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Crossing Ethiopia, published 2013

Crossing Ethiopia Front Cover

"An engaging account of memorable travels in Ethiopia" - Kirkus Reviews

Read about this book in the March-April, 2014 issue of University of Chicago Magazine

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From the inside flap

More than forty years ago, John Snyder, author, photographer and aspiring movie maker, with his wife and two other adventurers set off across 275 miles of remote Ethiopia to retrace the route taken by Emperor Tewodros to confront the British Army in 1868.

They traveled by foot, camel and battered Land Rover. The author recorded the expedition with stunning black & white photographs taken with his large-frame camera. The photographs depict a landscape and a people hardly changed from the time of Emperor Tewodros.

Tewodros, emperor of Ethiopia 1855-1868, had the audacity to imprison 68 white men, including various missionaries and the British consul.

His refusal to release the hostages provoked Victorian England to send in an army of 54,000, an overwhelming response by the great colonial power affronted by a remote African country. It was this dramatic event, and the climactic battle of Magdala, that John Snyder recounts in the preface to these remarkable images of a time that has now gone by.

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Praise for Crossing Ethiopia

"Snyder's journey and the beautiful photographs capture an Ethiopia that is largely unchanged from the 1860's. He also illuminates one of the most fascinating and little known conflicts in history: when Emperor Tewodros, feeling slighted by Queen Victoria, took British hostages. He provoked the arrival of a British Army force of 60,000 troops in the port of Massawa. Snyder's journey retraces Emperor Tewodros's retreat to the fortress of Magdala and the fateful battle at journey's end. A great story."

Abraham Verghese,
author of Cutting For Stone.

"Crossing Ethiopia is a splendid collection of black and white photographs taken by the author in 1972 while researching a screenplay on Emperor Tewodros and his confrontation with England in 1868. Snyder's pictures document the people of northern Ethiopia...women, children, elders, and clergymen. There are images of the country's architectural heritage...the obelisks of Axum, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, and the castles of Gondar. Breathtaking photographs reveal mountains, cliffs, and ravines that the author's party had to negotiate en route to Magdala. Snyder briefly mentions what we hope will one day follow: a screenplay for which Crossing Ethiopia is the overture. Even so, he has offered precious pictorial insights and students of Ethiopian history are greatly indebted to him for this remarkable book."

Tekalign Gedamu,
author of Republicans on the Throne, a Personal Account of Ethiopian Modernization and Painful Quest for Democracy

"John Snyder has produced a riveting account of his long-ago journey to the remotest corners of Ethiopia, regions so distant that, in the words of an official of the country's airline, "No one ever goes there." But the undaunted Snyder went anyway, and returned with a stunning portfolio of photographs that bring back one of the most tragic episodes in the history of the British Empire. This blend of travel writing, historical narrative, and engaging autobiography is a joy to read."

James Atlas,
author of Bellow, a Biography, and a memoir, My Life in the Middle Ages


Roy Blount Jr. ,
humorist and author of 26 books including Alphabetter Juice, Be Sweet, Crackers, and a biography, Robert E. Lee

"In his new book, John Snyder has chronicled his amazing journey that depicts the stunning beauty and remarkable people of my native Ethiopia."

Marcus Samuelsson,
award-winning chef and author

"John Snyder here tells two completely gripping tales: one about Ethiopia's brilliant (and mad) 19th century Emperor Tewodros II, who radically reformed his country and then took on the British army - the other about Snyder's own (and slightly mad) intrepid expedition a little over 100 years later, tracking Tewodros's fatal journey. Maps, engravings, and Snyder's stunning photographs of Ethiopia's people and 1972 landscapes bring these stories to vibrant life."

Jean Strouse,
author of Alice James, a Biography, and Morgan, American Financier

"We know John Snyder the inspired autobiographer

And ingenious sculptor

Here's a third John Snyder

As magnificent photographer

And chronicler of an unknown land and its legendary Emperor - Ethiopia's Tewodros II"

Colin Eisler,
Robert Lehman Professor of Fine Arts, NYU Institute of Fine Arts

"In 1972, John Snyder embarked on a challenging trek through northern Ethiopia to research a movie script. His photographs, reproduced in this volume, capture the nature of the countryside at that time, just two years before Emperor Haile Sellassie was toppled from power by a Marxist coup d'état that ravaged the nation for nearly two decades. Snyder's photographic record is thus as historically valuable as it is beautiful, sure to delight all with an interest in this ancient civilization."

Dr. Timothy D. Carmichael,
History Department, College of Charleston and Fulbright Scholar, Addis Ababa University
(1994-1995; 2004-2005)

"Crossing Ethiopia is at the same time an excellently-rendered and dramatic chapter out of African history, a rivetingly-told personal adventure story, and a collection of unforgettable photographs. The overall effect of the book is nothing short of mesmerizing."

Charles Gaines,
author of Stay Hungry, Pumping Iron, A Family Place, and The Next Valley Over

"In Crossing Ethiopia, an extraordinary compilation of photographs and text, the multi-talented John Snyder (author of Hill of Beans) mesmerizes the viewer and reader with an exceptional record of a 1972 trip he made to this remote African country in order to retrace the route taken by Ethiopia's legendary nineteenth-century Emperor Tewodros in a final confrontation with an overwhelming British army in 1868. No one who cares about history (and especially that of a major era of colonial expansion and use of power) or who longs for great adventure or a fascinating dialogue between romance and reality, high drama and hard fact, beauty and devastation, will want to miss this unusual journey to Africa, this unique story within a story. It is visually stunning, verbally concise and candid, revealing on all counts."

Thomas L. Johnson,
retired Librarian Emeritus of the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina, and co-editor of Camera Man's Journey, Julian Dimock's South, and of A True Likeness, The Black South of Richard Samuel Roberts: 1920-1936.

"Traversing the oldest location of human life, whence homo sapiens embarked for wider horizons, John Snyder in Crossing Ethiopia pursues with relentless energy, insatiable curiosity, and pellucid expressiveness his own and a fated imperial ANABASIS of longing, destiny, and ultimately, self."

David M. Darst ,
CFA, Managing Director and Chief Investment Strategist, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, and author of 10 books on investing, plus his latest work, Voyager 3, containing his creative writing.