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Once more to Rwanda, or “How a Rwandan genocide survivor made peace with the man who almost killed her”

April 14, 2009

No Small Mercy” is my newest story on Rwanda, in the fabulous Canadian magazine The Walrus. Think of a publication whose mission is something between the current affairs analysis of The New Republic, the dedication to space and literary reportage of The New Yorker, and the willingness of Harper’s to take on the idiosyncratic, in-depth… Good stuff. (And even if Canadian politics is over my head, the Michael Ignatieff comic strip is fun for the human rights community worldwide.)

Anyway, the Walrus did what so few publications in this world do any more: they invested space and time in real reporting, in this case from Rwanda. (They also took a chance on a young writer with no profile, for which I’m grateful.) And my wonderful editor, Amy, immediately understood the one rule I wanted to follow when writing this article: sticking to the interview transcript.

“No Small Mercy” is about a Alice Mukarurinda, a woman who survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the man who cut off her hand. It’s told in the first person, from both of their perspectives, alternating between their stories. Absolutely everything about this is fraught with political and historical complexity, with sensitivities on multiple levels, and with the general dilemma of the individual story substituting for a narrative of collective experience.

The point is to tell you that we were sensitive to all that, and that almost every sentence you read is lifted, untouched, from my interview transcripts. These are really their words, as unmediated as we could make them.

Let me know what you think.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2009 1:38 pm

    Jina – I’ve been passing this story on to basically everyone I know. The trust evident in what they told you, and the unfathomable grace shown by the survivor, are humbling, as is watching you present those voices.

  2. Jennifer Martin permalink
    April 19, 2009 6:55 pm

    This article was immensely touching, especially after reading your other piece, “Forgive and Forget?” in Search magazine. Knowing from your post that the words in the article are completely Alice’s and Emmanuel’s adds priceless depth.

    Am I reading into “No Small Mercy” too much, or did you mean to imply that Alice’s faith played into her ability to forgive? “Forgive and Forget?” seemed to, by contrast, suggest that Alice was able to forgive because she understood and liked Emmanuel. Could this ability to like and understand Emmanuel not be considered a miracle on its own, though? I thought that the close friendship that they share is the most poignant part of your story; I love how your interviews captured their relationship.

    I wonder how many similar stories are being told that demonstrate how forgiveness between Hutus and Tutsis is possible. The Independent did a story on this in August of 2007, from the perspective of Immaculee Ilibagiza. She also connected forgiveness with Christianity, saying “I kept thinking of Christ on the cross and his words ‘Forgive them father they know not what they do’. I knew there was no way my family’s killers could understand the magnitude of what they were doing.” I wonder how much of a role religion has in forgiveness–would the survivors have much of a catalyst otherwise?

  3. jessica permalink
    April 23, 2009 12:54 pm

    I’ve read this piece over and over again, and it continues to challenge and inspire me. Wonderful, graceful (and I use that word in its richest sense) work!

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