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Free Online Library: Stassen. Deogratias.(Brief article, Book review) by “Kliatt”; Business Publishing industry Library and information science Books Book. Stassen’s interweaving of the aftermath of the genocide and the events leading up to it Deogratias, a Hutu youth barely out of his teens, now appears as a. The winner of the Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script, this is the harrowing tale of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, as seen through the e.

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I was only 12 years old, but had followed the news coming out of the tiny east African country with an interest bordering on obsession.

: Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda (): J.P. Stassen: Books

The images were appalling: My experience of dekgratias and pained sympathy was retrospectively unmoored from my ethical stance. I had no idea for whom I had felt, which felt very ominous.

This prompted a more critical eye: Where is their suffering coming from? And what is the point of feeling anyways? During my graduate program, I was reminded of the source of these questions during two key events.

I was invited by my advisor and mentor Gary Weissman to TA a Literature of the Holocaust class, and rather than giving me the job most Stasseen are tasked with grading mounds of papershe insisted I co-teach deoggatias course. By the time we hit Maus, both Gary and I were frustrated and occasionally unnerved by some of the responses from students. As we plowed through midterm papers, we kept coming across a phrase again and again: The other key event, not long after Sstassen for Stadsen, was when the man who would become my husband handed me J.

A Tale of Rwandaa fictional graphic novel following the title character through his lives in the pre- and post-genocide landscapes. In the era before the genocide, he is depicted as a normal young man: In the era afterward, he resembles the images of the refugees I had seen so many years before: His search for urwagwa, a banana beer, is relentless, and only 26 pages into this 79 page work, Deogratias is rendered bestial, becoming a dog as he creeps on all fours through the landscape back to an open tin-roofed shack not quite the width of a bed.

Deogratias is in love with two Tutsi sisters, Apollinaria and Benina, who are the daughters of Venetia, a local woman and sometime-prostitute. Brother Philip is new to Rwanda, and earnest in his desire to help.

The French Sergeant is a more cynical character, as is Julius, an Interahamwe leader the Interahamwe were the Hutu youth militias responsible for the bulk of killing during the genocide.

More minor characters include Augustine, a man of the Twa ethnic group, and Bosco, a Rwandan Patriotic Front officer who has become a drunk after his work to help stop the genocide. The Rwandan Genocide took place over days instarting in April the day after a plane carrying President Habyarimana was shot down. As Mahmoud Mamdani discusses in When Victims Become Killersthe Rwandan Genocide was distinct from the Holocaust in part because a large proportion of the population took part in the killing.

Betweenand a million Tutsis were killed by a minimum ofgenocidaires in a country of 11 million. While the differences are significant, it is also worth remarking on the similarities. It was a tragedy that was the combined result of decades of colonial rule, Western reluctance to intervene in an area with few natural resources, racial enmities manipulated through the use of propaganda, Stadsen support reogratias the genocidal government, a toothless U.

Peacekeeping force, and many, many other factors. Deogratias is not the first graphic novel to explore genocide, and certainly is not the most famous. His visual conceit in this work employed a variety of animals Jews as mice, Germans as cats, etc.

It is a powerful work interrogating racism, memory, intergenerational relationships, the effects of historical trauma on a family, and what it means to tell a story. Deogratiasin contrast, is an intensely quiet graphic novel. The title character rarely speaks, and while we see the pre-genocide world partially through his memories, he never contextualizes them, or connects them to the silent, dirty man we see in the post-genocide era. The characters who speak in the pre-genocide era have relatively normal lives and normal concerns.


The characters who speak in the post-genocide era carefully avoid any reference to the events of April-July What I find perhaps most important about Deogratias is the extent to which Stassen emphasizes the unreliability of images and the emotional responses they provoke in readers. A smiling white man hails him, inviting him to sit and drink. He is staring intently at the beer he is pouring into the glass, while the French sergeant looks briefly confused.

At first glance, this would appear to be a relatively minor event in a graphic narrative about genocide, but in fact, it lays out the primary thesis: While not the worst use of the imagination—after all, we rely on texts to help us better understand the world—it also underscores an often-overlooked issue: Mausbecause of its form, offered a corrective against the impulse to closely identify with experiences distant from our own positions of relatively safe U.

When one looks at a panel, one is simultaneously invited to see through a window into the world and reminded that what they are seeing is mediated. Deogratias takes the ethical self-reflexivity inherent in the graphic narrative form and uses it to emphasize what the reader generally cannot see from their vantage point in the Global North.

The tourism photographs of gorillas are the most common image out of Rwanda aside from those of the genocide, which, as I mentioned above, are often not properly images of Rwanda at all. Stassen narrows this distance when depicting the pre-genocide era by showing scenes that could occur anywhere in the world.

For example, Deogratias waits for Apollinaria outside of school, eager to present her with a comic book as a present. The comic, meant to communicate his love for her, reveals the opposite; the page Apollinaria views shows abandonment and frustration. Deogratias hides his tears, and promptly presents Benina with the same comic book.

