He was born in Unřo, a village in Verduria province, in 3219, the third son of an apothecary. His schoolteacher, who was also the local Eleďe priest, recognized his merit and procured him a scholarship at the Nëron Sostén avisar (academy) in Vešdan. This was a great opportunity for a poor provincial boy, but a miserable experience as well: for five years, Ihano lived in a dormitory and imlicrulen, “for the impoverished”. The headmaster believed in hard work, strict discipline, frequent canings, hours of prayer, and the virtues of deprivation (hard beds, thin clothes, rising at five, thin gruel). The boys, for their part, believed in persecuting anyone younger and poorer than themselves. Their nickname for Ihano was Sfica “nail”, since he was short and thin— a contrast to his comfortable portliness years later.
Nonetheless Ihano excelled at his studies. He came in first in the school’s fifth-year examinations; for this he won a stipend for a year’s study at the University of Verduria, starting in 3237. (The university is free; but room and board are not.) After the first year, his money ran out, and he began years of improvisation on the brink of penury. He cadged off his friends; he took odd jobs; he tutored schoolchildren or his dimmer classmates. For a year he worked as a clerk in a brokerage; for two years he was a schoolteacher in Belušati; he was a secretary to a naval officer and catalogued the library of the cont of Vešdan. (Fortunately, the count’s library was in Verduria city rather than on his estate.) When he could, he took classes. It took him six years to finish his suméria in place of the usual three.
He began by studying Caďinor and history, but grew fascinated by Oratory. He used to attend the Mažtan-Kal (City Forum) daily, to hear and study the speakers; he formed a great admiration for its lord, Tomao Ihtüec. He attempted to capture the speeches on paper; this would be an essential resource for his later writings.
The suméria was a ticket into at least the lower middle class; Debere was able to live a little less precariously. He worked as a clerk for several institutions, including the perař (patriarch); he then found steady work teaching at the University’s own avisar. In 3245 he married Taviďa Nërapríša, the widow of a shopkeeper, she was ten years older than him, but had some money, which they used to buy a small house in the Biško. He continued his studies, completing his scrifteca in 3253.
He became a deacon in the local Eleďe church, Oräna, and achieved some reknown with a series of sermons expounding Eleďe doctrine and comparing it to Caďinorian thought, later published as Esce Aď e caďin? (Is God Caďinorian?). Though these are not as erudite as his later works, they already have his characteristic gravity and common sense, leavened with an epigrammatic wit.
Debere was one of the first to see the potential of the new technology of printing for education. He persuaded Ikobo Mirtíy, Verduria’s first printer, to publish a short collection of readings in Caďinor that he could use in his classes at the avisar, perhaps the first textbook printed in Verduria (though not in Avéla). In 3260 Mirtíy published Debere’s book of sermons, and in 3262 Mašromî kallogë (Masters of oratory), a set of brief biographies of master orators in Caďinor and Verdurian.
In 3263 his wife died, and he went to live for two years with a friend from the university, Moseo Tire, now a prosperous merchant with an estate near Pelym. During this time king Tomao died, and Debere conceived of the project of documenting the fall of Utu-On and the rise of the Eleďe dynasty. He began with what was now a unique resource, his years of notes on Tomao’s career in the Kal. He spoke with everyone he knew, and by now his contacts were extensive: University classmates who were now nobles and rich merchants; former Kal speakers who were now members of the Esčambra; the Patriarch and others in the church, which had been a focus of anti-Utu activity.
So lial lebëi tagë (The rise of the new dynasty) was published by Mirtíy in 3270. It had taken seven years to write, and it showed: the book set a new standard for thoroughness and accuracy. Other histories had been based on eyewitnesses as well, but usually just one— the author or the author’s source; Debere had interviewed hundreds of sources. The book was also drily devastating on Tomao’s critics; it carefully considered the claims of the Acorns and other anti-Eleďe factions, and answered them with a barrage of arguments from Verdurian law and Caďinorian tradition. As the novelist Örnom Šmirulo put it, “Before Debere one could oppose the king; afterward, one could only oppose the royalists.” (The Kebreni wars, of course, were another factor in this transition.)
Queen Elena was so pleased with the book that she granted Debere a royal pension. This allowed him to move to the Išira district, to the house on Zöm street which he would stay for the rest of his life.
Debere was no longer a mere scholar; he was a literary figure, a celebrity. He became as famous for his appearances at the soirées of the swells as for his writings. He was most often compared to a bear— a large, portly, rather ugly figure, with a rather ursine temper. He organized a literary salon of his own, meeting weekly at Lazaro’s inn; famously, members were limited to four beers in the evening, and a new member, on his first night, was required to speak entirely in verse.
He published only one other work of history, a study of the Soley dynasty. He published half a dozen books of sermons and essays; the best-known is Cuesî and sen (Questions to myself), essays on literary, philosophical, and theological topics. He wrote one short novel, Soa sazë malsfaoma (The barbarian prince), the story of a mythical prince who travels the world in search of the secret of happiness (which turns out to be a quiet, hard-working life at home).
He died in 3297, and for a generation he was widely considered the greatest of Verdurian writers. On the hundredth anniversary of his birth (that is, 3319), Zöm street was renamed Debere street, in his honor. His fame was cemented by So elir Šm Ihanei Deberei (the Life of Dr. Ihano Debere), published in 3307 by Eleďne Margiteya, one of the members of his salon. She applied Debere’s methods to her biography, speaking to as many friends of his as possible and gathering anecdotes and table talk, but relied heaviest on her own journal; as a result two thirds of the book is devoted to Debere’s last twenty years, the period in which she knew him.
Debere retains his reputation, but not so much his readership. His histories are usually read in excerpts: few readers today are really interested in a 30-page smackdown of the claims of the Duke of Pelym to the Verdurian sash. His essays are a little more popular, especially among Eleďi; his novel is considered unreadable. More readers probably come to know him through Margiteya’s chatty biography than through his own works.
For Verdurian literature as a whole, he is perhaps most important as an early adopter. He was not only a Verdurian essayist; he was the first Verdurian essayist. Before the invention of printing, such a form of prose was hardly possible: highly personal or topical essays were not likely to be hand-copied. And like many a modal pioneer, he did not fully adapt to the new medium. By his last years, newspapers and journals were already appearing, but he didn't see the point. Some of his essays were published as pamphlets, or as single chapters, but none appeared in any collective work; and his tone never approached the colloquial simplicity of the journalist. Even his barbarian prince talks like a measured student of philosophy.
“Cipanei so mey; iyotra sen danei caua.”
- “Make sure the water boils— or else give me coffee.”
“Řo ulase desisir soa imaltena dalui ab nomán Caďinátei. Desisir soa imaltena e desisir so žen, soa Esčambra, so amrab verdúrim er caďin. Ke akloge dy Tomao e dalu, dalu lië e Utu.”
- “It is not possible to oppose the accession of the king in the name of Caďinorian tradition. To oppose the accession is to deny the people, Parliament, Verdurian and Caďinorian law. Who denies that Tomao is king, his king is Utu.”
“Prokio soî Soleî? Prokena nikto řo crive eta ca; ozë ivro esë esme so visanäm.”
- “Why the Soley dynasty? Because no one writes about them; therefore my book will be the standard.”