French journalist wins T.R. Fyvel Book Award

Into The Quick of Life: The Rwandan Genocide — The Survivors Speak and A Time for Machetes: The Rwandan Genocide — The Killers Speak by Jean Hatzfeld has won the 2006 T.R. Fyvel Book Award.

In the late 1990s French journalist Jean Hatzfeld interviewed survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in the villages of Nyamata and N’tarama, where, in the first two days of the genocide, over 10,000 Tutsis were massacred in the churches where they sought refuge. The survivors were drawn from all ages, coming from different walks of life, from orphan teenage farmers to the local social worker.

The survivors Jean Hatzfield interviewed talk of the genocide, the death of family and friends in the church and in the marshes of Bugesera to which they fled. They also talk of their present life and try to explain and understand the reasons behind the extermination.

These horrific accounts of life at the very edge, in Into The Quick of Life, contrast with Hatzfeld’s own sensitive and vivid descriptions of Rwanda’s villages and countryside in peacetime.

In 2000 he returned to interview the men behind one of the most devastating crimes against humanity in recent history. A Time for Machetes is the result of his interviews with nine of the Hutu killers. Most of the men were farmers, ordinary men. They told Hatzfeld how the work was given to them, what they thought about it, how they did it, what their responses were to the first time they killed and what they felt when they killed a mother and child or an acquaintance.

The T.R. Fyvel Book Award is adminstered by the Index on Censorship as part of its annual Freedom of Expression Awards which honour human rights defenders who have made a significant contribution to free expression over the past year.

The other books that had been shortlisted for the award included:

  • Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend (Marion Boyars) Drawn from the weblog of a 24-year-old Iraqi woman describing life under occupation in Baghdad.
  • Human Cargo by Caroline Moorehead (Vintage) Interviews with survivors of civil war, genocide, rape and racist attacks the world over who have sought asylum and for entrance into refugee camps.
  • Unspeak by Steven Poole (Little Brown) An exploration of the ways phrases such as ‘pro-life,’ ‘Iraqi freedom’ and ‘natural resources,’ are used to distort ideas and principles, and
  • Beasts Of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala (John Murray) A startling debut novel of child soldiers and lost innocence in an unspecified African country.

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