While World War II rages in Europe, John Twelve climbs onto a four-cylinder Indian Motorcycle and Crosses Ethiopia, searching for truth, for beauty, for mystery. At the same time, a modern American girl strolls the streets of Puerto Vallarta, where she is accosted by a film director--actually Ahmed, an Ethiopian murderer. He is making a film, he explains, about a man crossing the Ethiopian desert on a motorcycle. The girl accepts a starring role--and with this embarks on an adventure that takes her beyond the limits of ordinary reality. Her companions on this mystery tour include Sheba, the 3,000-year-old Queen of Ethiopia; Prestor John, the legendary King of Ethiopia; and the Emperor Halle Selassie, the Conquering Lion of Judah. The innocent American girl, now called Dominique, watches the amazement and alarm as the worl reveals and escoteric reality that she never knew existed. In The Ethiopian Exhibition Stuefloten continues his obsessive examination of delusion and violence begun with his first novel, Maya.
"Astride a battered motorcycle, John Twelve crosses the mysterious Ethiopian desert, where at night women become phosphorescent, glowing like the flowers, birds, and animals whose luminescent "sexual organs . . . produce a kind of incense." He encounters Haile Selassie, the Queen of Sheba, Prester John, a rock star named Fang, hookers in Mickey Mouse T-shirts, and a lovely American girl under the sway of Ahmed, the assassin. Or so it seems in this elegant and sensuous but needlessly ambiguous work of magical realism. As it happens, Ahmed is a director making a movie called The Ethiopian Exhibition about "a man who foolishly crosses Ethiopia. On a motorcycle." The others are actors. Maybe. They all make their way to Emperor Selassie's summer palace followed by Nazis, tourists, and children deformed by the local chemical plant to shoot the final scene in which John, played by Fang, throws himself, naked, over the parapet onto the village square. Maybe. Recommended for literary fiction collections." —Ron Antonucci, Hudson Lib. Library Journal Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
On the Ethiopian plains, night falls at six o'clock. It is impossible to say with certainty why is this so. Later we shall discuss this more completely. Examples shall be given. In each case the horizon reddens. Stars appear. The last baboon climbs into his cave. The first hyena emerges from his lair. The diurnal birds--all of them are gray--fall silent. The nocturnal birds begin to sing. These nocturnal birds are brilliantly plumaged, even ornate. Their voices differ from those of the daytime birds. The daytime songs are as harsh as the country side. They can be heard everywhere, even in the cities. The nighttime songs are seldom heard near human habitation. They are oddly melodius. Such songs can rouse unease. There are stories about some of these songs, and their effects on humans, that may be called incredible. Some of these stories will be discussed. This book may be seen as a discussion of these stories. No one alive today, however, can vouch for them. Perhaps no one alive today has seen a nocturnal bird. They are known, nevertheless, to have iridescent feathers. These feathers, howver it is known, are said to be several feet in length. The eyes of these birds are said to be black and expressionless. These birds are capable of gliding soundlessly for miles. These birds are predators. They are most iridescent when hungry. There are tales of glowing birds carrying off children. We believe these stories are true. Infants vanish during the night. In daylight there is wailing. People gnash their teeth.
The bifurication of Ethiopia between day and night is virtually absolute. In truth Ethiopia is two countries. It is rare for anyone--any man, any beast--to know them both.
The Ethiopian Exhibition
The Ethiopian Exhibition