Boubacar Boris Diop grapples with the Rwandan genocide.

Boubacar Boris Diop tries to render the horror of the Rwandan genocide in this book.

Boubacar Boris Diop tries to render the horror of the Rwandan genocide in this book.

I’ve only got a short time to post today, and I wanted to mention Senegalese journalist Boubacar Boris Diop’s novel Murambi: The Book of Bones

Diop spent about six months interviewing Rwandans about the 1994 genocide that was sparked by a fatal plane crash involving President Juvenal Habayarimana and that in the next 100 days saw hundreds of thousands of Tutsis being killed by machete-wielding Hutus, especially the Interahamwe.

Diop’s choice to try to render the incomprehensible is through the return home to Rwanda from Djibouti of Cornelius Uvimana. The son of a Hutu mass murdering father responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of victims at Murbami, where their bodies are kept in an organic memorial-something he learns after arriving back in his home country-and a Tutsi mother who his father had killed, Uvimana learns by degrees and with assistance of the dastardly deeds his father orchestrated.

Diop sprinkles literally incomprehensible details of mothers being forced to smother their babies, of dogs so stuffed with human flesh that they waddle, of rapes being committed by rows of 20 and 30 men. 

He also intermingles Uvimana’s journey with that of an RPF fighter, a member of the Interahamwe, and a French colonel, among others.

Diop’s contention that the genocide began with massacres that started as early as 1959 is not subtly interwoven, nor are his reflections about human nature and the power and necessity of witness to the depths of human atrocity,  but the power of his work is undeniable. 

I recommend taking the time to read this difficult, disturbing and enlightening book.


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