Heart of Fire by Senait Mehar
Translated from German by Christine Lo
Published by Profile, June 2006
A personal memoir telling of one woman’s life experiences. As a child soldier Senait saw the atrocities of war at first hand. The version of events as told in her book is an account of her experiences, rather than an overview of the political situation in Eritrea at that time. Senait’s circumstances were unique in that in fleeing her homeland she is then summoned to Germany and there confronted by a different set of problems, that of a new language and cultural norms.
Born in 1974 to an Ethiopian mother and an Eritrean father, Senait was abandoned by her parents as a baby and spent her early years in a state orphanage before being returned to her father. As the onset of the War of Liberation threatened the family, Senait’s father made the shocking decision to ‘give’ Senait (aged 6) and two of her stepsisters to the guerrilla troops of the ELF (Eritrean Liberation Front). Senait endured years of hunger, sickness and countless beatings, as a child soldier until 1983, when her uncle arranged an adventurous escape to Sudan. The girls lived in Khartoum for four years, but were then summoned to Germany by their father where he was living as an asylum seeker.
Adjusting to life in Germany was difficult – western society was alien and their father greeted his children with violence and abuse. At 14 Senait left home for a life on the streets of Hamburg. Working as a model and a waitress she put herself through school, bought herself a cheap keyboard and began composing music.beatings, as a child soldier until 1983, when her uncle arranged an adventurous escape to Sudan. The girls lived in Khartoum for four years, but were then summoned to Germany by their father where he was living as an asylum seeker.
Now living in Berlin, her music is finally being recognised. Despite all the tortures and cruelties that beset her early beginnings Senait is a woman determined to succeed in life.
Her first passion is music. In 2005 she released her second CD, Mein Weg, with Polydor Germany, to remarkable acclaim. A follow-up album is underway, this time she will sing in her native Tigrinya.
Writers in Translation organized two talks to celebrate the publication of Heart of Fire – In the Goethe Institute and the Stratford Library.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersintranslation/supportedtitles/heartoffire/