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In April-May 1994, 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis were massacred by their Hutu fellow citizens--about 10,000 a day, mostly being hacked to death by machete. In Machete Season, the veteran foreign correspondent Jean Hatzfeld reports on the results of his interviews with nine of the Hutu killers. They were all friends who came from a single region where they helped to kill 50,000 out of their 59,000 Tutsi neighbors, and all of them are now in prison, some awaiting execution. It is usually presumed that killers will not tell the truth about their brutal actions, but Hatzfeld elicited extraordinary testimony from these men about the genocide they had perpetrated. He rightly sees that their account raises as many questions as it answers.
Adabert, Alphonse, Ignace, and the others (most of them farmers) told Hatzfeld how the work was given to them, what they thought about it, how they did it, and what their responses were to the bloodbath. "Killing is easier than farming," one says. "I got into it, no problem," says another. Each describes what it was like the first time he killed someone, what he felt like when he killed a mother and child, how he reacted when he killed a cordial acquaintance, how 'cutting' a person with a machete differed from 'cutting' a calf or a sugarcane. And they had plenty of time to tell Hatzfeld, too, about whether and why they had reconsidered their motives, their moral responsibility, their guilt, remorse, or indifference to the crimes.
Hatzfeld's meditation on the banal, horrific testimony of the genocidaires and what it means is lucid, humane, and wise: he relates the Rwanda horror to war crimes and to other genocidal episodes in human history. Especially since the Holocaust, it has been conventional to presume that only depraved and monstrous evil incarnate could perpetrate such crimes, but it may be, he suggests, that such actions are within the realm of ordinary human conduct. To read this disturbing, enlightening and very brave book is to consider in a new light the foundation of human morality and ethics.
A powerful report on the aftereffects of the genocide in Rwanda—and on the near impossibility of reconciliation between survivors and killers
In two acclaimed previous works, the noted French journalist Jean Hatzfeld offered a profound, harrowing witness to the unimaginable pain and horror in the mass killings of one group of people by another. Combining his own analysis of the events with interviews from both the Hutu killers who carried out acts of unimaginable depravity and the Tutsi survivors who somehow managed to escape, in one, based mostly on interviews with Tutsi survivors, he explored in unprecedented depth the witnesses' understanding of the psychology of evil and their courage in survival; in the second, he probed further, in talks with a group of Hutu killers about their acts of unimaginable depravity.
Now, in The Antelope's Strategy, he returns to Rwanda seven years later to talk with both the Hutus and Tutsis he'd come to know—some of the killers who had been released from prison or returned from Congolese exile, and the Tutsi escapees who must now tolerate them as neighbors. How are they managing with the process of reconciliation? Do you think in their hearts it is possible? The enormously varied and always surprising answers he gets suggest that the political ramifications of the international community's efforts to insist on resolution after these murderous episodes are incalculable. This is an astonishing exploration of the pain of memory, the nature of stoic hope, and the ineradicability of grief.
In the late 1990s, French author and journalist Jean Hatzfeld made several journeys into the hilly, marshy region of the Bugesera, one of the areas most devastated by the Rwandan genocide of April 1994, where an average of five out of six Tutsis were hacked to death with machete and spear by their Hutu neighbors and militiamen. In the villages of Nyamata and N'tarama, Hatzfeld interviewed fourteen survivors of the genocide, from orphan teenage farmers to the local social worker. For years the survivors had lived in a muteness as enigmatic as the silence of those who survived the Nazi concentration camps. In Life Laid Bare, they speak for those who are no longer alive to speak for themselves; they tell of the deaths of family and friends in the churches and marshes to which they fled, and they attempt to account for the reasons behind the Tutsi extermination. For many of the survivors "life has broken down," while for others, it has "stopped," and still others say that it "absolutely must go on."
These horrific accounts of life at the very edge contrast with Hatzfeld's own sensitive and vivid descriptions of Rwanda's villages and countryside in peacetime. These voices of courage and resilience exemplify the indomitable human spirit, and they remind us of our own moral responsibility to bear witness to these atrocities and to never forget what can come to pass again. Winner of the Prix France Culture and the Prix Pierre Mille, Life Laid Bare allows us, in the author's own words, "to draw as close as we can get to the Rwandan genocide."
... Je me suis mis à crier, très fâché : "Tu n'avais pas pensé que tu pouvais ne pas nous tuer ?" Il répondit : "Non, à force de tuer, on avait oublié de vous considérer."
Maintenant, je pense que ce Hutu ne couvait pas la férocité dans le cœur. On fuyait sans répit au moindre bruit, on fouinait la terre à plat ventre en quête de manioc, on était bouffé de poux, on mourait coupé à la machette comme des chèvres au marché. On ressemblait à des animaux, puisqu'on ne ressemblait plus aux humains qu'on était auparavant, et eux, ils avaient pris l'habitude de nous voir comme des animaux. En vérité, ce sont eux qui étaient devenus des animaux. Ils avaient enlevé l'humanité aux Tutsis pour les tuer plus à l'aise, mais ils étaient devenus pires que des animaux de la brousse, parce qu'ils ne savaient plus pourquoi ils tuaient. Un interahamwe, quand il attrapait une Tutsie enceinte, il commençait par lui percer le ventre à l'aide d'une lame. Même la hyène tachetée n'imagine pas ce genre de vice avec ses canines...
En pleine guerre froide, quatre athlètes s’entraînent pour les Jeux olympiques. Les rivalités entre les Américains, Sue et Randy, et les Soviétiques, Tatyana et Chabdan, sont teintées d’admiration et d’incompréhension réciproques. Des années plus tard, ils se retrouvent et lèvent le voile sur cette époque aussi sombre que lumineuse, qui cabossa ses héros.