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Abstract: Semujanga

When fiction becomes testimony of Genocide

Josias Semujanga (Université de Montreal)

 I would like to present these notes in three phases:

 1 - First, we briefly discuss the debate in literary criticism and philosophy to see if genocide could be said by fiction. This issue focuses on the philosophical dimension of literature, which is to communicate the common truths of human existence on the basis of empathy, which are different from the truth historians constructed from the actual conditions of life. I argue that the unspeakable nature of genocide is a rhetoric tool used to create a shared emotion between the writer and the reader;

 2 - I analyze in a second step, the role of narrative fiction as involved in the construction of the memory of the genocide. As stories, novels and storytelling have both a lot of rhetoric and narrative aspects that build a shared emotion between the writer and the reader of genocide, that emotion is justified by the horrific acts perpetrated by the killers.

 3-Finally, I analyze written texts by African authors. In order to provoke emotion in readers, to have them experience empathy with the victims, the authors use aesthetic tools with an ethical dimension. For this, the authors use mechanisms of intertextuality, of words and themes of the Holocaust, African literature, World Literature and Rwandan history and culture. In this way, the Tutsi genocide is said and seen as other genocide.

In conclusion, I would like to discuss the specific case of the Rwandan authors who write essays and stories more than novels about the genocide. Are there any causes, anthropological, sociological, cultural and economic? What are the popular modes of narration of the genocide in Rwanda: songs, stories on the radio, painting, etc.? What does the apparent difficulty of naming the event - genocide – mean in post-genocide Rwandan society?: Itsembabwoko-n-Itsembatsemba (1994), Jenoside (2002), Jenoside yakorewe Abatutsi (2008), etc.?

March 11, 2016

CHD 420