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Paul Rusesabagina

Författare till An Ordinary Man: The True Story Behind Hotel Rwanda

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Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival (2006) — Preface — 113 exemplar


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The title was, to me, offputting initially. It seemed like false modesty. "Oh, but I'm just an ordinary man...". But I changed my mind after listening.

Rusesabagina saved over a twelve hundred people from death during the short massacre in Rwanda in 1994. He calculated that he saved a matter of a few hours' worth of deaths, based on the rate of killing in those few months, a rate unsurpassed by any other genocide in recorded history.

How did he do it? And why?

He gives us quite a clue when he tells us about his childhood. His father was a leader in his village, and he was not afraid of death. He hid people during an earlier attempt at genocide, in the 1950s. He also provided Paul with an example of a person untainted by the absurd prejudices of the time.

Through this volume we become familiar with the history of Rwanda. Simply put, it was white conquerers, particularly Belgian, who set the hutus against the tutsis by defining the different groups prejudicially: the tutsis were the refined, intelligent leaders, while the hutus were only suitable for slave labor, essentially. This distinction served the Belgians well but in no way reflected reality. In fact, the two groups had been mixed for many years, to the point where almost everyone was really neither one or the other, and the two were never that different in the first place.

Paul had a Tutsi mother and a Hutu father. In Rwanda, this meant he was Tutsi. Yet one of his close friends from childhood, with a Tutsi father and Hutu mother, was defined as Hutu and was forced to leave school.

In the early 1990s a civilian radio station came on the air. At first it was all fun and provided a pleasant contrast to the government-run stations. But gradually it used its power to reach people to spread a message of hatred against the Tutsis. Paul placed the blame for the genocide primarily at the feet of this station, which, it turns out, actually was government-run after all.

But back to Paul and how he was able to be effective in his role as hotel manager. He was detail-oriented and fit the job of hotel manager very well. The French owners of the Hotel Mille Collines recognized his talent and sent him to hotel school and later placed him as manager. This was quite a coup for a black man working in a luxury hotel in Rwanda. Paul did not let the owners down. He was meticulous and careful and used his position to get to know the regulars, including many in the military and government. He was later able to use these connections to good effect.

It is hard to imagine a world where you wake up one morning and find that one of your neighbors is attacking another with a machete. Yet this is the world Paul did wake to, and strived to understand. In this memoir he does an excellent job of explaining the basis for the race hatred, the not-so-subtle propaganda, and the genocide. It is difficult to understand a situation where friends suddenly become enemies, where children are slaughtered along with their parents. Paul provides an explanation that we should pay attention to.
… (mer)
slojudy | 25 andra recensioner | Sep 8, 2020 |
What most impressed me about this book is the matter-of-fact way in which Rusesabagina narrates the desperation of Rwandans during their holocaust, and his own brave decisions and actions.
nmele | 25 andra recensioner | Aug 31, 2017 |
In 1994, the African country of Rwanda saw a brutal, bloody genocide as the majority Hutu population incited fear and violence all across the country, resulting in the murder of a staggering 800,000 of the Tutsi minority. Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu hotel manager in the capital city of Kigali aghast at what he was witnessing around him and risking his own life, sheltered more than 1,000 of the persecuted inside his hotel.

I'm always curious, when reading an autobiography that is co-written, about just how much of the writing is genuinely that of the individual in question, and how much has been "tidied up" by the more experienced author. In this case the prose and turns of phrase were distinct enough that I feel optimistic that the integrity of Rusesabagina's true voice has been preserved. How awe-inspiringly brave Paul Rusesabagina was amid such horrifying circumstances, and yet how fortunate he was to be in the unique position to assist in the manner he did. There is a lot of food for thought in this slim volume, not least the embarrassing level of inaction and seeming indifference by the UN and United States in response.… (mer)
ryner | 25 andra recensioner | Jul 18, 2017 |
An exceptional memoir by a humanitarian hero and eyewitness to the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. Rusesabagina, a hotel manager, sheltered over 1,200 people and saved their lives. Nothing ordinary about him.
Sullywriter | 25 andra recensioner | May 22, 2015 |


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