Biography of Alemayehu Gelagay | Early Life, Books, and LifeStyle

Biography of Alemayehu Gelagay

October 17, 2022

Biography of Alemayehu Gelagay

Alemayehu Gelagay is a prominent Ethiopian, novelist, critic, and author whose books are popular and well-liked by his countrymen. The talented writer has got his name listed along with the all-time best writers in Ethiopia. Alemayehu’s literary style as a modern Ethiopian novelist reveals the degree to which he seeks to offer his countrymen a unique taste in his works. The celebrated writer, who has dominated contemporary Ethiopian literature, is an excellent model for many young writers.

Alemayehu’s novels are more and more appreciated for their captivating portrayals of Ethiopian life and the subtle but persistent social critique that runs through them. In particular, Alemayehu, who understands the challenges faced by low-profile people in his country, uses his hand and pen to write social and political novels.


Alemayehu Gelagay wearing a scarf and hat

Alemayehu was born in 1967 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The author was raised in Basha Wolde, a crowded area located around Arat Kilo, Addis Ababa. Because a place where everybody lives the same difficult life, he often tries to be a voice for the least visible members of society. Since he has passed through the same difficult life, Alemayehu in his books shows with great precision the smaller details of everyday life in his native Ethiopia.

Alemayehu had worked as a journalist for print media before switching to writing. He praised the decision he had made to become a writer. Alemayehu once remarked in an interview that he used to learn literary advice from his more experienced contemporaries. More importantly, he was inspired to become a writer by the well-known Ethiopian author Sebhat Gebre-Egziabher. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the novelist’s lifestyle had a strong influence on his life. That is why Alemayehu’s lifestyle echoes that of his elder counterpart, the late Sebhat Gebre-Egziabher. Still, it is considered that Sebhat remains a model for Alemayehu. Moreover, it was the love for Sebhat Gebre-Egziabher that made his debut work the biography of Sebhat.


Alemayehu Gelagay is never limited by the traditional Ethiopian literary style. He writes in a style that is thoroughly modern yet sensitive to traditional culture. The writer uses his unique literary style to represent sophisticated Ethiopian social and political issues, giving an unusual view on some typically regarded topics. It is considered that his writing style came from his background, culture, and personal experiences. One of the things that distinguish his writing style from other authors is his usage of local slang words or the language of the current generation.

When reading his novels, it becomes clear how he adheres to a similar set of fundamental themes in the majority of his books. The themes in his novels and short stories are portrayed in different forms. While some regard Alemayehu’s works as experimental novels, others see techniques of magic realism in his books. In some of his books, he blends realistic (setting) historical facts and stories with fantastic episodes. For instance, in one of his books, Qibella, he created metafiction characters. Furthermore, people are also perplexed by the methods Alemayehu employed when tailoring some of his works, such as Werrisa.

Werisa (ወሪሳ) | Free Amharic Book PDF  & Review


As an author, Alemayehu Gelagay had a humble beginning. He did not rise to prominence with just the release of his first book, which was a biography of Sebhat Gebre-Egziabher. It has even taken nine years for this book to gain recognition and popularity. Although there were times when he worried about selling his book, he is one of the best sellers among Ethiopian authors. Among his books, “Werisa” is considered one of the most respected works of modern Ethiopian literature. This book, along with its comic content, examines the living conditions in the city’s most underprivileged area. Alemayehu had also written other numerous books for Ethiopian literature, but he never felt that he had reached the full potential that God had given him.

Book cover of Werisa

In contemporary Ethiopian literature, Alemayehu Gelagay had already earned a solid reputation. Along with the unparalleled love he has earned from his fans, Alemayehu has received much-deserved recognition for his work. Numerous publications, including “Nation,” “Addis Admas,” “Fitih,” “Addis Times,” “Fact,” private newspapers, and numerous magazines, have featured his work. Moreover, several filmmakers are attempting to make his books like Yebirhan Feleg, Atbiya, and Werrisa into movies.

Alemayehu Gelagay has so far authored many books including:

  • ” Ye’ Filsifena Atsinaf” (የፍልስፍና አፅናፍ”,
  • Atebia” (አጥቢያ),
  • “Be’ Fiqir Sim” (በፍቅር ስም-Burlesque Literature),
  • “Ehadegen Ekesalehu” (ኢህአዴግን እከሳለሁ),
  • “Hasetegnaw- B’eminet Sim” (ሐሰተኛው በእምነት ስም).
  • “Kurbit” (ኩርቢት),
  • “Melkea Sibhat” (መልክአ ስብሐት),
  • “Qibela (ቅበላ-Metafiction),
  • “Sibehàt Gebre-Egziabher and Kihlot” (ስብሐት ገብረ-እግዚአብሔርና ክኅሎት),
  • “Tale Be Ewunet Sim” (ታለ በእውነት ስም)
  • Werissa” (ወሪሳ-Magic Realism),
  • “Wulbetta” (ውልብታ),
  • “Ye’ Berhan Felegoch”, (የብርሃን ፈለጎች),
  • Others


Alemayehu Gelagay led a simple lifestyle that imitated his elder counterpart, Sibhat. Alemayehu lives in an old house located around Kazanchis. During his interview on Arts TV, he even admitted that his roof leaks, but said it doesn’t bother him. He never cares whether his room is renewed as long as it is enough for writing. He even left his room and his space without proper cleaning until his neighbor noticed and came to clean his room. In his house, all he cares about is the variety of books that he owns. Alemayehu also described himself as a less extravagant and contented person.

Many wonder how such a great writer with many best-selling books could lead such a simple life. But the thing is, Alemayehu did not become a writer so that he could be part of the money-making and materialistic world, but for the pure love of writing and expression of his inner self.

Considering his moral character, Alemayehu deserves to be lauded for having excellent communication skills. He speaks rightly and exactly to the point. His pity and compassion for marginalized and low-profile groups serve as an exemplar of the writer’s attitude.

Written by Sophonias Woldu

Sophonias Woldu is an Ethiopian author with an outstanding skill for crafting unique and captivating articles that explore different aspects of life. He had an inquisitive mind from a young age and was always fascinated by the power of language and words. He writes articles about philosophy, theology, his native Ethiopia, and basically anything and everything else. Before embarking on a writing career, he had already begun a successful career in the electromechanical engineering field, having earned his degree from Addis Ababa Science and Technology University. In addition to being a prolific writer, Sophonias is also a public speaker and tech enthusiast who believes in harnessing technology to improve the lives of Ethiopians. Currently, Sophonias writes articles for on a part-time basis.

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