I had imagined arriving in Addis Ababa to the thumping soundtrack of Dennis Brown’s “The Promised Land” or Third World’s “Journey to Addis,” full, in other words, of the rhythms of an enchanted expectation. I am a Jamaican of a certain generation, after all, and Ethiopia was more than a geopolitical entity, less the name of a political state than of a state of mind. But it didn’t happen that way, alas. I was so absorbed in the last part of Maaza Mengiste’s debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, that, as I read, all my Jamaican enthusiasm for the imaginary of Ethiopia as the ancient, storied kingdom of His Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, steadily evaporated.1 Somehow the posture of pilgrimage now seemed wholly inappropriate, an irrelevant conceit. I set aside...

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