Summary and book reviews of An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina

An Ordinary Man

An Autobiography

by Paul Rusesabagina

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

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Book Summary

The riveting life story of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina who, as his country was being torn apart by violence during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, sheltered more than 12,000 members of the Tutsi clan and Hutu moderates, while homicidal mobs raged outside with machetes.

As his country was being torn apart by violence during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina—the "Oskar Schindler of Africa"—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 thousand 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. Rusesabagina tells for the first time the full story of his life—growing up as the son of a rural farmer, the child of a mixed marriage, his extraordinary career path which led him to become the first Rwandan manager of the Belgian-owned Hotel Milles Collines—all of which contributed to his heroic actions in the face of such horror. He will also bring the reader inside the hotel for those one hundred terrible days depicted in the film, relating the anguish of those who watched as their loved ones were hacked to pieces and the betrayal that he felt as a result of the UN’s refusal to help at this time of crisis.

Including never-before-reported details of the Rwandan genocide, An Ordinary Man is sure to become a classic of tolerance literature, joining such books as Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, and Elie Wiesel’s Night. Paul Rusesabagina’s autobiography is the story of one man who did not let fear get the better of him—a man who found within himself.

Introduction

My name is Paul Rusesabagina. I am a hotel manager. In April 1994, when a wave of mass murder broke out in my country, I was able to hide 1,268 people inside the hotel where I worked.

When the militia and the Army came with orders to kill my guests, I took them into my office, treated them like friends, offered them beer and cognac, and then persuaded them to neglect their task that day. And when they came back, I poured more drinks and kept telling them they should leave in peace once again. It went on like this for seventy-six days. I was not particularly eloquent in these conversations. They were no different from the words I would have used in saner times to order a shipment of pillowcases, for example, or tell the shuttle van driver to pick up a guest at the airport. I still don’t understand why those men in the militias didn’t just put a bullet in my head and execute every last person in the rooms upstairs but they didn’t. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Book

Paul Rusesabagina believes he survived history's fastest-moving genocide simply because he acted as if things were normal. As a hotel manger during Rwanda's murderous spring of 1994, Rusesabagina navigated a world of mass murder with the internal compass he used to steer through office politics.

When a crazed army officer barged into the Hotel Des Milles Collines, Rusesabagina treated him much as he would any angry hotel guest. He offered the man a drink, and then deferred to every statement his guest made. And finally, when the man had calmed down, Rusesabagina suggested a solution that might make all parties happy. Rusesabagina's now legendary work of protecting himself and the hotel's guests was, in...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (312 words).

Media Reviews

BookPage.com

An extraordinary tale of heroism and sacrifice, told in steady, unrelenting and often self-deprecating fashion. It's clear that Rusesabagina will never forget the atrocities he witnessed, nor completely forgive the West for its inaction. But rather than engage in bitterness, he uses the book's final section to fervently insist that the world never again ignore genocide in any nation or on any continent.

The Guardian (UK)

With the aid of a New York journalist, Tom Zoellner, he recounts the ordeal with a narrative tension worthy of a superior thriller, and the passages on the build-up to the genocide are particularly compelling. The call to arms was co-ordinated by a new radio station, which moved seamlessly from playing Congolese pop to issuing chilling instructions to its listeners to 'do your work ... cut the tall trees' (the Tutsis being traditionally taller than Hutus). And from here, it is quite as harrowing as you'd expect.

Reader Reviews

larissa

awsome
This book was so good. but it was also sad. I can't understand why people killed others just because a Beljin guy said "your lighter and taller so you're a Tutsi and your darker and shorter so your a Hutu" and they actually turned against each other ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Republic of Rwanda is a landlocked country in East Central Africa bordering on Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. It is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa; about 80% of its 8.5 million people are Hutu, most of the remainder are Tutsi, with a few Twa (pygmies). The majority religion is Christianity (75%), and French and English are the joint official languages. The economy is overwhelmingly agricultural with most engaged in subsistence farming.

The Twa are believed to have ...

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