A great review of Boubacar Boris Diop's Murambi, Book of Bones
A novel written in four parts, Murambi, The Book of Bones traces the return of a Rwandan history teacher, Cornelius Uvimana, to his motherland sometime after the 1994 genocide. At the time of the genocide, Cornelius had been living and working in Djibouti. Thus, except for one uncle, he is the only one of his close family to have survived. Yet the very distance that saves him is what stops him from knowing more than a few murky details of what happened to his family, his land and its people in those terrible days. His knowledge of those events is characterized by uncertainty and fragmentation. Parts one and three are collections of bits and pieces of stories portraying this: each part contains narratives of a multitude of voices who are involved in the genocide in one way or another. As a framing device, parts two and four trace Cornelius? own narrative of return and discovery. During his travels around the scarred landscape of Rwanda, visiting old friends and seeing genocide memorials, it is his trip to Murambi, his hometown, that proves to be the most painful and most revealing experience. Murambi is not only the village where he grew up?the place where he left his family?but it is also the site of one of the most gruesome mass murders of the genocide. As Jessica, his old childhood friend explains to him, between fifty and sixty thousand people were slaughtered over the course of a few days while sheltering in the Murambi Polytechnic School.
The facts are staggering: ?Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days.? But even this fact is uncertain?some statistics say 800,000, others say one million. Some say 90 days, others say one hundred. Nevertheless, the numbers are so horrific they seem unreal. Another fact: ?Most of the dead were Tutsis?and most of those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus.? And another one: ?The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994.?1 The story is remarkably simple, and yet simultaneously nebulous. What story is more common than death? But at the same time, what could be more complicated to explain than the details, the justification, the causes? And, what is more complex than the aftermath, the brokenness that is left behind? How do we explain this? How are we to understand it all?
Continuing reading here: Making Dead Bones Dance | The Mantle