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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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6. Murekatete: The Broken Brotherhood and the Inability to Love


6. Murekatete: The Broken Brotherhood and the Inability to Love Since the main character’s name and the book title are the same, it is rather confusing which is being referred to; the book title is in italics. Murekatete (which means “let her be a spoiled child”) is an emblematic name for a life without worries but the title character in Monique Ilboudo’s novel contra- dicts the symbolic meaning of her name. Indeed, in the novel, Murekatete narrates the massacre of her children during the genocide, and she cannot move beyond mourning to live happily with her new husband. Found in a deep coma in a ravine, she is saved by Venant, an officer of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, who drives her to hospital where she stays for a while. After being treated for her injuries and psychological trauma, she starts searching for her savior. Although they will later marry, Murekatete is unable to open herself up to her new husband because she suffered too much psychologically to comply with the rules of love and desire. The couple tries to exorcise the nightmares by visiting genocide memorials, which proves to be a fatal choice for them. Murekatete narrates the grue- some stories of other survivors. In Mwulire, she tells the story of a young woman left dying close to the body of her husband and who as a conse- quence gives birth to a stillborn baby. In Murambi, she relates the remains of the 45,000 Tutsi on the grounds of...

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