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An Ordinary Man: The True Story Behind Hotel Rwanda
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
One man's story of his experience during the Rwanda genocide of 1994, notable for the author's dignity and humility in the face of insufferably daunting events. He encapsulates his attitude in the quotation I have used for this review.

While he pulls no punches in portraying the harrowing nature of the events, he is at great pains at all times to stress that he was only one of many who were putting themselves at risk in order to protect their fellow man. He is particularly good on the almost casual way in which the hideous and the horrific can very soon be accepted as the norm. The clarity of the writing style turns subject matter which could have been very offputting into a very readable examination of the nature of humankind. An important, moving book.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2006
I saw Hotel Rwanda last year and thought it was an amazing film, it was no surprise that Don Cheadle and Sophie Okenado both received Oscar nominations or that Paul Rusesabagina was referred to as an African Oscar Schindler.

This book is a welcome addition to the film as it gives Paul's back story. His childhood outside Kigali and early experience of ethnic hatred in the 50's when his father hid Tutsi refugees in their village. As a young man he trained to be a clergyman, but abandoned that when he fell in love later becoming a hotel manager. The story of the siege at the Mille Collines hotel is powerfully told with the tension and heart in mouth feeling I experienced while watching the film.

The benefit of the book over the film comes with bringing Paul's story up to date. The telling of his life now in Belgium with his own children and his nieces whose parents were murdered in the genocide. Rusesabagina himself is never boastful when recounting his actions considering them that of any decent person or an Ordinary Man.

In the same way as the Schindler story and that of Primo Levi - An Ordinary Man is a book that should be read by everyone as a reminder of the worst and best that humanity is capable of.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2006
You like me are probably drawn to this book from watching the film 'Hotel Rwanda' which highlighted the plight of the many Rwandan's who suffered at the hands of their neighbours and once close friends, but perhaps more sickening the European community at large by their failure to intervene. I was very touched by the nature of this book, it's delivery fairly objective in what, let's face it, was an emotionally terrifying and charged time - being calm and with an understated eloquence wasn't what I expected. Don't get me wrong, the descriptions of the violence aren't shyed away from and are doubly shocking for their detail, it is the understanding of human nature and the wisdom of Mr Rusesabagina that permeates the writing and gives the sense of calm.

There are many lessons to be learned from the book and it delivers them up plentifully and masterfully one of which shows that situations that force you to face your own mortality crystallise those things around you into simple rules/principles. There is a revealing of the 'truth' in the relations of things; your choices are limited and you operate on the basis of the most basic pragmatism - the preservation of life. The complications our lives have are born out of choice and the luxury associated with it built up in layers and are in the most simple illusions - our wants and needs confused.

The points made in the book echo an understanding of humanity and demonstrate a refreshing show of common sense and self reliance providing great lessons for those receptive to it. It is also good at revealing the psychology of a people and how it is built by their culture and social practice and how it can be exploited by the powers in government - in this case to disastrous consequences! ( actually in most cases - eventually!) The author also shows the importance of maintaining a discipline with yourself and considering longterm consequences of negative activity against your fellows no matter how trivial - a good lesson as these will come back and haunt you in due time.

Paul Rusesabagina is a great man have no doubts, he humbly rejects the title of hero but really there is no clearer definition than this account of a mans stand against insanity. All normality around him was crumbling yet he remained steadfast in his conviction to preserve life relying on the simple truths he knew about people and the power of communication, these things I realised were the unchangeable anchors that kept him sane.

A great book with cherished lessons but disturbing afterthoughts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2006
Paul Rusesabagina starts his moving account of that bloody spring in 1994 with a brief overview of Rwandese history, the impact of colonialism, and the dynamic of the hutu-tutsi coexistence which has been typical of the Rwandese social fabric. His account is genuine and insightful, and really helps bring context to the terrible events of those 100 days in 1994. It is all too easy to dismiss this tragedy as pure ethnic rivalry and anger of a few african tribes. This book clarifies how the events escalated and how the power of words and propaganda propelled a situation into unimaginable human cruelty and horror. "An Ordinary Man" is probably the most insightful of all books I've read on the Rwandese genocide. It underlines the danger of misunderstanding this conflict and its context, since this tragedy can recur, in Rwanda or elsewhere, if lessons aren't learned. A genuine, beautifully written and humbling account of all the worst and the best mankind is capable of.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2006
Paul Rusesabagina's book should compulsary reading for all.

It is a true and frank account of the evil that can be bread into the thoughts of otherwise sane and ordinary people and how the mind can be twisted over time.

Paul's account is a graphic insight into life as a Tutsi or a Hutu helping out the Tutsi's back in the days of the Genocide.

Paul's inherant ability to talk 'would-be' killers out of slaughtering the innocent inhabitants of the hotel des Mille Collines shows us that amongst absolute madness, comes humanity.

