From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

Narrating the Italo-Ethiopian War in Gabriella Ghermandi’s Regina di fiori e di perle (2007) and Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King (2019)

Brandon Breen


This essay analyzes fictional retellings of the 1935-36 Italo-Ethiopian War and the subsequent Italian occupation of Ethiopia by the Ethiopian Italian writer Gabriella Ghermandi and the Ethiopian American writer Maaza Mengiste. Ghermandi’s 2007 novel Regina di fiori e di perle and Mengiste’s 2019 novel The Shadow King both center on the agency of women soldiers during the colonial war and attempt to revise international views of a history that is often ignored or seen through a male and European gaze. I aim to read Mengiste’s novel alongside Ghermandi’s, focusing mainly on the theme of violence and the representation of women, in order to show how each author dialogues with the same traumatic past in her peculiar voice and style. Furthermore, this study attempts to discuss whether the common themes and subject matter of these novels contribute to the making of a diasporic Ethiopian literature.


postcolonial studies, gender roles, agency, violence, Ethiopia, Italy



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