In response to my request to share with me their recollections of their father, the renowned writer and journalist Berhanu Zerihun’s children, Tsega, Tensae, and Michael kindly sent me the following snippets.
Our father was a man who kept to himself much of the time. Often quiet, he was more keen to listen than talk. His passion revolved around literature. He enjoyed intellectual discourse and engaged with family and friends when he can. He would treat people in the same way, regardless of age or education. He read a lot, and he would read and write wherever he was; always scribbling notes in random places. When he was writing something, especially his books, he became totally consumed in his storyline and characters.
The most important gift he gave us is the love and respect for books, which he valued highly. He encouraged us to read classics, taking us to see his own, Tsegaye Gebremedihin’s and other plays when in our teens. He even borrowed the books we’d get from friends, teasing us if we brought romantic novels instead of more nurturing or serious readings. When we were older, he sometimes let us read his manuscripts before they went for publishing; a special treat.
We were too young to understand the political and literary fights around him – Addis Zemen, the revolution and prison. We remember our times of laughter, shirshir and music, including Kassa Tessema’s kirar, which was one of his favorites. He had a way of convincing us to do something we did not want to do by gently starting with a phrase “ene anten bihon I would…..”.
We remember him taking his regular walks completely lost in thought and puffing on his pipe oblivious to what is happening around him, but also often able to recall things of significance. We remember his love for water and how he taught us to swim when we were young. We remember the worn out leather patches on the elbows of his sweater. We remember peeking into his bedroom, where there was only a small table lamp for a light. His silhouette was bent over his old green writing desk, marked with of cigarette burns and dents from our relentless games. He would always be there, scribbling away into the late hours of the night….