Murambi, the Book of Bones
is a novel by Senegalese author Boubacar Boris Diop, based on the real events of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, which lead to the deaths of nearly a million Rwandans, many of Tutsi minority descent. The book is a fictionalized account of the events, in the aftermath of the incident, and is told in four parts, with alternating narrators who have had various experiences and been touched in many ways by the killings. The main character, and the narrator for the first and third sections of the novel, is a professor named Cornelius Uvimana who fled the country, and has returned to visit a beloved uncle, only to discover some horrifying truths about the realities of his family's legacy in Rwanda.
The book opens with Rwandan Professor Cornelius Uvimana, who has been away from his country for some years and is finally returning to his home country to visit what he believes is his only surviving relative there – a kind and beloved uncle, whom he is thrilled to see once more. Cornelius has been living in Djibouti, and only heard about the horrific murders that occurred in his home country, because it was unsafe for him to return to help his family. He has returned not only to see his uncle, but also to attempt to come to terms with the devastation of his family and his ethnic group, and to write a play about the aftermath of the genocide.
Diop is known as a writer of political non-fiction, and his experience writing about historic political events is essential to the structure and craft of this novel. Between narration by Cornelius, Diop braids in fictionalized stories of those killed in the Rwandan genocide, based on real accounts of some of the atrocities that occurred. Diop also makes it his mission to explain many of the tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups that lead to the slaughter of the Tutsis, and discusses the political turmoil that allowed the genocide to take place. These accounts are horrific, and reflect the real horror of the events about which Diop (and in turn his character, Cornelius) write.
Upon arriving in Rwanda, Cornelius catches up with his uncle. They begin to talk about the family, and what happened during the genocide. Cornelius was under the impression that his father was killed by the government for openly criticizing their actions. Cornelius's uncle, however, reveals the truth to him; Cornelius's Hutu father was actually secretly responsible for a massacre back in Cornelius's hometown of Murambi. The massacre killed 50,000 to 60,000 people, and took place at a technical school in the city – in the massacre, Cornelius's Tutsi mother and siblings were killed.
Cornelius is shocked and appalled at the discovery that he is the son of a monster. He learns that his father has since fled Rwanda to avoid being prosecuted for this horrific actions, and Cornelius is devastated to find out that he is not only the son of a killer, but also a coward. Back in Murambi, Cornelius reflects on the experience of discovering the truth about his family, and about that particular incident during the genocide.
Meanwhile, Diop writes about the history of slaughter between the Hutu's and the Tutsi's and the political situation that lead the Hutu majority to murder the Tutsi minority, due in part to intervention by the French government. He describes the nature of the goal of the Hutu's, the commit ethnic cleansing of the Tutsi's, and also makes it clear that the genocide had devastating and long-lasting effects – after the event, nearly three-quarters of the Tutsi population had been murdered by their Hutu countrymen.
Boubacar Boris Diop is a Senegalese author, journalist, and screenwriter. He is best known for writing Murambi, the Book of Bones
, and for his work with Sol
, a Senegalese newspaper. Diop is also the author of Doomi Golo
, one of the only novels that has ever been written in Wolof, a tribal language. Diop has written a number of novels, primarily in French, and political writings, as well as a a handful of plays. Diop has also served as a technical advisor for the Cultural Ministry of Senegal.