Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak

by Jean Hatzfeld
     
 

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In April-May 1994, 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis were massacred by their Hutu fellow citizens—about 10,000 a day, mostly being hacked to death by machete. In Machete Season, the veteran foreign correspondent Jean Hatzfeld reports on the results of his interviews with nine of the Hutu killers. They were all friends who came from a single region where they

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Overview

In April-May 1994, 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis were massacred by their Hutu fellow citizens—about 10,000 a day, mostly being hacked to death by machete. In Machete Season, the veteran foreign correspondent Jean Hatzfeld reports on the results of his interviews with nine of the Hutu killers. They were all friends who came from a single region where they helped to kill 50,000 out of their 59,000 Tutsi neighbors, and all of them are now in prison, some awaiting execution. It is usually presumed that killers will not tell the truth about their brutal actions, but Hatzfeld elicited extraordinary testimony from these men about the genocide they had perpetrated. He rightly sees that their account raises as many questions as it answers.

Adabert, Alphonse, Ignace, and the others (most of them farmers) told Hatzfeld how the work was given to them, what they thought about it, how they did it, and what their responses were to the bloodbath. "Killing is easier than farming," one says. "I got into it, no problem," says another. Each describes what it was like the first time he killed someone, what he felt like when he killed a mother and child, how he reacted when he killed a cordial acquaintance, how 'cutting' a person with a machete differed from 'cutting' a calf or a sugarcane. And they had plenty of time to tell Hatzfeld, too, about whether and why they had reconsidered their motives, their moral responsibility, their guilt, remorse, or indifference to the crimes.

Hatzfeld's meditation on the banal, horrific testimony of the genocidaires and what it means is lucid, humane, and wise: he relates the Rwanda horror to war crimes and to other genocidal episodes in human history. Especially since the Holocaust, it has been conventional to presume that only depraved and monstrous evil incarnate could perpetrate such crimes, but it may be, he suggests, that such actions are within the realm of ordinary human conduct. To read this disturbing, enlightening and very brave book is to consider in a new light the foundation of human morality and ethics.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This book features the testimony of 10 friends from the same village who spent day after day together, fulfilling orders to kill any Tutsi within their territory during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. While their anecdotes are shocking at first, they detail how an ordinary person with an everyday life in a farming village can be transformed into a killer. As one man explains, "if you must obey the orders of authorities, if you have been properly prepared, if you see yourself pushed and pulled, if you see the killing will be total and without disastrous consequences for yourself, you feel soothed and reassured." A reporter for Paris's Lib ration, Hatzfeld has a remarkable ability to pry into the killer's memory and conscience. One Hutu tells how "a pain pinched his heart" when confronted with an old Tutsi soccer teammate he was obligated to kill. Others describe the regrets or nightmares they have now that the genocide is over (and they are in prison). But for the most part, the interviews reveal the killers' na ve expectations for forgiveness and reconciliation once they are released. Hatzfeld offers an analysis of the psychology of the perpetrators and how the Rwandan genocide differs from other genocides in history. Steering clear of politics, this important book succeeds in offering the reader some grasp of how such unspeakable acts unfolded. Agent, Valerie Borchardt at Georges Borchardt Inc. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Frontline reportage from one of the world's more recent genocides, as narrated by the foot soldiers who perpetrated it. In the space of three months in 1994, some 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis were killed by compatriots from the Hutu tribe. The Nazis, observes Liberation reporter Hatzfeld, were never so efficient, "never attained so murderous a performance level anywhere in Germany or its fifteen occupied countries." The agents of that efficient death-dealing were ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, and they threw themselves into their work, driven by several motives. Not least of the reasons, several of the now-imprisoned killers relate through the interviews collected here, is the simple fact that killing is easier than farming, more rewarding, with no discipline required; as one killer says, "Rule number one was to kill. There was no rule number two. It was an organization without complications." Other of the perpetrators were driven by longstanding ethnic jealousy of the Tutsi, praised by early European ethnologists for their aristocratic features; one Rwandan remarks, for example, that considering parallels with the Shoah, "The Tutsis are not a people punished for the death of Jesus Christ. The Tutsis are simply a people come to misfortune on the hills because of their noble bearing." Yet others were motivated by talk radio, which assured them that the Tutsis were cockroaches and snakes; remarks a killer, "The evil-mindedness of the radios was too well calculated for us to oppose it." Most of the men relate that, whatever drove them, they felt very little guilt, very little of any emotion, as they were butchering Tutsis of whatever age or gender; only one or two admit toguilty memories or dreams after the fact, which prompts Hatzfeld to wonder whether it could be that "of all categories of war criminal, the perpetrator of genocide winds up the least traumatized."Of the utmost importance. A trove for future historians and ethnographers seeking to explain the mechanics of genocide, and eye-opening, sobering reading for the rest of us.
From the Publisher
"Hatzfeld's harrowing documentation of the voices of Rwandan killers reminds us once again how perfectly human it can be to be perfectly inhumane."—Philip Gourevitch

"Monstrous in scope, unfathomable in cruelty, annihilating in implication, the concept of genocide all but defies imagination. That is why reading Jean Hatzfeld's interviews with perpetrators of the 1994 Rwanda massacre is so profoundly disturbing."—The Baltimore Sun

"Stunning . . . What makes the book so astonishing are . . . the voices of the men, many of whom speak in a kind of chilling, breathtaking poetry."—O magazine

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429923514
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
04/18/2006
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
119,188
File size:
0 MB

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Machete Season
Copyright © 2003 by Éditions du Seuil Translation copyright © 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC Preface copyright © 2005 by Susan Sontag

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