An attempt at bringing reality to consciousness, A review of Philip Gourevitch’s We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families

What separates us from the reality of genocide? This question by far is what I felt was desperately being grasped at throughout Gourevitch’s work. The question of whether or not peoples of distant lands can ever truly sympathize with the horrors of genocide far from them has been the primary defendant of the “it never happened” defense of genocide perpetrators. Claiming falsified testimonial, social tensions of common pretext, and lack of sufficient evidence directly implying intent have all defended the likes of the most despicable human beings are planet has ever known. Throughout much of part I of Gourevitch’s text (particularly chapters 2-3) I felt a sudden and exceedingly prevalent sense of ambiguity between the stories of Rwandan survivors and the excerpts from the Pastor accused of genocidal intent (and indeed was found beyond a doubt with this same intent). After first the murderous acts were introduced, then the subsequent defense of the Pastor for his actions were brought to light in the book. I couldn’t help but wonder who was correct. Indeed the Hutu population of Rwanda was without a doubt the orchestrators of the massacre of over a million Tutsi. However; I couldn’t help but wonder whether the Pastor involved was truly guilty of all of his accused crimes or did his words heed some sort of truth when he told Gourevitch that all his life he had done nothing but help the Tutsi. Who was lying threw their teeth? Who truly could account for the claims of a handful of Rwandan Tutsi? Will we ever know the true extent of the horrors that went on in 1994? All questions that unless we had an unlimited supply of first hand sources we as observers can never say for sure. This book left me with more questions than answers, this much is clear. Yet despite that I found Gourevitch’s dissection of Rwandan history as it pertained to setting the stage for genocide to be more than compelling. In an almost artful with a combination of historical fact, primary sources, and impersonal interpretations of Rwandan stories and actualities he portrayed the scene, captured its moments (if only in brief segments) and extrapolated their meaning. These qualities however turned the work into more of what may even be considered a news article review than a scholarly work per say. This was I believe a purposeful structure of the stories he collected however. A methodology of writing I believe to be an exceedingly we thought out and ideal means of breaking the literature/reality barrier which so nullifies our sense of humanity as readers rather than those who experienced the ordeal. It makes sense in that one of the very few means by which events of history are shared through a population who never even imagine such an event occurring has always been threw means of news reportage.And so for this work to be styled in such a format only strengthens its message and shows the resolve of the author to make what was once a reality in 1994 a reality even today in 2014. To an extent I wholeheartedly believe that he was indeed successful in his goal and was equally impressed with this work. Its style most definitely served to better my understanding of the Rwandan genocide but also allowed me to generate a whole host of questions that serve not as beacons of confusion and disillusion but rather of more stable insights into my own connection between my reality and that of many I will never come to meet or ever set foot upon their world.

Pastor Ntakirutimana

Pastor Ntakirutimana

Rwandan soldiers collecting remnants of the skulls of slain Tutsi from the genocide of 1994

Rwandan soldiers collecting remnants of the skulls of slain Tutsi from the genocide of 1994

A map of Rwanda

A map of Rwanda

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