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Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak

Overview

During the spring of 1994, in a tiny country called Rwanda, some 800,000 people were hacked to death, one by one, by their neighbors in a gruesome civil war. Several years later, journalist Jean Hatzfeld traveled to Rwanda to interview ten participants in the killings, eliciting extraordinary testimony from these men about the genocide they perpetrated. As Susan Sontag wrote in the preface, Machete Season is a document that "everyone should read . . . [because making] the effort to understand what happened in ...

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Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak

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Overview

During the spring of 1994, in a tiny country called Rwanda, some 800,000 people were hacked to death, one by one, by their neighbors in a gruesome civil war. Several years later, journalist Jean Hatzfeld traveled to Rwanda to interview ten participants in the killings, eliciting extraordinary testimony from these men about the genocide they perpetrated. As Susan Sontag wrote in the preface, Machete Season is a document that "everyone should read . . . [because making] the effort to understand what happened in Rwanda . . . is part of being a moral adult."

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Editorial Reviews

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

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312425036
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 4/18/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 201,885
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Hatzfeld, an international reporter for Libération since 1973, is the author of many books, including an earlier one on Rwanda and two on the war in Croatia and Bosnia. He lives in Paris.

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Read an Excerpt

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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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 5, 2012

    Kinda gruesome.

    Hard to believe that this sort of thing actually happened. Where were the world powers?

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    Posted October 27, 2008

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    Posted January 1, 2009

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    Posted April 10, 2010

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    Posted June 18, 2011

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