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Murambi, the Book of Bones by Boubacar Boris…

Murambi, the Book of Bones (edition 2006)

by Boubacar Boris Diop, Eileen Julien (Foreword), Fiona MC Laughlin (Translator)

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474247,300 (4.4)4
Title:Murambi, the Book of Bones
Authors:Boubacar Boris Diop
Other authors:Eileen Julien (Foreword), Fiona MC Laughlin (Translator)
Info:Indiana University Press (2006), Kindle Edition, 181 pages
Collections:Read, Your library
Tags:Genocide, Rwanda, Africa, novel, African Literature

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Murambi, the Book of Bones by Boubacar Boris Diop



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English (3)  French (1)  All (4)
Showing 3 of 3
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
This is a multi-voiced novel about the violent 1994 Rwandan genocide and gives a good cross-section of all the players involved in this horrific event.

The language is stilted and quaint, possibly because this is an English translation.

There are some interesting and complex characters: the rebel Tutsi, Jessica Kamanzi, is a wonderful character who symbolizes the strength and hope that lies in Africa's people. Cornelius Uvimana was another thought-provoking character; his development from a rather brash and arrogant Rwandan exile returning home four years after the genocide, to a mature journalist driven by the revelation of his family secrets to become a “chronicler [who] could at least learn … to call a monster by its name”[Kindle Location 1739] was perhaps the most poignant.

The narrative does flounder in a soul-deep pain and self-hate, which, at times, is bitterly projected onto a prejudiced stereotyping of the whites in Africa:

“Take the example of the Afrikaaners in South Africa. They were real foreigners, those ones, and they turned out to be infinitely more cruel to the blacks of that country than anywhere else."' Cornelius says [Kindle Location 718].

“Infinitely more cruel?” Really? What genocide did the Afrikaaners in South Africa commit? Yes, there was the abuse of human rights with the implementation of Apartheid laws in 1948. Yes, there have been recent massacres in South Africa.

But, whether we talk of the Sharpeville Massacre (1960; 69 killed;180 injured; white on black violence) or the Church Street bombings (1983; 19 killed; 217 wounded; black on white violence), there should be some rational historical perspective maintained, even if the narrative is fictitious.

The only 20th century genocide that occurred on South African soil was of the Afrikaaner prisoners who lost their lives in the concentration camps of the British High Command during the second Boer war of 1899-1902 (26 000 dead.)

Even that’s nowhere near the sheer atrocity of the Rwandan genocide. Just think of the statistics of the Rwandan genocide: 90 days to brutally murder 800 000 fellow countrymen using only machetes and guns; that’s an average of 9 000 people A DAY. Even Hitler wasn’t that efficient.

By choosing to scapegoat the white Afrikaaner, and the French, and even the Americans (who are found wanting because of their interest in the 1994 World Cup over the Rwandan genocide), the narrative struggles with the personal responsibility of the Rwandan people as free and conscious individuals rather than as an oppressed race. As Jessica said to Cornelius, “To kill almost a million people in three months took a lot of people. There were tens or hundreds of thousands of killers.” [Kindle Location 839]

Without overtly stating it, the narrative implies that each of these killers can’t be held responsible for their actions, because they have always been victims: “Now, his return from exile could no longer have the same meaning. From now on, the only story he had to tell was his own. The story of his family. He had suddenly discovered that he had become the perfect Rwandan: both guilty and a victim” [Cornelius Uvimana, Kindle Location 832 ]

This subtle thread, this perhaps unconscious desire, to abdicate the Rwandan peoples’ responsibility for the genocide tends to diminish the story’s power: "I know the damage that foreigners did to us, four years ago and well before.” [Siméon Habineza, Kindle Location 1644]

Ultimately, this book is so weighed down by the sheer immensity of the horror of the Rwandan-on-Rwandan genocide that it doesn’t offer any new insights into how a nation (or a race) can transcend the cult of victimhood that is so debilitating to individual and national progress.

Although MURAMBI makes a valiant attempt to explore and find the impartial “why” behind the genocide, it does not escape the easy convenience of laying the blame for the 1994 Rwandan descent into hell on Africa’s recent colonial history.

With this caveat in mind, this is still a book worth reading, if only to remind ourselves that the nature of evil is such that no one is immune from it. “Evil is within each one of us,” says Cornelius’ uncle [Kindle Location 1574]. He is right: rich or poor, educated or illiterate, black or white, African or foreign, the capacity for evil slithers through our souls, waiting for the opportunity to burst free from the chains of civilisation. What then is our responsibility in making sure that the capacity for these terrible genocides is expunged from the human DNA?

MURAMBI, THE BOOK OF BONES is a chronicle that tells us that human nature still has a long way to go before we reach our highest potential for good.

(Note: Statistics quoted sourced from Wikipedia) ( )
  JudyCroome | Nov 30, 2012 |
You think we've learned our lessons about humanity and genocide from WWII? This book about the Rwandan genocides (nearly half a century after the end of WWII, by the way) might teach you a little differently--in fact the moving simplicity of it would make it great to read in schools.

While the book itself is fiction, it is based on real events--and if you don't believe it, I'm sure the selection of pictures in the middle (which I'm almost positive my copy had) might convince you otherwise.

Simple, moving, and a great documentation--although, again, not purely non-fiction--of an event that, sadly, we do not get much documentation on, considering the area of the world in which it took place. If only there were more multilingual writers like Boubacar Boris Diop--and more aspirational translators like Fiona McLaughlin--to help bring these stories from the far reaches of the world to light. ( )
  multifaceted | Jul 1, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0253218527, Paperback)

"[W]hat is true of Rwanda is true in each of us; we all share in Africa." —L’Harmattan

"[This novel] comes closer than have many political scientists or historians to trying to understand why this small country... sank in such appalling violence." —Radio France International

In April of 1994, nearly a million Rwandans were killed in what would prove to be one of the swiftest, most terrifying killing sprees of the 20th century. In Murambi, The Book of Bones, Boubacar Boris Diop comes face to face with the chilling horror and overwhelming sadness of the tragedy. Now, the power of Diop’s acclaimed novel is available to English-speaking readers through Fiona Mc Laughlin’s crisp translation. The novel recounts the story of a Rwandan history teacher, Cornelius Uvimana, who was living and working in Djibouti at the time of the massacre. He returns to Rwanda to try to comprehend the death of his family and to write a play about the events that took place there. As the novel unfolds, Cornelius begins to understand that it is only our humanity that will save us, and that as a writer, he must bear witness to the atrocities of the genocide.

From the novel:
"If only by the way people are walking, you can see that tension is mounting by the minute. I can feel it almost physically. Everyone is running or at least hurrying about. I meet more and more passersby who seem to be walking around in circles. There seems to be another light in their eyes. I think of the fathers who have to face the anguished eyes of their children and who can’t tell them anything. For them, the country has become an immense trap in the space of just a few hours. Death is on the prowl. They can’t even dream of defending themselves. Everything has been meticulously prepared for a long time: the administration, the army, and the [militia] are going to combine forces to kill, if possible, every last one of them."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A novel about the 1994 slaughter of nearly a million Rwandans.

(summary from another edition)

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