on January 14, 2016
In brief, you will discover how indifferent mass murderers can be to their crimes seven or eight years afterward, (housed together, inside the safety of their prison, though they have yet to go back to their hills and face their victims and their families and their communities). Their apathy is not surprising, really: they felt no remorse at the time they were cutting and covered in blood.
That being said, there are a few things about this book that just bug me and you should be aware of:
1. I just couldn't help feeling, from beginning to end, that Hatzfeld has written this book to make a quick buck. Not a lot of effort is required to tell of macabre events and monstrous human beings and heads smashed in and limbs cut off and pregnant women disemboweled. This books reads like nothing more than sensationalist journalism. It was written for its shock value. And if course, that sells.
2. For some reason, and obviously not in keeping with the title, Hatzfeld uses quite a bit of space comparing the Rwandan genocide with that perpetrated against the Jews in Nazi Germany (this is the only part of the book that could be remotely considered intellectual, but it's not). Throughout, he gives examples of how the two genocides were similar, but in each case he then goes on to argue that they were not. Questions: if the two genocides were not alike, then why bother to compare them? Why explore the Holocaust in a book about heinous killers in Rwanda? Yes, the massacres took place within, and were part of, a genocide, but this book is about ten gruesome, machete-wielding men and their thoughts before, during, and after . Filler material - that's all I can think of: the book would have been pretty short without it.
3. Useless material above helps expand this volume, yet only one single paragraph (a note) mentions the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda. In it Hatzfeld writes "UNAMIR's intervention (in the crisis) consisted of protecting and evacuating expatriates and its own personnel." He obviously either didn't do his homework on UNAMIR and its mandate and limitations, or has chosen to ignore the facts. UNAMIR tried to provide protection, to the best of its ability, to everyone it could, including Prime Minister Agathe Umwilingiyimana (the ten Belgian soldiers guarding her were slaughtered, as was she). It simply could not answer all the calls for help, but it did shelter some 12,000 Tustsi and Hutu souls from certain death in Amahoro Stadium: they all eventually escaped. True, UN troops helped whites and others to evacuate: those who asked, and those whose governments (American, British, Belgian, etc.) asked. Few Rwandan citizens were helped to leave: that would have started an exodus which UNAMIR could not have handled. And, yes, UN troops also helped their own personnel to leave: as in when the going got so hot that the Belgians withdrew their 450 troops, the Ghanians brought roughly half of their 800 man contingent home, and Bangladesh hastened its 1,100 soldiers away from the carnage. With a remaining mission of about 450 soldiers and no mandate to intervene, UNAMIR became virtually hamstrung.
So, dear reader, read the book if you will. But be warned there's a lot of needless fill in here, and not much effort went into its writing. You will learn about human nature and human monsters, including the kind that write about other peoples' suffering to make a dollar.
on January 14, 2007
It is perhaps unfair to write a review of a book one hasn't finished, but I'm currently stuck on page 102 where Tutsi nurse Valerie Nyirarudodo says, "They (the Swiss nurses taken away by UN forces) left us their advice and their supplies of porridge. But since we had never seen them prepare it, we did not know how to eat it." 95% of the nurses and patients in the hospital were subsequently murdered by machete-wielding Hutus before they starved to death trying to figure out how to cook oatmeal.
Now, either 1) the author made this up.
2) nurse Nyirarudodo made this up and the author believed her.
3) nurse Nyirarudodo and her colleagues and patients had the collective intelligence of a doorknob.
I rule out #3 (though the author apparently doesn't), so I'm stuck with #1 or #2.
So the author is either a liar or a fool.
Theodore Dalrymple (whom I greatly admire) and Susan Sontag (to me a handful of bird gravel) both insist that we read this book. I hate to think it, but Dr. Dalrymple reviews books professionally and it's highly unlikely that he read this one with attention. Sontag, I couldn't care less one way or the other.
Before I got to page 102 I was uneasy with (among other things) the translation. Very odd and choppy, just like the ten dear Hutus we get to know. It can't be all the author's style. Perhaps Doc Dalrymple read the French original? Otherwise I'm sure he would have mentioned the crappy rhythm, even if he'd just skimmed through.
Anyway, if it has never occurred to you that mass murderers eat and sleep and joke and act nice when it's in their interest to do so, then this is the book for you. Otherwise, it's not worth the effort of plowing through this awkward and absurd book.
on March 24, 2006
This account of the killers of Rwanda is simply electrifying. There are no words to describe the horror that was Rwanda, but here 10 perpetrators give their account over 200 pp, testifying to the banality of evil and the mentality of serial killers.
Let me simply the first line of this testimonial:
"During that killing season we rose earlier than usual to eat lots of meat, and we went up to the soccer field at around nine or ten o'clock. The leaders would grumble about latecomers, and we would go off on the attack. Rule number one was to kill. There was no rule number two. It was an organization without complications." (10)
In our day and age, of _CSI_ and _Law and Order_ we are led to believe we understand the psyche of mass murderers. We are used to hear screen killers confess. But that's all fiction.
Here though, is the real thing. Genocide explained, in its starkest, most horrifying terms.
I have never read anything as powerful or as deadly.