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Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak

(Rwanda #2)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  2,215 ratings  ·  184 reviews
During the spring of 1994, in a tiny country called Rwanda, some 800,000 people were hacked to death, one by one, by their neighbors in a gruesome civil war. Several years later, journalist Jean Hatzfeld traveled to Rwanda to interview ten participants in the killings, eliciting extraordinary testimony from these men about the genocide they perpetrated. As Susan Sontag wro ...more
Paperback, 253 pages
Published April 18th 2006 by Picador USA (first published 2003)
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tdct I'm a bit late to comment -- but no, you can read this book perfectly well without having read the first one.…moreI'm a bit late to comment -- but no, you can read this book perfectly well without having read the first one.(less)

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Nov 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the farmer kills the cheese
Recommended to Mariel by: the farmer kills the mouse
"This gentleman I killed at the marketplace, I can tell you the exact memory of it because he was the first. For others, it's murky- I cannot keep track anymore in my memory. I considered them unimportant; at the time of those murders I didn't even notice the tiny thing that would change me into a killer."

Susan Sontag wrote the preface for Jean Hatzfeld's book Machete Season. She says: To make the effort to understand what happened in Rwanda is a painful task that we have no right to shirk- it i
Paul Bryant
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
With some books you get exactly what you expected, which in this case, was a bunch of ordinary guys from Rwanda talking about killing people with machetes, a lot. They were all interviewed at length in prison.

During the killings I no longer considered anything in the Tutsi except the person has to be done away with. I want to make clear that from the first gentleman I killed to the last, I was not sorry about a single one.

For anyone who needs reminding, the events described in this so easy to re
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it
In 1897, the Germans conquered Rwanda. They brought their burgeoning racial discrimination theories to the country and started applying them to the local population. What for centuries had been not an issue suddenly divided into ethnic differences. The Tutsis, believed to have descended from the biblical Ham, and thus more "Europeanised" than the Hutu population, became the natural favourites to rule Rwanda on behalf of the Germans. The Germans sowed the seeds of racism in Rwanda.

In 1916, German
Regina Lindsey
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"Ours is appallingly, an age of genocide, but even so, what happened in Rwanda in the spring of 1994 stands out in several ways. In a tiny, landlocked African country smaller than the state of Maryland, some 800,000 people were hacked to death, one by one, by their neighbors. The women, men, and children who were slaughtered were of the same race and shared the same language, customs, and confession (Roman Catholic) as those who eagerly slaughtered them." (pg 5) All this in twelve weeks.

Cristobo De
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Amazement. That`s my reaction to this book. So this journalist visits a Ruwandan prison and gets six of the Hutu executioners during the 1994 genocide to speak freely about their crimes. This time it is not a novel writer doing his best to sound spooky, this time it is not some sane, decent person like Primo Levy describing mass murder from the victim`s side. This time you get to the other side, as close as you can get to the real core of horror. What these men did goes so far beyond my experien ...more
I noticed that one of my Goodreads friends who is a Holocaust librarian was reading this book, so I decided to follow his lead. Words cannot begin to convey the depth and complexity of emotions which this book elicits. More than anything else, it is devastating, and insightful: giving the reader a glimpse into the minds of the Hutu killers during the Rwandan genocide.
All I can do is provide you with one small, chilling example of what one Hutu farmer thought when asked about the word genocide:
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rwanda
Note: This review is for the full four-part series.

French reporter and longtime resident of the African continent, Jean Hatzfeld, documents the Rwandan Genocide in more detail than any other historian or journalist. But don't look to his series for a complete historical context or a full examination of the motives of the killers or the previous crimes of the Tutsi people and the colonialists. Other books, like Philip Gourevitch's excellent We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed wi
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book is absolutely horrifying as it deals with first hand accounts of several killers from Rwanda during the genocide. I think I was looking for some kind of insight into the mentality of these killers, and how seemingly normal people could commit such acts of evil. Ultimately the complete banality and lack of remorse these killers felt, both during and after, the atricious murders of babies, neighbours, pregnant women etc., just left me feeling devasted.
Joel Arnold
Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is largely comprised of interviews from the men who perpetrated the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. I definitely enjoyed the authenticity of hearing from e men themselves. The author also inserts some background information and occasional observations about the nature of genocide.

