Summary and book reviews of We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch

We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

Stories From Rwanda

by Philip Gourevitch

We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families
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  • First Published:
    Sep 1998, 356 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2000, 368 pages

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Book Summary

In 1994 the Rwandan government implemented a policy that called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority: 800,000 people were massacred. Read their story.

This extraordinary book concerns what happened when the Rwandan government in 1994 implemented a policy that called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. Though the massacres were low-tech - done largely by machete - they were carried out at dazzling speed, and 800,000 people were killed in a hundred days. Pastors in one Tutsi community sent a letter to their church president, a Hutu, that included the chilling phrase that gives Philip Gourevitch his title.

Mr. Gourevitch's haunting work is not only an anatomy of this genocide and what Rwandans call its "genocidal logic," but a vivid history of the background to the tragedy and an unforgettable account of its aftermath: the mass displacements, the temptations of revenge and the quest for justice, the replacement of elites and the plight of survivors, the impossibly crowded prisons and militant refugee camps. His intimate portraits of Rwandans in all walks of life as they cope with the psychological and political challenges of survival make their tragic situation unexpectedly immediate and familiar; his dramatic narrative also shows how resurgent genocidal forces threatened to plunge central Africa into total war and how this sparked the drive to oust Mobutu from power in the Congo. Lastly, he contrasts the Rwandans' provocatively original political response to the horror with the wholly inadequate reactions of international humanitarian organizations and foreign governments - not least the United States.

It is impossible to achieve full justice after genocide, but Rwanda faces the old anguish in new ways: how can people who have suffered so grievously manage to live together in a single cohesive society with those who have inflicted such suffering? Mr. Gourevitch's memorable book tells us much about the struggle everywhere on the globe to establish legitimate and sustainable nation-states when we share bloody and compromised histories. His powerful literary testament is a major document about ethical choice and political responsibility.

Excerpt
We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

IN THE PROVINCE of Kibungo, in eastern Rwanda, in the swamp- and pastureland near the Tanzanian border, there's a rocky hill called Nyarubuye with a church where many Tutsis were slaughtered in mid-April of 1994. A year after the killing I went to Nyurabuye with two Canadian military officers. We flew in a United Nations helicopter, traveling low over the hills in the morning mists, with the banana trees like green starbursts dense over the slopes. The uncut grass blew back as we dropped into the center of the parish schoolyard. A lone solider materialized with his Kalashnikov, and shook our hands with stiff, shy formality. The Canadians presented the paperwork for our visit, and I stepped up into the open doorway of a classroom.

At least fifty mostly decomposed cadavers covered the floor, wadded in clothing, their belongings strewn about and smashed. Macheted skulls had rolled here and there. ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times

Pol Pot .. . Hitler . . . Stalin . . . Idi Amin -- these have become familiar names in the directory of state criminality. ''We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families,'' Philip Gourevitch's harrowing account of the Rwandan massacres, makes one wonder if there will ever be a name that goes down indelibly in the mind as the master architect or agent of this -- even now -- unbelievable crime against humanity. Dr. Gerard? His father, Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana? President Habyarimana? Or the formidable Mme. Agathe Kanzinga? The candidature is spread wide, though these are not names that cling easily to memory. The real problem with the Rwandan carnage, as Gourevitch, a staff writer for The New Yorker, makes clear, is that it was not restricted to a crime of state. True, the massacres were meticulously planned and ruthlessly executed by the state, but the instrumentation was widespread and criminality thus collectivized. To capture the uniqueness of the Rwandan crime, one must imagine that nearly the entirety of the German population participated in the liquidation of the Jews, or that the Russian masses responded to Stalin's war against the kulaks, armed themselves with picks and shovels and massacred the kulaks in village after village, instead of merely watching them being herded off to their eventual extermination.

Publishers Weekly

What courage must it have required to research and write this book? And who will read such a ghastly chronicle? Gourevitch who reported from Rwanda for the New Yorker, faces these questions up front The best reason I have come up with for looking more closely into Rwanda's stories is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it. The stories are unrelentingly horrifying and filled with the idiocy, the waste, the sheer wrongness of one group of Rwandans (Hutus) methodically exterminating another (Tutsis). With 800,000 people killed in 100 days, Gourevitch found many numbed Rwandans who had lost whole families to the machete....As the Rwandans try to rebuild their lives while awaiting the slow-moving justice system, the careful yet passionate advocacy of reporters like Gourevitch serves to remind both Rwandans and others that genocide occurred in this decade while the world looked on.

Reader Reviews

Amanda Greer age: 19

Amazing book. Not only does Gourevitch put truth right into your face with quality and thoughtful writing, he makes you question what else we aren't being told. He solidly proves that things are often sugarcoated for the masses and to prevent ...   Read More

Soldat

Great book. Really puts a stick in the spokes of the wheels of people who believe in the "humanity" and rationality of the west. "Never again" is just stupid, it happened again in Rwanda and will happen again. If you want to go...   Read More

Aaron Hicks

Unbelievably astonishing wake up call. Eye opening, it will change your perspective. Gourevitch's passion is inspiring to say the least.

Kyleigh

No tip-toeing around what is a very difficult subject. Gives you the facts and the details which allow you to see the whole picture of the Rwandan genocide that has so often been misunderstood.

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