Vanessa's Reviews > Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

Shake Hands with the Devil by Roméo Dallaire
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Feb 26, 09

Read in February, 2009

This is such an important book, but a very tough one to get through because it is filled with stuff that will make you want to tear your hair out in frustration, hang your head in shame, and boil your brain in bleach to remove the terrible images seared into it. It is no wonder that General Dallaire is still traumatized after this experience, and he has my admiration for mustering his strength and courage to write it all down, just as he has my admiration for refusing to turn his back on the people of Rwanda even though he was unable to motivate the UN and the world to intervene in the civil war and genocide. By bearing witness to the horrors of Rwanda and by exposing all of the decisions and roadblocks made by the UN and western governments that hogtied him (and his brave troops), Dallaire may have helped to prevent this dark page of history from being repeated in another country. One can hope.

My only quibble with this book, and it is extremely minor, is that Dallaire gives us an overview of his life in the military before his assignment to Rwanda, which slows the pace a bit and which is perhaps not really essential to know in order to approach the subject at hand. Rwanda first appears on page 40, and even then it seems to me the true "story" only really begins in chapter 3. However, as I said before, this complaint is extremely minor and should not dissuade any interested party from reading this book.

A recommendation to the potential reader: the Frontline special, Ghosts of Rwanda, is an excellent supplement to this book, giving a general overview of the Rwanda tragedy as well as interviews with "power players", perpetrators, victims and onlookers, including General Dallaire himself. And a warning - if you plan to pick up this book, steel your spine first.

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Quotes Vanessa Liked

Roméo Dallaire
“I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists and therefore I know there is a God.”
Roméo Dallaire, Shake Hands With The Devil
tags: god


Reading Progress

02/11/2009 page 7
1.25% "I recently watched the powerful and profound Ghosts of Rwanda and felt that I had to read this man's book."
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Melanie Hi Vanessa! Let me know how this one is - it's on my TBR list.


Vanessa Hi Melanie! I will definitely let you know - it will be a couple of weeks because it is a fatty and the content so grave that I'm not going to be able to "devour" it in a couple of days. But so far, so good! Having seen Ghosts of Rwanda I know that this man has a powerful story to tell.


Melanie Ghosts of Rwanda - I do remember hearing good things about it. PBS or BBC? I imagine I could probably find it on DVD somewhere.


Vanessa Yes, it was a 2-hr PBS Frontline special. It is available through Netflix, which is where I got it. It is unforgettable.



Melanie Thanks - I will put it in my Queue tonight!


Jillian I also am currently reading this book it is amazing in how detailed he is in recounting events without allowing the gore of the war to take over the story. When reading it I was expecting countless gruesome pictures being depicted and Gen. Dallaire would obsessively talk about the countless scenes of carnage. But I think he is constantly hopeful about what can be done for Rwanda during and after the civil war and talks about how his heart is still in Rwanda.

He does speak of some very gruesome scenes like picking up a child from a pile of bodies thinking it was still alive but on closer inspection he realizes it is not the child who is moving but the maggots inside devouring the child. He talks very reverently of those who he worked with who lost their lives, the decisions he felt like he should have made, and all of the lives that could have been saved. He has the right to be cynical and give up on hope but even though he continues to be tormented of the war torn scenes of carnage he still cherishes and hopes that the children of the next generation can live free of the carnage and fully enjoy the moments of running to school and kicking around a bannaleaf and twig soccer ball.


Ruth To put it lightly: this book was an exorcism.


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