I enjoyed several things about this book:
1. It gave me a great understanding of the historical background for the events in Rwanda.
2. It gave me a small sense of what it would have been like to be there during the ev
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
"If killers come to church to pray to God on their knees, to show us their remorse, I cannot pray either with them or against them. Real regrets are said eye to eye, not to statues of God. The accommodation of killers is not my concern." - Gaspard, a survivor.

This book opens up a real big historical and philosophical can of worms. Hatzfeld interviews a group of friends in prison who actively participated in the Rwandan genocide. The most anti-Tutsi of them killed the least. The man who had never
The author first wrote a book where he interviewed 14 survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. I haven’t read it, though I've read plenty of other books about it. It was only later that he thought to interview some of those who killed during the genocide. In this book, the interviews were interspersed with history, sometimes a description of interview process and how it came about that the author decided to write this one, sometimes the voices of some of the survivors are included.

The killers just c

"In a tiny, landlocked African country smaller than the state of Maryland, some 800,000 people were hacked to death, one by one, by their neighbors. The women, men, and children who were slaughtered were of the same race and shared the same language, customs, and confession (Roman Catholic) as those who eagerly slaughtered them." (p.vii)

"When there has been one genocide there can be another, at any time in the future, anywhere -- if the cause is still there and no one knows what it is"
Mar 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Writer Philip Gourevitch has chosen to discuss Jean Hatzfeld’s Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject - Rwanda, saying that:

Hatzfeld wound up going back to Rwanda and the whole group of killers who had been pursuing the survivors he’d been writing about in his first book were all in one prison nearby. And he arranged to meet with them on a regular basis, individually and collectively, to hear their stories. And it’s the most direct (I
Daniel DeLappe
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very disturbing book that should be read by everyone. It is amazing to see these people try to excuse their behavior. Of course they were not responsible for their behavior and of course the people they slaughtered were some how at fault in their deaths. Two things that really stand out in this book. These murderers actually are a bit put off that their victims families did not forgive their transgressions and a few of these shit stains are actually walking around free today. Read this book fo ...more
Angela Wade
Jul 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, rwanda
The layout of this book was awful, and the stories got repetitive. I feel like the author stayed away from the tough questions with regard to the men who killed, instead allowing them to tell only what they wished with no real challenge as to their frames of minds.

I may have learned a little more of the how, but I still don't really understand the WHY.

The tidbits related to culture were what kept me reading, but in the end they couldn't save this book, and I can't really recommend it, as there a
Renée Wyman
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Difficult to read, but a narrative that everyone should. The stories and perspectives of Rwanda's worst were not at all what I expected. The realities this novel depicts are ones we all should face in order to prevent history from repeating itself. ...more
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it

Crazy. From horror to the banal and matter-of-fact accounts, this collection is key for anyone wanting to get a better grasp of what happened in Rwanda.
Dipesh Mistry
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rwanda has always been close to my heart. Back in 1994, I wondered and asked my dad, why are there so many refugees walking on a narrow, lonely, long road to Congo? Back than I was too young to understand the tragedy that had gripped the people there.

"Machete Season by Jean Hatzfeld" is a tough book to read!, it lets the killers speak for themselves, why they did what they did. Reading their stories, made me angry towards them, but sometimes helpless.

There are two extremes that live within us,
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
We are such a wonderful species... Jesus. The most shocking thing about this book is how nonchalantly the killers refer to their role in the genocide as just another job...similar to that of farming but with greater reward and less work. Sickening. Be wary all who enter this book. It might be one of the most hopeless things I've ever read. ...more
Todd Wilhelm
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is a compilation of interviews with Rwanda Hutus who participated in the genocidal killings of the Tutsis. At times it was chilling to read, but I pressed on as I was curious to see what drives average people to become crazed genocidal killers. There are no easy answers. What frightens me is the possibility that all of us have this darkness lurking deep down in our hearts.

