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Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
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Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak (Rwanda #1)

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  491 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
"To make the effort to understand what happened in Rwanda is a painful task that we have no right to shirk—it is part of being a moral adult."—Susan Sontag

In the late 1990s, French author and journalist Jean Hatzfeld made several journeys into the hilly, marshy region of the Bugesera, one of the areas most devastated by the Rwandan genocide of April 1994, where an average
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 15th 2007 by Other Press (first published September 1st 1994)
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Aug 07, 2011 Kat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a gripping but sombre subject. It does exactly what it says on the tin -first hand accounts of what Rwandan genocide survivors experienced during those 100 days, with a short intoduction to their current lives as added by the author. I think more background would have made it more fascinating, but if you want that, read 'Shake Hands With The Devil' by Romeo Dallaire.
Regina Lindsey
Life Laid Bare by Jean Hatzfield
4 Stars

“In 1994, between eleven in the morning on Monday, April 11 and two in the afternoon on Saturday, May 14 about fifty thousand Tutsis, out of a population of around fifty-nine thousand were massacred by machete, murdered every day of the week from nine-thirty in the morning until four in the afternoon, by Hutu neighbors and militiamen, on the hills of the district of Nyamata, in Rwanda.” (pg. 14)
Jean Hatzfield has quite a collection of work dealing the Rwan
Nov 07, 2011 Kristen rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoyed hearing the first-hand accounts told from the survivors themselves. I did not know much about what happened in Rwanda in 1994 before I read this book. I had heard about the genocide, of course, but I didn't know any of the specifics. I wonder if it was all over the newspapers when it was happening, and I just missed it (very possible, as I was in my last year of college in 1994, and busy with finals that April). But really, I don't remember seeing a sing ...more
May 26, 2017 Marie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-booklist

"It's part of Rwandan custom to take refuge in God's houses when the massacres begin. Time let us have two days of quiet, then they rushed into the church and starting slicing people up..."

"I save how savagery can replace kindness in the heart of man, faster than a driving rain."

"We remember all the fearsome moments we personally lived through as if they had happened just last year."

"I hear no one asking for forgiveness. In any case, I know that there is nothing that can be forgiven."

Jaclyn Michelle
Dec 10, 2011 Jaclyn Michelle rated it really liked it

"I think, moreover, that no one will ever line up the truths of this mysterious tragedy and write them down--not the professors in Kigali and Europe, not the groups of intellectuals and politicians. Every explanation will give way on one side or another, like a wobbly table. A genocide is a poisonous bush that grows not from two or three roots, but from a whole tangle that has moldered underground without anyone noticing." ~Claudine Kayitesi, page 206

Marie Stasse
Feb 19, 2017 Marie Stasse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Une lecture difficile mais émouvante et importante. De manière simple, sans fioritures, Jean Hatzfeld retranscrit les témoignages de 14 rescapés du génocide dans la région de Nyamata au Rwanda, la manière dont ils ont survécu, comment ils ont repris le cours d'une vie à jamais changée après les événements, les sentiments qui subsistent, la façon dont ils appréhendent ce qui leur est arrivé. Les témoignages sont entrecoupés de petits chapitres sur les habitudes de vie à Nyamata, quelques années a ...more
Feb 16, 2017 Jacob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book detailing the survivor accounts of the Rwandan genocide. Jean hatzfeld has done a fabulous job of creating great empathy for those featured in the book. Very emotional and hugely informative. I would recommend this for anybody who is either interested in the genocide or has had no previous encounters with it
Mar 18, 2010 FiveBooks rated it it was amazing
Writer Philip Gourevitch has chosen to discuss Jean Hatzfeld’s Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject - Rwanda, saying that: 

