BookBrowse Reviews An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina

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An Ordinary Man

An Autobiography

by Paul Rusesabagina

An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2006, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2007, 224 pages

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The autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina - the 'Oskar Schindler of Africa' - who refused to bow to the madness that surrounded him during the 1994 Rwandan genocide

From the book jacket: As his country was being torn apart by violence during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina refused to bow to the madness that surrounded him. Confronting killers with a combination of diplomacy, flattery, and deception, he offered shelter to more than twelve hundred members of the Tutsi clan and Hutu moderates, while homicidal mobs raged outside with machetes. An Ordinary Man explores what the Academy Award-nominated film Hotel Rwanda could not: the inner life of the man who became one of the most prominent public faces of that terrible conflict.

Comment: Rusesabagina relates the full story of his life - growing up as the son of a rural farmer and the child of a mixed marriage (Hutu father, Tutsi mother), and how he became the first Rwandan manager of the Belgian-owned Hotel Milles Collines. He then takes the reader inside his hotel where he protected 1,268 people from almost certain death for three terrible months between April 6 and July 4 1994 during which time more than 800,000 Rwandans were killed.

"You cannot understand the magnitude. Just try! Eight hundred thousand lives snuffed out in one hundred days. That’s eight thousand lives a day. More than five lives per minute. Each one of those lives was like a little world in itself. Some person who laughed and cried and ate and thought and felt and hurt just like any other person, just like you and me. A mother’s child, every one irreplaceable." - Paul Rusesabagina.

Rusesabagina expresses surprisingly little anger in telling his story. He insists that he is not a hero and only did what any decent person would have done, but he is entirely clear when expressing his contempt for the UN peacekeepers for failing to avert what he sees as an entirely preventable disaster.


Did you know?
Of the 120,000 charged with war-crimes, to date only 5,000 have been tried in Rwandan courts, and just 17 have been convicted by a UN-appointed tribunal. The unrest has never fully ended, with fighting within the country and fighting between Rwanda and Uganda over the Congo. In 2003 a new constitution was approved and elections were held which were marred by voting irregularities. In 2005 the main Hutu rebel group said they would disarm and return peacefully to Rwanda from the Congo but the Rwandan government say that those who took part in the 1994 genocide will face trial if they return.


Paul Rusesabagina is the recipient of the National Civil Rights Museum’s 2005 Freedom Award; he now lives in Brussels, Belgium. An Ordinary Man is co-authored by Tom Zoellner, author of The Heartless Stone

This review was originally published in June 2006, and has been updated for the March 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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