"To kill so many human beings without wavering, we had to hate with no second thoughts. Hatred was the only emotion
B Sarv
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing

In order of publication, the books I am reviewing are:

Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak (2000) by Jean Hatzfeld, trans. Linda Coverdale

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak (2003) by Jean Hatzfeld, trans. Linda Coverdale

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair (2013) by Michael Deibert

This review is about three books at once because: 1) the topics of all three books are related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide and its aftermath, and 2) writing about the books indi
Aaron Gertler
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Some struck slowly from wickedness. Some struck quickly so as to finish up and go home early to do something else. It was not important. It was each to his own technique and personality."

In The Act of Killing , my top film of 2013, genocidal gangsters stage a musical to celebrate their butchery. The raw joy of justified murder also permeates Machete Season, a series of interviews with Rwandan killers.

Jean Hatzfield, the author, had written a book of stories from survivors. Why, then,
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jean Hatzfeld interviews ten Hutus who participated in the Rwandan genocide while serving their terms in jail. The book is divided into sections of direct quotes made by the killers and some survivors and Hatzfeld's own challenge to understand how the killers' explanations fit into a larger context of genocides, politics and human nature. The killer's discussion about why and how the genocide happened and how they came to participate in it, and what they think of it now is nothing short of astou ...more
L Frost
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Because of the subject matter, it's impossible to say this is a "good" book. But it is insightful, disturbing, confusing, and important. Although I was somewhat curious to hear from these men why they did what they did, I wasn't sure there was really much to learn that you didn't already know from the survivors and scholars. But the psychology surrounding these men plays a much bigger role than imagined. The possible motives were much more complex than what you may initially think. It's importan ...more
Galina Trefil
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very good read on the collective psychopathy of the mob mentality. It takes care to emphasize that, contrary to more popular portrayals, the genocide did not spring out of nowhere, but had been decades of pogroms in the making. Also compelling to note how it had much less to do with Hutu vs. Tutsi at the root and much more to do with general poverty and a lack of very basic resources, leaving one to wonder how much would have taken place at all if the country were better off financially in the ...more
Tariq Mahmood
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The educated people were certainly the ones who drove the farmers on, out in the marshes. Today they're the ones who juggle with the words or turn close-mouthed. Many sit quietly in their same places as before. Some have become ministers or bishops; they aren't much in the public eye, but they still wear their fancy clothes and fold framed glasses. While suffering keeps us in prison. Adalbert, a Hutu farmer turned killer in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

What a book. Its a book which is unlike any ot
Armour Craig
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Tough read. Any by that I mean, there are passages of darkness that few humans have ever encountered. That said, and regardless of your thoughts of Susan Sontag, I offer you this excerpt from her foreword. I concur wholeheartedly. There are many parts of this book I was going to offer as an enticement to read it, but her comments sum it up far better than I could:

"Our obligation, and it is an obligation, is to take in what human beings are capable of doing to one another, not spontaneously (crim
Kevin Jonker
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Reading this book, I was reminded of a Holocaust survivor who was asked how something like the Holocaust could happen. The survivor said (I'm paraphrasing here), "Fifteen percent of the people are merciful no matter what, and fifteen percent of the people are cruel no matter what. The rest are open to suggestion." Here are the accounts of ten people who were open to suggestion--or maybe they were cruel. Hard to say at this point; they're murderers.

If you've ever wondered how ordinary people coul
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is abhorrent. You may think you can handle it, that you can read it, but you are wrong: you cannot. You will want to read more slowly, because you fear the words, and you will want to read more quickly, because you desperately want it to end. If you read it, as I did, to learn, to try to understand, you will come away disappointed, and more confused. The only thing I came to understand through the reading was the depth of evil which seemingly ordinary humans can contain and express, wi ...more
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think it would be exceptionally hard to convince convicted killers to share their stories, yet Hatzfeld manages to persuade a group of friends who participated in the Rwandan genocide to open up and provide some horrific insights into their involvement. An important read for anyone interested in a deeper understanding about the genocide.
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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.

Other books in the series

Rwanda (3 books)
  • Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
  • The Antelope's Strategy: Living in Rwanda After the Genocide

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