The Strategy Of Antelopes: Rwanda After the Genocide by Jean Hatzfeld
|The Strategy Of Antelopes: Rwanda After the Genocide by Jean Hatzfeld|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Returning to Rwanda several years after his first books about the genocide were published, Hatzfeld looks at how the country is trying to repair itself. It's heartbreaking, personal, and an incredibly valuable testimony.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: March 2009|
|Publisher: Serpent's Tail|
Life offers me smiles, and I owe it my gratitude for not having abandoned me in the marshes.
I've known the defilement of a bestial existence.
Who's going to say that word, forgiveness? It's outside of human nature.
So say some of the survivors of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when 800,000 Tutsis were murdered by their fellow Hutu citizens. Jean Hatzfeld talked to both Tutsis and Hutus then, publishing two award-winning books. In The Strategy of Antelopes, he returns to Rwanda to talk to the same people and explore life after genocide.
As you can imagine, it's no easier a read. Is reconciliation possible? How can the surviving Tutsis ever fully accept Hutus as their neighbours? How can Hutus rebuild lives and moral compasses if they are forever expected to atone for their terrible deeds? Can communal happiness and fulfilment be coerced by a South African-style truth and reconciliation process? How would you feel if you were asked to pass the man who murdered your close relatives in the street every day? How would you feel if your father were that murderer?
Life is almost impossible, of course. But the sad truth for Rwanda is that it is poor. The land must be cultivated. People must be productive. Social structures must be rebuilt. Rwanda can't keep tens of thousands of men incarcerated, no matter what they have done. And so both sides must live as neighbours, aided, it is hoped, by a system of community courts - gacaca - which mimic the South African model. Much Western aid is linked to the success of this system.
So, how do Rwandans manage? There are as many answers to that question as there are Rwandans, and the beauty of The Strategy of Antelopes is that Hatzfeld sees this and allows each of his interviewees to present his or her own answer, in his or her own time. This book, like its predecessors, is awash with compassion, a clear-sighted lack of judgmentalism, and an obvious humanity. What comes through incredibly clearly is how wise these people are. They understand completely that what happened is so far outside the natural course of things that it can never be mended, but they also understand completely that life does, and must, go on.
It's harrowing, engrossing, and powerful, this book, and you owe it to Rwanda to read it.
My thanks to the good people at Serpent's Tail for sending the book.
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