Sunday 19 August 2018


This is the coming-of-age story of a boy living through the Rwandan civil war, but also of his personal memories and musing about the marriage of his parents, a French father married to Hutu mother.

The happy couple on their wedding day. What music! On their wedding day, a careless rumba escaped some out-of-tune guitars as happiness crooned cha-cha-cha numbers beneath a sky pricked with starts. But twelve years later the reality of everyday life sets in and their carefree beginnings transformed into a rhythm as tyrannical as the relentless ticking of a clock. Now they had to cope with children, taxes, …growing uncertainty, rampant banditry, dictators and military coups and, the cruelest blow: it turned out they hadn’t shared dreams, merely illusions. True, each of them had nurtured a dream, but it amounted to nothing more than their own selfish hopes, with neither of them ready to fulfill the other’s expectations.

The couple fight. Raw emotion transformed Maman’s voice into a torrent of mud and gravel. A flood of words, a roar of insults filled the night. The noises were moving about our property: I could hear Maman howling below my window, then destroying the car windscreen. After that, silence, until the violence began rumbling again, all around. I could no longer tell what was French and what Kirundi, what was shouting and what were tears, whether these were my parents battling or the neighborhood dogs fighting to the death.

But a party is still a party and makes you forget your troubles: The trumpet was doing its breathless best to follow the rhythm set by the percussion. Prothe and Innocent were hitting the stretched drum skins in unison, their faces strained, a thick sweat sliding down their gleaming foreheads. The guests’ hands marked the beat as their feet hammered out the counter-rhythm, kicking up the heavy dust in the years. The music was as quick as our throbbing temples. The banging and beating swelled as one. The wind swayed the garden treetops, making leaves quiver and branches rustle. There was electricity in the atmosphere, as the smell of damp earth filled the air.

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