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Alemseged Tesfai

Alemseged Tesfai lawyer turned freedom fighter, is a prominent historian, essayist, novelist and dramatist. Born in the town of Adi Quala, Eritrea, in 1944, he graduated from Haile Selassie I University (now Addis Ababa University) with an LLB degree in 1969, and attained a Masters degree the from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1972. In1974, Tesfai abandoned his PhD studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to join the fledgling Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. He has written several books and plays and his novel, Wedi Hadera, is based on the experiences of a bandit turned freedom fighter. Two Weeks in the Trenches (Kilte Qne ab Difa’at) is a collection of childhood memories, war diaries and plays which won Eritrea’s highest literary award, the Raimock Prize, in 1997. He has also published two children’s novels. His three-volume work on the history of Eritrea covering the period 1941-1962, is a treatise on the events that led to Eritrea’s 30 year war of independence. Tesfai writes mainly in his native language of Tigrinya, with some works translated into English. His English version of Two Weeks in the Trenches has been published by Red Sea Press (USA) and Hidri Publishers (Eritrea), respectively. He also collaborated in translating his play, The Other War, with a British playwright. The play was staged at the Yorkshire Playhouse Theatre in Leeds in 1997, and was also broadcast as a BBC Play of the Week in 2001. His Tigrinya translation of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s I Will Marry When I Want premiered in Asmara as part of the ‘Against All Odds’ Conference in 2000. At present, Tesfai is finalizing his last volume on Eritrean history and making plans to condense his history books into an English version. He is also working on a collection of short stories in English that he hopes to publish over the next few years. His screen adaptation of Wedi Hadera will feature in Eritrean theatres in two parts.

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