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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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5. The Shadow of Imana: Traveling over the Maze of Genocide


5. The Shadow of Imana: Traveling over the Maze of Genocide Véronique Tadjo wrote The Shadow of Imana after being a writer-in- residence in Rwanda in 1998. To this native of the Ivory Coast, Rwanda seemed friendly to her because she knew the phantasms, joys, and slums of Africa. It was the first time that she came into contact with the conse- quences of genocide, and she tried to understand how such inhumanity could exist. She turned her questions to the short stories that she devel- oped in the service of ethics. The Shadow of Imana was her first-hand account, but she also gave voice to those whom she had met: survivors, prisoners, victims, women, the sick, lost children, and refugees – an entire people tell of their pain and fear. Through this mosaic of destinies, her narrative takes on a special dimension of intimacy amid a quest for knowledge. Across a mix of literary genres, the travel narrative with its topoï on the otherness of another man and the essay on the horror of the genocide, Tadjo creates a fragmented and discontinuous story that brings together the devastating pessimism of Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night and Camus’s The Plague. The Shadow of Imana is primarily a collection of short stories, a creative fiction about genocide. The book borrows the mechanisms of travel narrative, juxtaposing them with its derivatives, including report- age, the first-hand account, and scriptural strategies. It is a collage of narratives, which symbolically...

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