Gold Gato, October 9, 2012 (view all comments by Gold Gato)
"God no longer wants you." So spoke a local pastor, a man of religion, as he ordered the massacre of 2,000 of his Tutsi neighbours and friends. The mass killings that took place in Rwanda in 1994 stand as the most hideous since Hitler and Stalin, yet they were aided by the French government, who supported the maniacal Hutu Power government. This book tears apart the excuses given by the Western powers as to why they didn't interfere, why they just let more than 800,000 Tutsis be obliterated without lifting one finger.
Gourevitch brings passion to his words and outlines the history of not only Rwanda, but of its ties to Uganda, what-was-then-Zaire, Burundi, and other African countries. In Rwanda, a Tutsi was called an inyenzi, a cockroach. So when the government called on its Hutu citizens to cleanse the land, they immediately took their machetes and went to work. How could so many humans kill so many others? The book strips down the national ethos of Rwanda, showing an ingrain mob mentality often referred to as 'community'.
"I cry, you cry. You cry, I cry. We all come running, and the one that stays quiet, the one that stays home, must explain. This is simple. This is normal. This is community."
When the rebel Tutsi group started taking control, the Hutu murderers fled across the borders to camps...funded by the great Western powers. The money was spent, because it had to be spent, and Hutus not only lived well, but were then allowed to return to their original homes, while their maimed Tutsi neighbours squatted in burned-out villages.
"Do you know what genocide is? A cheese sandwich. Write it down. Genocide is a cheese sandwich. Genocide, genocide, genocide. Cheese sandwich, cheese sandwich, cheese sandwich. Who gives a shit?"
We always look at the Holocaust, and the Great Purge, and we say to ourselves, ah well, that would never happen where I live. While this book is about Rwanda, it is really more about the internal compass inside every human being which points us to being part of the mob, to not stand out. Maybe the zombies have already arrived, and they are us.
"Beware of those who speak of the spiral of history; they are preparing a boomerang. Keep a steel helmet handy." (Ralph Ellison)
Book Season = Year Round
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JLH3179, July 6, 2010 (view all comments by JLH3179)
This is a superb book telling about the heartbreaking genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s. It is a comprehensive history on the events that went largely ignored by the press and other nations until they gained too much momentum to stop. It is thought-provoking about what obligations humanity have to one another. It is a powerful and painful book, but it is a rewarding read.
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Lonesome Gods, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by Lonesome Gods)
This is the best and most important book I have read in years. I should have been aware of what was going on in Rwanda when the genocide was taking place (I was certainly of age), but it took reading "We Wish to Inform..." many years later to open my eyes. Philip Gourevitch tells about what happened in Rwanda with clarity and he paints a vivid picture. This book showed me a part of the world that I rarely thought of and it changed how I look at the planet and man's inhumanity to man. I recommend this book most highly and wish all would read it.
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jk123, June 7, 2006 (view all comments by jk123)
This is an important book. For readers who want to get behind the mind-numbing facts and figures of the tragedy in Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch puts a human face on the events. It is clearly written, with a straightforward style that is easy to follow. Be cautioned, though, this is horrifying material.
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We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda
Used Trade Paper
0 stars -
Picador USA -
"I urge everyone to read this book. The cover shows a picture of serenity, a scene from the beach of Lake Kivu in Rwanda. The landscape is devoid of human beings and an empty chair sits on the sand. The title in red stands out starkly from this backdrop. The juxtaposition of beauty and brutality is a perfect introduction to this volume. As Robert Stone says, 'Like the greatest war reporters, he [Gourevitch] raises the human banner in hell's mouth, the insignia of common sense, of quiet moral authority, of blessed humor.' The message from this book is amazingly hopeful. Having a rough day? Read this book and be reminded of the worst and best that humans do to each other."
I just finished rereading We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families because after reading Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning I thought that the atrocities committed in Rwanda might make more sense to me. There are eerie similarities between a group of middle-aged Nazi inductees and the masses of machete wielding Hutus who committed atrocities in the name of Hutu Power. In a sense both books are simultaneously hopeful and grim. Both prove Hannah Arendt's notion of the banality of evil or my friend Andrew's favorite saying "everyday is your birthday when you're stupid." Not to be flip, but if you think it can't happen here, visit Cumming, Georgia and tell me how many African Americans you see. Ignorance ain't bliss if you're in the minority.
"[Gourevitch's] compassionate and level-headed portrait captures the immense sadness and emptiness of a country that lost a tenth of its population in a single spasm of political violence, as well as the pervasive dread that Rwanda will likely experience such bloodshed again.
Gourevitch is particularly adept at systematically debunking the myths, widely circulated in the Western press, that shaped our early perceptions of what was happening in Rwanda: that the conflict was an age-old struggle between two distinct peoples bent on annihilating each other, and that this was merely another example — albeit a somewhat amplified one — of the usual 'African madness." In fact, Gourevitch writes, none of this was true. For starters, Hutus and Tutsis were sufficiently intermingled to the point that ethnographers no longer recognized them as distinct ethnic groups. In Rwanda in 1994, your identity was your politics, and the twists were many and strange; the man who coined "Hutu Power" and became one of its most rabid practitioners was born Tutsi and later acquired Hutu identity papers...." Scott Sutherland, Salon.com
by Tom Engelhardt, Philadelphia Inquirer,
"A staggeringly good book...Gourevitch's beautiful writing drives you deep into Rwanda, his brilliant reportage tells you everything that can be seen from an event beyond imagining or explaining....He drives you, in fact, right up against the limits of what a book can do."
by Wole Soyinka, The New York Times Book Review,
"[It is the] sobering voice of witness that Gourevitch has vividly captured in his work."
by Sebastian Junger,
"I know of few books, fiction or non-fiction, as compelling as Philip Gourevitch's account of the Rwandan genocide....As a journalist [Gourevitch] has raised the bar on us all."
by Susie Linfield, Los Angeles Times,
"The most important book I have read in many years...Gourevitch's book poses the preeminent question of our time: What — if anything — does it mean to be a human being at the end of the 20th century?...He examines [this question] with humility, anger, grief and a remarkable level of both political and moral intelligence."
by Francine Prose, Elle,
"Thoughtful, beautifully written, and important...we want to pass it along to our friends, and to insist that they read it because the information it contains seems so profoundly essential."
by Robert Stone,
"[Gourevitch] has the mind of a scholar along with the observative capacity of a good novelist, and he writes like an angel. This volume establishes him as the peer of Michael Herr, Ryszard Kapuscinski, and Tobias Wolff. I think there is no limit to what we may expect from him."
by Susie Linfield, Los Angeles Times,
"The most important book I have read in many years...[Gourevitch] examines [the genocidal war in Rwanda] with humility, anger, grief and a remarkable level of both political and moral intelligence."
by The Washington Post Book World, Jonathan Randal,
"His compelling account should be required reading for those probing the inner workings of modern states. But the queasy and the hero-worshipers should abstain."
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.
In April 1994, the Rwandan government called upon everyone in the Hutu majority to kill each member of the Tutsi minority, and over the next three months 800,000 Tutsis perished in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler's war against the Jews. Philip Gourevitch's haunting work is an anatomy of the war in Rwanda, a vivid history of the tragedy's background, and an unforgettable account of its aftermath. One of the most acclaimed books of the year, this account will endure as a chilling document of our time.
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