Yet Paul is still unassuming throughout the attrocities of 1994. he is "Just a Hotel Manager" and yet this unassuming man saved the lives of 1,268 people in those 100 days of bloodshed.

Please, read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2006
Paul shares with us the horrors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide from his perspective as the hotel manager of one of the top hotels in Rwanda. His words are honest, thought provoking and hardhitting. There are no nicieties in this story- horrendous things happened whilst the world stood by. Paul talks honestly about what he did and how he did it - he makes no claims to be anyone special but his words show him to be much more than 'an ordinary man'. What he shares with you here you will never forget and thats how it should be - we all have responsibilities for the world will live in and one of those is to be informed - this book certainly does that. Much of what Paul says comes from his heart and speaks of hard realities for him personally, for Rwanda and for the world at large.

I very much admired Paul - his actions during the genocide, how he has since responded and dealt with the after affects and his writings here. We must sit up and take notice of what he says regarding genocide, they will be powerful words if received and acted upon!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is the powerful story of Paul Rusesabagina and how he survived the Rwandan genocide, whilst trying to help as many others at the same time. The film 'Hotel Rwanda' was based upon his story. The writing style is extremely easy to read, even if the subject matter makes for harrowing and even uncomfortable reading at times. Paul comes across as a modest man, with the utmost integrity and you can't help but be impressed by how he behaved during the genocide and worked toward saving as many refugees as possible. He explains the historical context to the genocide, as well as some of the politics, both national and international as it was carried out and this makes for an enlightening read. Fortunately, he is able to write this harrowing story and is still able to finish the book leaving you feeling inspired and not without hope for the future. A great book of a turbulent time that was ignored by western nations and international bodies as it occurred. Well worth a read.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2007
Confronting killers with a combination of diplomacy, flattery and deception, Paul Rusesabagina managed to shelter more than 1,200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus while homicidal mobs raged outside his hotel with machetes during the Rwandan genocide. His autobiography explores the inner life of the man in a way the film could not. Rusesabagina discusses the racial complexity within his own life, he is a Hutu married to a Tutsi, and his complete estrangement from the madness that surrounded him during the genocide.

The book takes the reader inside the hotel during those 100 days, relates the anguish of those who saw loved ones hacked to pieces, and describes Rusesabagina's ambivalence at pouring the Scotch and lighting the cigars of killers in the Swimming Pool bar, even as he hid as many refugees as possible inside the guest rooms upstairs. Never-before-reported elements of the Rwandan genocide will be disclosed in this book, such as the lack of interest of the international community, and the disgraceful behaviour of some of the UN peacekeeping troops, who purchased the cars of the Tutsis who had taken shelter inside the hotel.

"An Ordinary Man" draws parallels between what happened in Rwanda with other genocides throughout history and asks the question: what causes an entire nation to go insane? It also offers an inside look at the problem of genocide and the responsibilities of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. It concludes with an exploration of the tremendous power of words to sow hatred, but also to bring life and hope.

A great read about a totally selfless humble man who faces the impossible madness of genocide and survives whilst saving a great many lives in the process....the western nations should hang their heads in shame; Paul Rusesabagina deserves to hold his high!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2007
I found this book on Amazon whilst searching for a new read and felt compelled to read it. From the outset you realise that Paul is a great human being with the most amazon amount of compassion. How anyone could have kept themselves together, not just to protect himself and his family but the hundereds of others that he gave refuge to is just incredible.

The book is fantastically written and an extremely easy read. The thing that stands out most for me is that Paul gives us snippets and quotes from other historical moments in his explanations of what was happen in his country at the time.... and it is these that i will rememeber the most.

The book also pushes home the fact, that many of us are already aware of, in that the super powers of his world will always sit back and wait when there is nothing to gain from helping another country in need. If only the American goverment had said the word 'Genocide'.....

How does a person live through this and come out the other side? I'm not sure many of us could, and that is what makes Paul a very special person. If i had to pick one fault with the book, it would be that it does not go into quite enough detail for me. Not of the killing, god knows it is graphic enough, but i feel the book could've easily been a lot longer, and some matters were skipped through too quickly. Maybe this is my selfishness showing, because i simply didn't want the book to end.

This is a MUST read and will leave you looking to discover more about this atrocity, i know it has me. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2007
What a wonderful human being. A totally modest, unassuming gentlemen who to this day, does not believe he done anything other than what should have been done in such harsh times of need. What I found wonderful about this book, is that Paul shares his own personal thoughts in such a way, that it can only be honest & genuinely believable. He draws on previous inspirations & his mental toughness can only be admired. You get the impression that his father was always in his thoughts while everyone around him was going mad. His moral values are quite simply beautiful & have a running under current all the way through this book. This is also a very very sad book & explains in detail the torture the Hutu inflicted on the Tutsis. This book will be referenced in future times of need. Personally, I found, & will continue to do so, Paul Rusesabagina inspirational.
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