Due to the linguistic plurality of the country, it is very difficult to define the literature of Eritrea. It is in fact a multi-ethnic society in which there are nine indigenous languages, each with its own oral literary tradition and some even written. English is also widespread, used for teaching in schools; l ‘ Amharic, which is spoken and understood by many people, and Italian, which is occasionally used, especially by the older generation. Eritrean literature properly means oral and written literary production in the Tigrinya language, the main literary language of the region. The Tigrinya, one of the three Semitic languages spoken in the country along with the tiger is to ‘ Arab, is the mother tongue of over half of the population of Eritrea and over three million residents in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and in other areas of northern Ethiopia. As for the literary production in Tigrinya preceding the century. XX, this is closely related to the history of the Ge’ez language. Poetry occupies a central position in oral literature in Tigrinya. It is generally divided into three genres: masses, melkes and dog’a. Masse poetry is recited by massenya, highly respected poets, on important social occasions such as the commemoration of local leaders or important national figures. When recited at wedding ceremonies, such poems are intended for entertainment, while commemorative poems have a more serious tone. These are essentially panegyrics intended to exalt the main guest, with references also to other family members and ancestors or, in moments of important social and political changes, to the entire cultural and political discourse. As for the style, the main characteristics are rhyme, alliteration, repetition and parallelisms; formal attributes, these, also shared by the genre melkes, recited exclusively on the occasion of funerals. Poetry for the dead is also that of the dog’a genre, with the difference that this is recited after a certain time after death. As for literary production written in Tigrinya, the first writer to mention is Fisseha Giyorgis, author of a short autobiographical travel story.
According to allunitconverters, the work was written in Italy and published in Rome in 1895 with the subtitle News of the journey of an Ethiopian from Ethiopia to Italy. Despite its small size (16 pages), it is among the best prose works in Tigrinya. The author not only offers a vivid description of his voyage from the port of Massawa to Naples, but also successfully manages to provide a clear historical view of life in Italy and Ethiopia against the backdrop of Italian colonialism in Eritrea. His contemporary was Ghebre Medhin Dighnel, who published a collection of forty short stories in Rome with the title Apologhi ed Aneddoti (1902). During the two wars, literary production in Tigrinya stagnated. Between 1942 and 1952 we witness the birth of an important newspaper, Eritrean Weekly News, under the leadership of the indefatigable political figure of Weldeab Weldemariam (1905-55). The newspaper offers the necessary space for Tigrin scholars to publish poems and (popular) stories, together with plays and above all essays. Among the greatest writers of the time are: Abba Tiquabo Abay, Abraha Tessema, Oghit Bairu, Gherezgiher Tekka, Fissehazion Haile, Abba Yacob Ghebreyesus and the talented essayists Zeral Seqwar, Girmu Zeberaki, Redda Mengesha, Tesfazion Deres and Geldubremeskel. From the 1950s, he began experimenting with the novel. Since then, more than 100 novels and short stories have been published in Eritrea and the diaspora.
The themes dealt with by Tigrinya novelists range from socio-political and cultural issues to purely artistic content. Abidu doo Tibliwa? (1964; Would you say he’s gone mad?), Perfectly exemplifies the literary current “Art for Art” in Tigrinya literature. There are many writers who have used the novel to deal with cultural and / or socio-political issues. Among the best known are: Ghebreyesus Hailu, author of a brilliant autobiography; Lijam Yishak, novelist; Mussa Aron, novelist and translator of Robinson Crusoe; Berhe Araya, author of comic novels; Teklai Zewoldi, short story writer; Asres Tessema, novelist; the writer Abeba Tesfaghiorghis; Abba Isaak Ghebreyesus, writer and critic; Isaac Yosief, novelist; Assefaw Tekesle, novelist; Ghebretensae Hagos, novelist. And again the exponents of Tigrinya literature produced abroad: the writers Guurnish Yishak and Mirnya Zeggay, Zeggay Negash and Haile Bokure, writers and critics. During the Thirty Years of War for Independence (1962-91) many works in poetry and prose were composed in Tigrinya by freedom fighters. In particular, Alemseghed Tesfai’s play, Eti Hade Kwinat (1987; The other war), represents a masterpiece in the history of Tigrinya theater. Mezmur Tegadalay (1992; Canti di un fighter), the first ever published anthology of poems in Tigrinya edited by Ghirmai Ghebremeskel, contains several compositions born from the experience of war. In 1987 the writer Solomon Dirar made a name for himself with the novel Mekete (The Challenge). In 2007 an anthological collection entitled Who needs a story? (Who needs a story?), Where 22 Eritrean poets have collected some of their poems written in Tigrinya, Tigrinya or Arabic and translated into English. Among the most important voices in the collection are the aforementioned Solomon Dirar, the poet Reesom Haile and the intellectual M. Osman Kajera.