The first book Hatzfeld wrote was based on the stories of a group of survivors who had spent the 100 days or so of the genocide hiding in these dense papyrus swamps near their home. They were being hunted there by a gang of killers from around their village, people whom they knew. What makes this a great book is n
May 24, 2013 Josie rated it really liked it
At first, I found the author's voice a little too flowery, a little hard to understand and wade through. Soon though, I got used to the rhythm and found that if I slowed my pace and really tried to understand and visualize what was being said that the prose really was beautiful.
The stories are haunting and poetic, I appreciated that, although the stories were translated, it seemed that an effort was made to maintain the phrasing and style of the original narrations. At times this results in sen
Jan 13, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The "prequel," so to speak, of Machete Season. This book looks at survivor, and to some extent, bystander testimony of the Rwandan genocide. Hatzfeld's work is illuminating, imminently readable, and heartfelt. Each chapter opens with a vignette of sorts about the area, the store, or the person he will interview. He then follows that with the interview itself, answers only - which is sad, because I would like to know what he asked and how he asked it. The structure, in my mind, is much easier to ...more
Aug 29, 2009 Skerr52 rated it it was amazing
Individual accounts from survivors of the Rhawandan genocide. Obviously not a "feel good" book, but incredibly compelling. As the reader I went from feelings of absolute horror over the ability of man to inflict such brutality on another human being to outrage over the reasons why this was happening and disgust for world leaders would not step in to help these poor, forsaken people and finally absolute awe that these survivors could go on and rebuild their lives. This is one of those books that ...more
Fernando Portillo
Same story with this book took to long but my opinion about this book made my perspective about the world we live in and the world they live in change. We Amercian scomplain that we dont have milk in our refrigerator these people worry bout the next time there going to eat, we get mad because our food was cold they appreciate the fact that the found bread in the trash can. It's amzing and sad that these peploe are brave and go through so much while we cry for the smallest thing. Makes want to go ...more
Pedro Cabiya
Mediocre translation made it frequently hard to understand some sentences. The lyricism with which Hatzfeld introduces the testimonies is absolutely overbearing. Beyond that, it is a very important, urgent document. By far the most valuable testimonies are the ones by Jean-Baptiste Munyankore and Sylvie Umubyeyi, as both try to delve deep into the transformation of their Hutu neighbors (some of them intellectuals and professionals).
Jan 27, 2010 Yann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rwanda
Récits des rescapés du génocide au Rwanda (Génocide qui eut lieu du 6 avril au 4 juillet 1994. Il fut commis dans le cadre d'une guerre civile opposant le gouvernement rwandais, constitué de Hutus, au Front patriotique rwandais (FPR), accusé par les autorités d'être essentiellement « tutsi ».

