Hdri Publishers is one of the most eminent publishing houses in Eritrea. The names of famous and prominent authors of a variety of genres are commonly seen in publications of Hdri Publisher’. With a resolute reputation Hdri is the publishing house that goes far beyond printing for wealth as it is established on, and works for, valued (national) principles that evolve in providing a great read for all nationals in all languages. We speak to Efrem Habtetsion, board member of the publishing house.
- Thank you for your time. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Efrem Habtetsion, and I am member of the PFDJ Communication and Information Department. When I first was assigned to the department, Shabaia.org and Hdri Magazines were under the management of this department. Therefore, my first job was to work as a journalist, which is what I graduate in from the University of Asmara. Starting from 2006 I have been working as a board member of Hdri Publishers. My task at the publishing house is mainly supervision in the preprinting stage.
- Okay, now let’s take a look at Hdri Publishers. What can you tell us about it?
Hdri publishers was founded in 1995. One of the main objectives of the publishing house was and still is to promote printings in local languages. Beyond that the vision was also to revitalize the habit of writing and reading amongst the Eritrean community as that specific aspect had been damaged due to the long years of war. Moreover, the vision was also clearly to give an equal platform to all nine ethnic languages of the country. Meaning, with Hdri Publishers, the platform that was for long denied to ethnic languages was to be opened again. Some of the ethnic languages’ alphabetic serial for example were formed during the armed struggle for Independence. Therefore, Hdri was going on as a continuation of efforts exerted by the Front to invigorate ethnic languages of Eritrea, both written and spoken. Generally, the publishing house started with foresights of boosting the literature of our country in all languages and all genres, be it prose, poetry, fiction, historical, political, cultural and other writings.
- It is interesting how you raise the point ‘of boasting the habit of reading’. Could you please elaborate further and tell us what activities are carried by Hdri besides publishing books in all languages?
Eritrea underwent many years of occupation before declaring Independence in 1991. Decades of war brought inordinate destruction on all social levels. The culture of reading and writing was one of them. However, the liberation front projected way beyond liberation in terms of overthrowing the occupying force. The front planned for a social revolution whereby equality and freedom of all nationals would uniformly prevail. The front and the people of Eritrea started their journey with golden humanitarian principles that are nourished by the people of Eritrea till today.
Some of the activities that you asked about how to encourage readership and authors to come forward are book fairs. The biggest one is organized annually. Moreover, the books of Hdri Publishers are of fair price when compared to the market outside. This is also be of the paramount approaches Hdri has taken on.
- How do you feel about Hdri Publishers’ preformence in the last twenty three year?
The three main objectives the publishing house envisioned from day one of its establishment were implemented successfully. So far more than a hundred titles of books have been published in the past twenty three years. Its three main objectives included nourishing the culture of reading and likewise boast authors to come forward and put out all sorts of books in all the nine languages of Eritrea and providing equivalent letterpress to all languages and the third intention was to provide local readers with great books at fair price. I am sure there could have been more that the house could have accomplished but; nevertheless, so far great outcomes have been achieved. The publishing house has, of course, bigger and wider plans for the future.
- There are some speculations that Hdri focuses mainly on historical and political books. How relevant is this?
It is far from the truth. People think that since Hdri is operated under the PFDJ it strictly emphasizes its investments on historical and political books but it is not true. Hdri is one of the biggest publishing houses in Eritrea and it welcomes all sorts of genres. Philosophical, fiction, non-fiction, cultural you name it. However, it is true that we are very selective and we take time in revising the manuscripts authors give us before saying yes or no to publish. That is because Hdri looks for perfection or somewhat close to perfection. It is a publishing house that looks far beyond monetary interest. After all, I did mention the house’s main and core principles. If I may, let me mention some examples. ‘Sele and Rosa’ is a big romance book that remained in the hearts of countless readers. Tekie Tesfai’s linguistic and grammar books can be examples too. Sophie’s World Novel by Jostein Gaarder was translated to Tigrigna by Tekie Beyene and printed by Hdri. The list goes on and the genres are equally wide. Therefore, I can say it is a misconception.
- Do you know why Hdri was established under PFDJ?
The visions I stated before were core principles behind the establishment of Hdri Publishers. These were also principles that the front was working on even before Independence, like I said this was a continuation of undertakings which were already on-going though at a small scale. Also, one motivation behind the founding of Hdri was to advocate for the history of the revolution and the accounts of Eritreans. That being said the rest remains still. Hdri is a publishing house that, yes, runs under the PFDJ but is open and welcoming to all sorts of writings and aims to promote readership by providing quality works at affordable prices in all languages of Eritrea.
It is not the only publishing house, but it might differ in its visions. But all of us here at Hdri hope and wish for the rest of the publishing houses to be prodigious and exceed in their publishing work. We also hope for more publishing houses to be founded. That way there is more to read for all nationals.
- What are the plans of Hdri Publishers for the future?
The publishing house is ever ready for more undertakings. In its drive so far the publishing house has served as a mini library of excellent works and projects. The plan is, of course, to do far better. Meanwhile, you can surely await the publication of another wonderful book, a biography of Hamid Idris Awate a pioneer of the Eritrean armed struggle.
- Thank you Efrem.