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Narrating Itsembabwoko

When Literature becomes Testimony of Genocide

Josias Semujanga

The tenacious belief in a disjunction of genocide and art has risen a persisting polemic in literary cricism. Narrating Itsembabwoko challenges this dichotomous thinking by assuming that a narrative about genocide is both a work and a testimony because the sense-making in work is a shared construction between writing, reading, and meaning to the point that artistic expression seems to be the irreplaceable nature of art to ensure the memory of events. The main assumption is that the aesthetic process brings together the forms, motifs, or themes already available in the vast field of literature and art, which are known to the reader, and integrates them in a particular text; however, the axiological process is an argumentative level, which governs and shapes the enunciated values in the work. This book shows how through their works writers seek forms – language or genre – that allow them to represent the horror of extermination, making the reader think about the moral range of narratives about genocide – fiction or testimony – using words that communicate the values of humanity, in opposition to the macabre deployment of absolute evil.


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3. Harvest of Skulls: Recycling the Fragments of the Holocaust


3. Harvest of Skulls: Recycling the Fragments of the Holocaust In the Harvest of Skulls (Moisson de crânes), Abdourahman Waberi exam- ines the roots of genocide. While offering a reflection on language and lit- erary genres, he summed it up in one question: how to write after Rwanda? Waberi focused his thinking on determining the defining qualities of the specifics of genocide fiction. In the Harvest of Skulls, Waberi develops a literary philosophy whose clue is the art of fragments, which is related to the aesthetics of the puzzle, for both require that fragments be assembled to form a mosaic text. For Waberi, life is too intricate to be understood, and genocide too unthinkable to be narrated in its entirety. Recycling Fragments In the Harvest of Skulls, Waberi recycles and cannibalizes official dis- courses from the media by putting them into fiction. Indeed, Rwanda has long been a venue for Western discourses, and never in a constructive way. The history and people of Rwanda are often reduced to a simple conflict between Hutu and Tutsi, which led to genocide. Waberi inserts the African point of view into Western discourses that took their origins in the colo- nial era, and constructed Africa as the land of darkness inhabited by sav- ages. In the Harvest of Skulls, Waberi portrays Rwanda, on the one hand, from an African point of view by evoking the harmonious world of ancient times, and on the other, from the viewpoint of Western discourses. By juxtaposing African...

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