Unlike Apollinaria, Benina sees a scene of passionate kissing, overlain by the same question Deogratias had posed to her sister, which is more successful in this case see Figure 3. As readers, we are prompted to connect with, if not identify with Deogratias. He is the main character, and while his intentions are not always pure, his actions are understandable; he is a teen trying to figure out his way in the world.

In the post-genocide era, however, the reader watches Deogratias as the memories become too strong, and he physically transforms into a dog. The transformation recalls one of the most ominous aspects of post-genocide Rwanda. After the birds fell silent, there were hardly even any animal sounds. Then I noticed the absence of dogs. What kind of country had no dogs?

The RPF had killed them all because the dogs were eating the corpses. In his continued presence, he is a manifestation also of what is absent in the present day. Over the course of the comic, it becomes clear that not all of the characters we saw in the past have survived to today, but it remains unclear how precisely Deogratias escaped their fates.

As a sympathetic Hutu who was intimately connected with a Tutsi family, he would have surely been one of the targets for the Interahamwe. Occasional stray references during the course of the comic suggest he may have been complicit, but at those moments, he retreats into happy memories. It is not until Brother Philip returns and sees Deogratias that the reader understands that Deogratias has been systematically poisoning all of those complicit in the genocide, from the French sergeant to Bosco to Julius.

In a scene from the genocide itself, the Interhamwe are depicted retreating to the Turquoise Zone. The reader is left to wonder why he would be the protagonist. Herein lies two major aspects of why Deogratias is an essential work. As readers, we exist in a privileged space in relation to these characters: Furthermore, what we are shown when we choose to look is suspect as well, because what we see may be only partial.


We may misinterpret it. Both the provisional nature of images and the chance of misinterpretation suggest that images can lead us to dangerous conclusions. In the case of the Rwandan Genocide, we conflated perpetrators with victims. The second aspect Deogratias expertly negotiates is the extent to which the reader is allotted access to victim experience, and what victim experiences can be emotionally legible.

By invoking empathetic identification with a perpetrator, to some extent Stassen is suggesting a broader complicity in the genocide than simply those hundreds of thousands that did the killing. In this moment, we are both visually identified with the culprit and are shown an image from the genocide itself—one considerably more extreme than we saw during those months in Deogratias is a powerful precisely because it exposes us not to the subjective experiences of the victims, but to that of the perpetrator.

I am asserting that Deogratias reminds us that the object of our empathy may not be deserving of it, and that, perhaps more importantly, from our vantage point in relation to the Rwandan Genocide, we were considerably closer to the bystanders who did nothing than to the victims who suffered. Art SpiegelmanDeogratiasgenocideJ. StassenKate PolakMausRwanda. This is only tangentially related to the analysis of the comic above, but taking the broad perspective two decades on from the Rwandan genocide, the siren song of empathy becomes even more troublesome.

Certainly empathy for the victims of the genocide prevented earlier censure in this instance. Torturers are great at empathy—they know exactly how to make you hurt most. He always emphasised to me that it was impossible to predict how individuals would act in such a situation. People you would have classed as good or even saintly acted horribly. Other people who were seen as worthless assholes became heroic, hiding Jews,joining the Resistance….

Empathy with evil-doers is dangerous but necessary. Empathy, however,must not evolve into sympathy in such cases.


Have you ever written on them at any length? I imagine it would be a great meditation. I think context is important as well.

This was perhaps one of the first graphic novels about the genocide and was published in at the same time as many of the novels from the Rwanda: Evidence for this manifested in the publication of Pawa: Similarly, continued discussions about the genocide, calls for action against those responsible continue, and also critiques of the grossly skewed media coverage of the genocide attest to the importance of dialogue and the potentially transformative role representation can play including, of course, graphic novels.

Indeed, the publication of La fantaisie des dieux: It adds an interesting dimension to discussions of decolonization and genocide, which is useful I think particularly in the case of Rwanda, which is so frequently compared to the Holocaust more, I would argue, than any other genocide in the 20h century.

Those blanks always seem more to me like a pregnant pause in an uncomfortable conversation. In fact, I wrote a chapter to be published next spring in Postcolonial Comics: Shoot me an e-mail my alternate is katepolakmacdonald gmail.

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda — book review

This was an enormously interesting read. Not sure I get your larger argument about empathy, though. And as Suat said, in Rwanda, empathy for the persecuted Tutsis has ended up erasing the way that, after the genocide, the Tutsis engaged deogratisa violence and targeting of the Hutus. You could deogrxtias on and on, really. Empathy for the victims of the Holocaust is one of the ways that America has positioned itself as good we were on the right side there and so erases our own unpleasant actions as Kate says including, for example, our refusal to deal with the way our support for Israel contributes to the persecution of Palestinians.