Thursday, 29 October 2015

A SUNDAY AT THE POOL IN KIGALI BY Gil Courtemanche

This is certainly the most highly sexed account of the Rwandan genocide I've ever read. It tells the story of an older Canadian journalist who is in Rwanda over the period of the genocide, living in the famous 'Hotel Rwanda'. He begins a relationship with a much younger waitress, and we learn almost as much about the curve of her butt and the perkiness of her breasts as we do about the genocidal violence. It's mid-life crisis meets mass murder. In a deeply unlikely plot twist, he marries her. In a more likely plot twist, despite her being Tutsi, he refuses to leave the country with her because 'he likes Rwanda.' He likes it less later on when the poor woman is abducted and gang raped.

The book is excellent as an account of the real feel of this period, as the author was there for much of the time. It reminded me once again how horrifyingly well planned the genocide was, and how many countries and international bodies were fully aware of what was going to happen. I do think though that it's a little odd, how much energy is given to condemning the UN in Rwanda. Surely, condemnation should be primarily for those who committed the crime. This is clearly how it operates with the Nazis and the Holocaust; so I'm not clear why it doesn't work that way in Rwanda. I'm going to go ahead and say it's kind of racist, as if the press feels that Rwandas are in some mysterious way not capable of planning and executing their own genocide, just as well as the Germans.

The journalist thinks the waitress is dead after the gang rape, but then later finds out she is alive. Apparently this was not uncommon in the genocide, as while men were dispatched quickly, women were often raped and tortured and left to die slowly (e.g., as in her case, having yours breasts hacked off). He finds the waitress in a market, but she says he should leave her as she is 'no longer a woman'. He does so immediately. Apparently we are supposed to think this is romantic? I just find it fairly believable. Always nice to have that Canadian passport when the breasts are no longer perky, or indeed existent.


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