I have been looking for books from Senegal for a while, and everywhere I turned the name Boubacar Boris Diop kept on turning up. I started looking for his book Kaveena, which appealed to me, but was unfortunately not able to find it. I have already read another famous Senegalese book, So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ, so I kept on looking for something else. I found a list of the best 100 books from Africa in the 20th century, and there it was: Diop’s Murambi, The Book of Bones. It is not set in Senegal though, but in Rwanda.
I am happy that I read this book, even though the subject, genocide, is one of the worst, but I definitely agree that this book should be on the list of best African books. When the rest of the world was excited about the World Cup in football in 1994, Rwanda faced one of the most horrific events in recent history when about one million Tutsis were slaughtered.
The main character in the book is Cornelius Uvimana, a teacher, who was in Djibouti during the days of massacre, He goes back home, and tries to understand what has happened. It is a surprisingly fast and easy read considering the gruesome subject. It only went into hardcore details a few times, otherwise it was more of an emotional read, a description of that time through the eyes of normal people. It is a well-written book, and excellently translated, which gave me the feeling of stepping out of the video rental place into the Kigali market right at the start of the book.
This is an excellent read for people who would like to begin to understand what happened in Rwanda and why. It has now been awhile since this happened, and it is possible to reflect on the events nowadays. I was happy to see earlier this year that Rwanda is nowadays supposed to be the safest country in Africa. A lot can happen in a short time.
The book refers to the year 1959 as the year when it all actually started, the so-called Hutu Peasant Revolution. It is actually not distinctively an ethnic issue, but more economical, but to understand all this it is best to read up on the subject. I like that the book is trying to get the reader to understand that Rwanda is no more a violent country than any other country, but certain political actions can lead up to something as devastating as this. One event does not make some people savages, but a horrible event in recent history we can learn from.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in world matters, history and the human mind. This will most definitely not be the last book I will read by Diop, and hopefully one day soon I will get my hands on Kaveena.