posts: 295

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I thought he was a coward. He didn't care enough about his country to stay when it was being invaded. He escaped through the music he listened too, probably imagining himself as the hero in the arias. He didn't return until he could return a hero. I don't think he would have been such a hero if Minim hadn't portrayed him to the people as if he'd always been there with them. I had no sympathy for Sellassie.


Posted Sep. 21, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
peggya

Join Date: 06/03/15

Posts: 37

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

In later reading about his leaving his country at the start of an invasion, I found out it was vigorously debated by his countrymen. His rationale was only he could present Ethiopia’s case before The League of Nations in Geneva. After the war was over, he had a long and historic rule over his country once again.


Posted Sep. 21, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
phenkat

Join Date: 07/29/11

Posts: 17

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I had to listen to Aida after reading the book. His perspective ( or lack of perspective on the invasion) was inevitable considering Mengiste's first book. Somehow his lack of leadership gave Kidane and other guerrilla groups more agency. Also, so much attention paid to sons and daughters lost. The contrast was structural.


Posted Sep. 22, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ssh

Join Date: 02/04/14

Posts: 16

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

It left me feeling confused about his leadership. I did not feel sympathy for him. I felt distrust and dislike that he seemed to shelter in his own self-centered world.


Posted Sep. 22, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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bookfabulous

Join Date: 08/01/19

Posts: 15

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I found these sections disconnected from the narrative just as the emperor felt disconnected from the magnitude of what was happening around him until it was too late and the only option left was to flee. His return later on must have felt to him like a hollow victory which we sense when he cannot interpret the look that Hirut gives him when she salutes him after he stops the motorcade on his return to the palace from England. It is a fleeting moment but enough to plant the seed of his unworthiness in himself with regards the esteemed position his people hold him in. It is the moment he understands that he is effectively stepping into the shadow of the Shadow King, a man known as Minim (nothing) and it is nothing that he feels he has become.
I think I felt sympathy and anger both for him. He was a man in grief and guilt for the way in which he lost his daughter but also anger at the entitlement he seemed to feel was his due.


Posted Sep. 24, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janeto

Join Date: 06/05/18

Posts: 27

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

After reading the book, I was motivated to learn more about the history of this period and especially the biography of Haile Selassie. In the book I felt sympathy for this man who was ill equipped to lead his country during a time of invasion and world war. He had difficulty separating his personal history and emotions from his role as leader, but I suspect that is often the case. The author gave us an intimate perspective of an interesting and important historical figure.


Posted Sep. 25, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
acstrine

Join Date: 02/06/17

Posts: 247

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I appreciate the information shared by other commenters on the work Selassie did while in London. I am just beginning to look into the history of the invasion and have not begun studying about the Ethiopian leader at the time. I'm not sure knowing about that now will change the opinion of him I had while reading.

It seemed to me that Selassie was beaten before the Italians first moments in the country. He was so focused on the loss of his daughter and the fact that he failed her, he was unable to rally himself to be there for the rest of his country. The constant repetition of the opera was away to disengage from more loss.

The marriage of his daughter was a move to consolidate power, if I remember correctly. He lost his daughter and then his country, leaving him nothing to show for the decision he made. I was angry with him, especially considering the bravery of his people against such a powerful army.


Posted Sep. 30, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
windellh

Join Date: 11/05/17

Posts: 53

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I agree with acstrine. Selassie was defeated before the war began because of his own personal failure and tragedy. I was very disappointed in him as a leader and person of character.


Posted Oct. 02, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ireneh

Join Date: 11/22/19

Posts: 21

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I agree with the respondents who see the Emperor as a weak and self-involved character. Despite the fact that his life contained tragedy, I couldn't muster any sympathy for him due to his efforts to divorce himself from his people, their struggles, and their heroism. Using daydreaming and the opera to soothe himself while his countrymen suffered and struggled made me feel no sympathy for him whatsoever. He did go back to rule Ethiopia. However, he did it as an emperor, not as a duly elected democratic leader seeking good for his people.


Posted Oct. 20, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ashleighp

Join Date: 09/15/20

Posts: 4

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I don’t feel that his actual presence was necessary in a physical sense but from a psychological sense it was of utmost importance to be at the forefront and leading an underdog army and nation in this case. I’m not surprised he fled. It disappointed me as I think at another point in his life he may have not done so but fear and even somewhat aloofness seemed to make it the only reasonable option for him.


Posted Oct. 23, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Peggy H

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 270

RE: How did the sections from Emperor Haile Selassie's perspective influence the narrative? Did you feel sympathy for him, anger, some other emotion?

I agree with all of the above who feel that his actions showed his limited leadership skills. Of course this was a time that others too faced the attempts of other to gain entrance into Africa. It was interesting that he liked Aida. I compared that with some of the sexual scenes.


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