Hatzfeld is to be commended for helping to preserve crucial eyewitness testimony and for sharing it with what one hopes will...

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LIFE LAID BARE

THE SURVIVORS IN RWANDA SPEAK

Arresting firsthand accounts of the 1994 Rwandan genocide from 14 men, women and children who survived the weeks of slaughter.

As he did in Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak (2005), journalist Hatzfeld provides informative introductions to each chapter but allows his subjects to speak for themselves. The collection’s devastating power comes from the no-holds-barred narratives, with additional kudos to translator Coverdale for rendering their words in spare, haunting English. Beer helped save his life, declares Rwililiza. The Hutus rewarded themselves with countless drinks after a day of killing, he explains; on each successive morning, they were more hung over and less effective as murderers. Although Rwililiza is a teacher, he somberly asserts that education does not necessarily prevent genocide—rather, it may make killers “more efficient.” Christine Nyiransabimana, who was in fifth grade when the war began, offers the painful perspective of a mixed-race child. Her Tutsi father was cut down with a machete in front of his Hutu wife, and Christine was threatened because of her Tutsi blood. Angélique Mukamanzi, now 25, is perhaps the most memorable informant here, speaking with subtle psychological insight about why some survivors change the details of their experience with each retelling. Mukamanzi discusses a neighbor who initially insisted that her mother died inside the church at N’tarama, but later said that the death occurred while they were hiding in a marsh. “To me, there is no lie,” she says. “Maybe [the daughter] had abandoned her while running through the marsh and felt bad about that.” The details may change, but for the Rwandan survivors, the memories themselves will never disappear.

Hatzfeld is to be commended for helping to preserve crucial eyewitness testimony and for sharing it with what one hopes will be a very large audience.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59051-273-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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