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Review

‘The Machete Season’ book review

April 28, 2016

In the course of 100 days in 1994 as many as one million Tutsi people were brutally murdered in one of the most horrific genocides in modern human history.

The book “The Machete Season” by Jean Hatzfeld is an account of not the victims of this genocide, but the perpetrators. The author interviewed a group of men who were convicted of murdering countless Tutsi people. The novel is a chilling account of how one day a group of average people can turn into mass murderers.

The Rwandan genocide was the mass murder of the Tutsi people by the Hutu. The Tutsi were favored by the Belgian colonizers, and the Hutus had always felt slighted. After independence there were many civil wars and conflict between the two ethnic groups but none so fearsome and deadly as the genocide in 1994. After Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana was assassinated when his airplane was shot down, allegedly by Tutsi rebels, the Hutu majority began systematically killing all Tutsis. In the book, the killers mention how they did not have a deep hatred for the Tutsi people until one day, all of the country was killing them and so they grabbed their machetes and began to hack men women and children to death.

A striking feature and the reason for the name of the book, is that most of the murders were done by machetes, as few men had guns and machetes were seen as honorable. To the Hutu people who committed these atrocities, it was seen as a chore like any other, wake up go to work killing Tutsis go home relax, and head out the next day and do the same thing. It is chilling to read how these men and women were so callous and uncaring in their murders of their once neighbors. One of the killers, a man named Leopold says this of his first murder: “… This gentleman I killed at the marketplace, I can tell you the exact memory of it because he was the first. For others, it’s murky- I cannot keep track anymore in my memory. I considered them unimportant; at the time of those murders I didn’t even notice the tiny thing that would change me into a killer.” It is a chilling account by a man whose indifference to the mass murder will shock the reader to the core. The book is set up in such a way that each chapter covers a different topic: the organization of the whole affair, the looting et cetera with a preface written by the author explaining the circumstances and results followed by interviews with the group of killers.

For me, the most frightening part of the book is that the people it covers are a group of men who have been friends their whole life. They ate together, played soccer together, relaxed together and one day, simply because everyone else was, this group of friends killed together. It is shocking to read about the brutal efficiency of these murderers.

While many of the murderers were later punished for their crimes, the fact of the matter is that there were far too many guilty parties to punish them all. To this day those same men who killed a mother and child with a machete still tend their family farm. This book is a testament to the depravity of man and the hate that can be found in all of us. I would recommend this book to only those who can handle such books, as the content is obviously not suitable for the weak of stomach.