Between Remembering and Forgetting:
(In)Visible Rwanda in Gilbert Gatore’s
Le Passe devant soi
Nicki HitchcottUniversity of Nottingham
[email protected]
Since the genocide in 1994, very little fiction has been produced by authors
from Rwanda. Of the small number of literary works that have emerged,
the majority reveal a marked preoccupation with remembering and recording the “facts” about the genocide. These texts generally take the form of
first-person witness accounts or testimonial fiction. The emphasis on commemoration, encapsulated in the now well-documented literary mission
“Rwanda: Ecrire par devoir de memoire” ‘Rwanda: Writing as a Duty to
Remember,’ has been reflected inside Rwanda in the genocide memorials that have been constructed since 1994. At the same time, however,
the Rwandan government’s campaign for reconciliation has generated a
national discourse of forgiveness and forgetting, which leaves genocide
survivors in a difficult place, torn between the (often involuntary) impulse
to remember and the duty to forget. This article will read Rwandan refugee
author Gilbert Gatore’s 2008 novel, Le Passe devant soi (The Past Ahead), as
a fictional exploration of the survivors’ dilemma. It will suggest that what
emerges as the conspicuous absence of Rwanda in Gatore’s text reflects
the tension between remembering and forgetting that characterizes postgenocide Rwandan society.Before 1994, Rwanda was, for the most part, invisible in the eyes of the rest
of the world, acknowledged only occasionally for its population of rare
mountain gorillas. Then, in April 1994, this tiny Central African nation suddenly hit the global headlines with horrific images of what was to become known
as the “Rwandan genocide.”1 Pictures of dead bodies mutilated by machetes and
rivers filled with bloody corpses began to appear, but these images failed to make
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rwanda genicide article nikki hitchcott