Legendary Ethiopian author Sebhat Gebregziabher passed away on Monday Feb. 20, 2012 at the age of 84. According to close friends, he died of throat cancer.
Sebhat was known for his short stories, novels and various articles. He was exceptional in presenting mythologies and philosophical thoughts in simple Amharic. Most importantly Sebhat was known for his deviating novels and sexually explicit languages which made publishing of his works difficult. But they were widely read when fans distributed the type written copies of the works. He used words that were taboo. He defended his usage of the languages by saying there is nothing out of the ordinary. That is what is happening in every day life.
Sebhat was born in the northern Ethiopian town of Adwa. He pursued his education in his home town and in Addis Ababa. He joined the then Haile Selassie I (Now Addis Ababa) University where he graduated in Education in 1960. He also pursued his education in the U.S. and France. His sojourn in France had a huge impact on his personal life and works.
During the Emperor era, Sebhat worked in Addis Reporter and Menen . During the Dergue, he was an editor for a monthly magazine called Kum Neger which was launched by Debebe Eshetu. Sebhat then joined the state owned Kuraz Publishing Agency as an editor and contributed to the Amharic monthly Yekatit. Sebhat also worked for Addis Zemen, Addis Admas and the Ethiopian Herlad. He has also written to a number of newspapers and magazines up until he was admitted to hospital about a month ago. He also had a role in a recently released local movie called Mefenkle Setoch.
Amst Sedist Sebat…, Sebategnaw Melak, Tekusat, Egre Menged, a collection of his articles in Addis Zemen in two volumes, are some of his published works. Letum Aynegalegn was translated into French jointly by him and Francis Falceto as Les Nuits D’Addis Abeba.
His biography, Mastawesha , was written in 2004 by fellow journalist and friend Zenebe Wolla. The book was so popular that it was reprinted a number of times. Derasiw (The Author), a novel written by the late Bealu Girma in the early 80s, is the portrayal of Sebhat’s own life. He is said to have consented to be the main character of the novel.
In the early 1970s Sebhat was married to Hanna Yilma , herself daughter of a top official of the imperial era. The collapse of that marriage changed his life dramatically. Ever since, he has been in romantic relationship with several women some of whom much younger than him.
Sebhat is survived by three daughters and two sons.
His brother Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher is one of Africa’s leading environmental advocate. His other brother is a well known lawyer.
He was laid to rest in the Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa today.