Monday, August 21, 2006

Danse Macabre in Rwanda: "A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali"

The world sure didn't turn out as we'd hoped when my class graduated from high school 46 years ago. Nut cases are predicting catatastrophes for tomorrow. That could be only three hours from now.

But more discomforting is having to think about the things that humans have done to each other in that ensuing period and how I and others haven't done much to prevent them at all.

Sharon who blogs at Clairity's Journal has dredged up guilt and shame from within me when I think about all those holocausts that were never supposed to happen again after 1945 and how my generation was supposed to prevent them and how we didn't. Specificially she writes about a book about the Rwandan genocide that most of us, including me, tried and try not to think about.

I've seen Hotel Rwanda (good movie!) and I've read about the Rwanda massacre. But still I was not prepared for A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche; nothing can prepare you for this. This is the dark side of the horror--an Apocalypse Now story with a certain compassion that doesn't simplify anything.

Journalist Gil Courtemanche apparently wrote the first draft of this novel drunk. He had lived in Rwanda for three years, was away during the massacre, and returned afterward to report on and document the killings. The names of the dead and the living are kept intact in the novel; it is a tribute to his friends, although he has fictionalized their actions according to their characters.

What I never knew about the Rwandan massacre was that the population was already dying of malaria and AIDS. The author portrays the despair in the first death of the book, Methode's, a young man dying of AIDS. The first half of the novel was full of speeches on condoms and tolerance and Western mores, but fortunately the speeches drop off and the narrator takes refuge in the poetry of Paul Eluard: "I speak from the depth of the chasm.... We are the first cloud we two / In this absurd expanse of cruel happiness."
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