Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Deogratias: A Tale Of Rwanda - Jean-Phillipe Stassen, translated, and with an introduction by Alexis Siegel

This book is a tough one. It takes place in Rwanda, around the time of the horrific genocide in 1994-95. 800,000 people were killed in that time period. I can't fathom things that horrible, on that scale, and yet I was an adult at that time, and a new parent to boot. I swear that until now I had no real knowledge of what had gone on there. You hear it mentioned, and you heard it mentioned then, but I don't think it got the HOLY SHIT, OH MY GOD reaction from the world that it deserved, and continues to deserve, like any such tragedy of human weakness and cruelty.

The story jumps back and forth in time. We see the titular character as a young man in a crisp white t-shirt on one page, and as a red-eyed zombie of his former self in the same shirt, only tattered and worn in the next. In the first flashbacks he is just a young man looking for female companionship, and later we see him as a shell-shocked wreck living from beer to beer with the horrors of his own actions playing always in his head.

This translation comes with an introduction written by the translator. I found it invaluable to a greater understanding of the setting, but not necessary to appreciate or be moved by the story itself. It's an ugly thing, but it is told perfectly. The illustration works well for the story, and the writing is pretty tight and effective. I recommend this book, but it certainly doesn't leave you feeling good about people in general. The awful situation that occurred and continued to occur, and still happens elsewhere, was created by an awful lot of people, and allowed or ignored by a lot more.


Sandy said...

I hadn't heard about this one before, but it sounds really, really difficult. I'm not even sure if I want to take it on.

I assume you found it in the library? (Thanks for the link in your earlier post, by the way!) It was published by First Second, right?

Talkin Bout Comics said...

You're welcome. First Second is the publisher. It is a slim 78 pages, and is $16.95. I know I had difficulty with it, but it is slim and it reads fairly quickly. It also saves the most horrible stuff for right near the end. By the time you get to it, you are pretty much done. The kicked in the gut feeling has stuck around though. It is probably one you can skip until it finds you at some point. I had difficulty with Persepolis, I appreciated it as a work, and for the quality, and for the view it gave me, but I had to keep setting it down. Persepolis wasn't this kind of gruesome, but it was harder for me to get through long stretches at a time for some reason.