Permet de mieux appréhender l'horreur que ces rescapés ont pu endurer pendant 3 mois mais pas de comprendre POURQUOI !?
Sep 21, 2014 Dsolove rated it really liked it
This was heart wrenching, but a very fast read. The survivors are all more compassionate than could be expected. Their lives are unbelievably hard. Rwanda squandered a couple generations of people seeking an education and a better way of life when those in power decided to engage in genocide. I sought out this book after reading a fictionalized account, Running the Rift. It is hard to imagine that the rest of the world stood by and again failed to act to stop this insanity.
Alyssa Cara
Apr 17, 2012 Alyssa Cara rated it really liked it
I initially grabbed this book from the library as a resource to use in a research paper. However, after reading the first two chapters I couldn't put it down. The stories are heartbreaking yet triumphant, informative and inspiring. The book itself is organized in a manner which lends well to the construction of the story as a whole. A great read overall.
May 02, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it
An interesting book that must be read as part of the trilogy. I feel author Jean Hatzfeld fails to hide his personal attachments to the survivors, blurring his reception and transmission of the perpetrators' version of events in the second book. Fascinating none the less. This selection of survivor testimonies certainly provides a valuable insight into the 1994 genocide.
Paweł Sobiegraj
Powiat Nyamata przed rzezią zamieszkiwało 60 tysięcy Hutu i 59 tysięcy Tutsi. Od 11 kwietnia 1994 do 14 maja 1994 zamordowano pięciu na sześciu Tutsi, a mordów dokonywali ich sąsiedzi Hutu przy użyciu maczet, włóczni, pałek i łuków. "Nagość życia" zawiera przerażające wspomnienia tych. którzy przeżyli rzeź. Poruszająca lektura.
Oct 23, 2008 Andrew added it
It's definitely helpful to hear survivors tell their own story. He doesn't explain how he conducted the interviews, but a pattern emerges in the accounts that he asked everyone a series of questions and then put their responses into a narrative form, which makes it feel a bit formulaic, but on the other hand allows for comparison.
May 21, 2009 Adrian added it
Testimony from a dozen survivors of Rwandan genocide. Most survived by hiding in marshes, lying in mud and drinking fetid water. Remarkable stories here and people who are battling to understand why it happened.
Mar 10, 2008 Angela rated it really liked it
If the author's premise is correct, any generation and any people are capable of the horror of genocide given the ingredients, among other things, of privileged educational opportunities and income disparity.
Jan 11, 2016 Kelly rated it really liked it
Excellent insight from survivors. Gave me some responses from the source of survivors as to how to process genocide or the lack of ability to do that and their process of rebuilding a life in the face of genocide while living free from hate and bitterness.
Banu Altunbas
Trés touchant. Je ne pouvais pas lire vite, car chaque chapitre, je commencais a pleurer et finalement j'ai du arreter de lire. Difficile d'accepter pour qoui, mais la grace de rescapes est emouvante. Je recommende tres forte.
Darcy Poquette
Aug 10, 2010 Darcy Poquette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school
Incredible stories of survival. Hard to read, but important. When atrocities like this happen, it's hard to know what action to take. Surely, awareness is the first step...but what to do next? My heart goes out to all the survivors.
Feb 20, 2008 joelene rated it really liked it
Like Hatzfeld's other book he manages to get people to tell their personal experience as if they were talking to a close confidant or friend. This book is unbelievably depressing... like others about the Rwandan genocide.
May 29, 2008 Bridget rated it really liked it
This is a hard book to read from the comfort and safety of your own warm bed. I whipped through it in a couple days. It's heart wrenching. Each chapter is the story of a different survivor of the genocide in Rwanda.
Jun 22, 2009 Shelly rated it it was amazing
The best, most informative, book I've read on the Rwandan genocide. The survivors who share their stories are incredibly resilient and yet so broken by their experiences. For me, their thoughts and opinions on the "why" of the genocide were amazingly consistent and honest.
Lowell Brower
see "Machete Season"
Sharon Peters
Dec 18, 2015 Sharon Peters rated it it was amazing
So sad to read about the genocide and what these people went through.
stephanie cassidy
Nov 14, 2010 stephanie cassidy rated it it was amazing
A deep breath, a little light on the edge of my desk that shakes and wants to blow out, but does not...
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2015 Reading Chal...: Life Laid Bare by Jean Hatzfeld 1 11 Oct 03, 2015 03:59PM  
  • Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey
  • A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It
  • The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide
  • When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda
  • Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwanda Genocide and the International Community
  • Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda
  • The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe and Power in the Heart of Africa
  • Broken Memory: A Story of Rwanda
  • God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Journey of Transformation
  • The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones
  • The Order Of Genocide: Race, Power, And War In Rwanda
  • An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography
  • Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda
  • Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur
  • Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison
  • House of Stone: The True Story of a Family Divided in War-Torn Zimbabwe
  • The Devil Came on Horseback: Bearing Witness to the Genocide in Darfur
  • The Key to My Neighbor's House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda
Jean Hatzfeld is a journalist. He worked for many years as a war correspondent for Libération, a French newspaper, before leaving to focus on reporting the Rwandan genocide.
More about Jean Hatzfeld...

Other Books in the Series

Rwanda (3 books)
  • Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
  • The Antelope's Strategy: Living in Rwanda After the Genocide

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