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A Time for Machetes: The Rwandan Genocide - The Killers Speak Paperback – 10 Jan 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (10 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852429887
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852429881
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 182,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Weaving in concise background detail to the massacre, his writing never strays into cheap polemic. The matter-of-fact detail of the slayings threaded into the cadence and minutiae of a normal day in the life of the killers is sufficient to empower this chilling reportage. (Herald)

Hatzfeld transcends cultural divides to provide and insightful exposition of human morality

and emotion... Highly insightful reads, which will leave you with an overwhelming sense of

guilt for what cannot be undone, and a suspicion for your fellow man

(Big Issue)

Chilling work of oral history. (Irish Independent)

About the Author

Born in Madagascar in1949, novelist and journalist Jean Hatzfeld worked for several years as foreign correspondent for French daily newspaper Libération, covering both the conflict in Yugoslavia, where he was wounded by machine-gun fire in 1992, and the Rwandan genocide. He lives in Paris. 45


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Guy Edmunds on 26 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
On April 7th, 1994, the small, Central African Republic of Rwanda was enveloped by the fastest genocide of the twentieth century, claiming the lives of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus within one hundred days. The world looked on, first in denial, then with incredulity, and finally, with condemnation - far too late to be of any use to the victims.

Comparisons were drawn with the Holocaust and the killing fields of Cambodia. Yet what set Rwanda apart even from these genocides was that so much of the killing was done not by agents of the state, but by ordinary men - farmers, labourers and shopkeepers - with the machete their weapon of choice.

Jean Hatzfeld, a French journalist, gained access to a group of Hutu friends who were willing to speak to him from prison, without danger of self-incrimination. Ostensibly modest in scale, A Time for Machetes records their reflections about the genocide as it unfolded in Nyamata, a district in southern Rwanda. As a result, the book succeeds brilliantly in explaining how the genocide came to pass.

The conversations are relayed directly, in the words of the killers themselves. Chapters are split up to cover different themes: for example, were they coerced to kill, or did they do so willingly? How did the first kill feel? What was the role of women? Did they profit from the killings? Did they maintain their religious observance during the genocide?

The result is one of the most important books I have ever read. For in letting the killers speak with their own words, the author shines a light on their humanity. And if we can learn anything from history, it runs through the reflections of these ordinary men: how the capacity for the deepest inhumanity is so very, very human.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Veronica M. on 18 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
"A Time for Machetes" is a harrowing book. It is six years after the genocide in Rwanda and the journalist Jean Hatzfeld manages to persuade a group of imprisoned killers to speak to him. The interviews cover questions like how it was the first time they killed, how the killings were organized and conducted and if forgiveness is possible.

The accounts of the killers are interspersed by Hatzfeld's observations which give additional insights. Sometimes, however, he seems as perplexed as the reader by what he hears.The ten men speak of their unspeakable crimes so impassively, with so little remorse that I often found it a struggle to turn the page.

Once ordinary farmers these men take up their machetes to go "hunting" for Tutsis in the marshes, they "cut" them down and would have finished "the job" if it had not been for the advance of the rebel army. The words they use to describe their actions are chilling. Reflection on what suffering they inflicted is rare. They report no nightmares, seem not particularly distressed by what they did.

"A Time for Machetes" is an important book on the Rwandan genocide - and in its implications a very frightening one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Samuel K. Adetunji on 24 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
This was not a tale to be told, it was just too bad for man to be killing one another with machette, I think it showed the level of cruelty in the world today.
I find out the killers that killed their neigbours still justify their action simply because of etnicity.
Human being can never learn from history, I pray it never happen again but history is always repeating itself.
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Format: Paperback
Jean Hatzfeld's "A Time for Machetes", along with its sequel "Into the Quick of Life", are in my opinion the two best works discussing the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

What makes these two books so exceptional is that they convey the violence in Rwanda from the viewpoints of both the criminals and the victims. "A Time for Machetes" is based on interviews with gang-members of Hutu death-squads who perpetrated most of the killings of Tutsis during the genocide. Hatzfeld interviewed these people in prison while they were awaiting trial for their crimes. "Into the Quick of Life" explores the other side and relates the experiences of fourteen Tutsi survivors. Their testimonies were passed on to the UN International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda as documentary evidence. Apart from a brief two or three page introduction about the genocide, neither of the two books contain any editorial comment from the author. Instead, Hatzfeld simply chooses to let each person unfold their story in turn one after the other, knowing that these are powerful enough to speak for themselves.

The reader will learn how village communities where Hutus and Tutsis had peacefully coexisted for years were suddenly torn asunder by a violent frenzy of murder. People whose families had been friends for generations denounced one another on the slightest pretext: jealousy, ambition, material greed, long-standing rows. Any excuse was good to rid oneself of cumbersome rivals and achieve one's aims. The distress of the Tutsi women is especially poignant considering that rape followed by execution was a systematic feature of the genocide. What is also clear is that these mass-killings were meticulously planned, exploiting cross-cultural animosities dating back to colonial times.
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