Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Shake Hands With The Devil

Book Review: Shake Hands With The Devil by Romeo Dallaire

"This book is nothing more nor less than the account of a few humans who were entrusted with the role of helping others taste the fruits of peace. Instead, we watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect." - Romeo Dallaire

Beware. A friend of mine told me he read this book and immediately it put him into a three month depression. Although I did not have the same reaction, I too was moved and felt despair as I considered the heart wrenching story of one of the worst genocides of this past century as it took place in the country of Rwanda. How bad was it? Eight hundred thousand people were killed in 100 days. Most of them were hacked to death with machetes. Worse of all, it could have been avoided.

The book is written by General Romeo Dallaire, UN force commander of the 1993 UN intervention in Rwanda. Dallaire takes you behind the scenes at the UN, Canadian forces, and the peace initiative in Rwanda. He shares deeply from his thoughts and feelings about how things happened and how we tried to make things better but outside forces conspired against him. What transpires in the book is an emotional chronicle of the heroic efforts and sacrifices of many good people to try to save a country. At almost 600 pages it's not a slender book, yet I found it difficult to put down.

I've read the book twice and each time I'm struck anew with the evilness of human nature. The book practically drips with it and that's what makes it so overwhelming emotionally. One simply is not ready to hear the stories of barbarism that man is capable of. Yet page after page describes it - not only the direct barbarism of racists seeking to exterminate an entire group of people but also the discouraging nonchalance of bureaucrats and nations who by their indifference sustained the slaughter. Many times I found myself just feeling sad and shaking my head.

If you are into human rights, like war theory/history, or simply enjoy matter-of-fact style written biographies you will probably like this book. There is a message of hope at the end but it takes you over 550 pages to get there. This is an important book, perhaps the most important book written by a Canadian in the past 20 years. Rwanda must never happen again. 4.2 ninja stars out of 5.


Karla said...

It is happening again.... Darfur.

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