ISBN is

978-0-676-97481-2 / 9780676974812

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

by

Publisher:Canongate

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is a brutally blunt account of the events that led to the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It is a novel, but its author, Québécois journalist Gil Courtemanche, makes it plain in his preface that he has composed a streamlined, thinly fictionalized account of his experiences near the centre of events that defy easy comprehension. Courtemanche's narrator, Bernard Valcourt, has been sent to Kigali to administer the creation of a television station that will educate Rwandans about the threat of AIDS. Thwarted by the Rwandan government, which refuses to acknowledge the existence of the epidemic, Valcourt spends his days drinking beer at his hotel swimming pool, talking with his friends (many of whom belong to the increasingly hated and powerless Tutsi minority), and falling in love with Gentille, a waitress who, thanks to a kind of primitive eugenics practiced by her ancestors, is seldom taken for the Hutu that her identity card purports her to be.

Gentille and Valcourt gradually come together, but Rwandan society is beginning to massacre itself. Courtemanche is frank in his depictions of ethnic brutality and unflinchingly honest in his condemnations of everyone whose complicity or malice contributed to the disaster, be they Western liberal Third World-loving intellectuals, aid workers, UN administrators, Roman Catholic clergy, Rwandan police, or ordinary, unaffiliated citizens. He also honours the few individuals, Western and African alike, who did what they could to curb or avert disaster--from priests who distributed condoms beneath portraits of the Pope to businessmen who smuggled hundreds of refugees to safety.

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is not a pleasant read engineered to ease North American pieties. It will make any humane reader want to vomit. Nonetheless, Courtemanche is an idealist; his novel is full of stories of love and friendship that redeem individuals caught in the midst of disaster. Almost as beautiful as it is ugly, A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is essential eyewitness fiction. --Jack Illingworth

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