The survivors speak (Rwanda 3)

(To continue the series on Jean Hatzfeld’s books on the Rwandan genocide.)

Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak has a sadder, more intimate feel about it than Machete Season (see previous post). One reason may be that author Jean Hatzfeld presents each person’s story, of the 14 people he interviewed in the Nyamata district of Rwanda, as a separate whole rather than grouping their various responses topically. He introduces them, places them with lovely description in the setting he found them at the time. A full-page photograph is included with each. (Twelve-year-old school boy Cassius also appears on the cover.)

This is not to say that the book doesn’t occupy the harrowing world of the genocide as do the killers’ accounts. The four men and 10 women speak — with sorrow, bitterness, or confusion — of seeing family members or children hacked to death, of lying in the mud of the Bugesera papyrus swamps while trying to escape notice, of hearing the killers coming for the day’s “hunt”– “announcing themselves with whistles and songs.” Continue reading

The killers speak (Rwanda 2)

(Second in a series on Jean Hatzfeld’s book on the Rwandan genocide.)

Back in 1994, between April 11 and May 14, more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were hacked to death in Rwanda. They were killed in their own communities, by their Hutu neighbours.

In his three books on Rwanda (so far), Jean Hatzfeld, a French international journalist who has also written on the war in Croatia and Bosnia, focuses his attention on the Nyamata district of Rwanda, where some 50,000 Tutsis out of a population of 59,000 Tutsis (5 out of 6) were killed. In his first, (Life Laid Bare), Hatzfeld presents narratives by survivors. In his second, Machete Season: The Killers Speak, he listens to the killers. 

Machete Season, which I read first of the three, is a harrowing book. Continue reading