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Translating the Postcolonial in Multilingual Contexts

 | 
Judith Misrahi-Barak
, 
Srilata Ravi

Translators’ Africa

(Mis)Leading Paratexts: Translating Rwanda for the West

Catherine Gilbert

Résumé

Rwandan women’s testimonial literature provides us with invaluable insights into the horrors of the genocide in Rwanda and the ongoing struggle of living with its aftermath. Yet we must remember that these testimonies are presented to the Western reader in a mediated form. In a postcolonial context, collaboration continues to play an important role in the writing of testimonial literature. The published testimonies of Rwandan women genocide survivors are no exception, with the majority of the existing texts being written in collaboration with a Western author. The paratextual materials (prefaces, introductions, afterwords, etc.) are often the site of information about the collaboration, and also act as ‘cues’ which prepare the reader before reading the narrative itself. This article will consider paratexts as a translational tool, showing how Rwandan women’s published testimonies have undergone a process of cultural translation that focuses on the target culture. Focusing in particular on the testimonies of Berthe Kayitesi, Esther Mujawayo and Yolande Mukagasana, this article explores the crucial role played by the paratextual framing in determining how the testimonies are received by the Western reader and the implications of this for the shaping of the survivor’s story. Through an examination of the different types of textual framing employed in the publication of Rwandan women’s narratives, this article argues that the use of such paratextual material ultimately presents the texts as culturally ‘other’, highlighting the continued hierarchical nature of postcolonial relations between Rwanda and France, and between Africa and the West more generally.

Texte intégral

1Rwandan women’s testimonial literature provides us with invaluable insights into the horrors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the ongoing struggle of living with its aftermath. Yet we must remember that these women’s testimonies are presented to the Western reader in a mediated form. In a postcolonial context, accessing the dominant publishing industry of the West often requires the ‘endorsement’ of an established Western literary or intellectual figure (author, journalist, academic, etc.) who collaborates with the non-Western author and/or contributes paratextual material to the finished book. The published testimonies of Rwandan women genocide survivors are no exception, with the majority of the existing texts being written in collaboration with a Western author. The paratextual materials (prefaces, introductions, afterwords, etc.) are often the site of information about the collaboration, and also act as ‘cues’ which prepare the reader before reading the narrative itself. This article will consider paratexts as a translation tool, showing how Rwandan women’s published testimonies have undergone a process of cultural translation that focuses on the target culture. This type of paratextual framing plays a crucial role in determining how the testimony will be received and helps to familiarise the Western reader with the Rwandan context, but also has severe implications for the shaping of the survivor’s story, raising complex questions of authority, transparency and voice.

2Testimonies bearing witness to the genocide in Rwanda have been published in French, English and German, although this chapter will focus on the French-language publications that are specifically addressing a French-speaking audience. This is particularly important given France’s implication in the genocide, and the testimonies function as a form of accusation and call to awareness to the former colonial powers. This chapter will examine the testimonies of Esther Mujawayo (2004, 2006), Yolande Mukagasana (1997, 1999) and Berthe Kayitesi (2009), all of which are endorsed by well-known academics and authors who contribute a range of paratextual material to the finished publications. It will explore how the paratextual framing is used to legitimise Rwandan women’s experiences of suffering both during and after the 1994 genocide. By examining the relationship between the text and its frame, this chapter will argue that the use of such paratextual material ultimately presents the texts as culturally ‘other’, highlighting the continued hierarchical nature of postcolonial relations between Rwanda and France, and between Africa and the West more broadly.

  • 1 Dancille Campagna Gwiza, Immaculée Ilibagiza, Pauline Kayitare, Annick Kayitesi, Berthe Kayitesi, E (...)
  • 2 The Rwandan government ordered that the language of education be changed to English in 2008. Rwanda (...)
  • 3 Immaculée Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin. Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. C (...)
  • 4 The majority of them continue to do so, apart from Mukagasana who has since returned to live in Kig (...)
  • 5 With the exception of Laetitia Umuhoza Kameya’s Rwanda 1994: le génocide. Témoignages et réflexions(...)
  • 6 Both these establishments are non-profit associations publishing works by Francophone African autho (...)
  • 7 However, it is important to note that the first testimony to be written by a Hutu survivor, Marie B (...)
  • 8 La Morte non mi ha voluta, trans. by C. Sciancalepore. Molfetta: La Meridiana, 1999; Le Ferite del (...)
  • 9 Auf der Suche nach Stéphanie, trans. by Jutta Himmelreich. Berlin: Peter Hammer Verlag, 2007; Ein L (...)

3At the time of writing and to the best of my knowledge, a total of 17 women have published testimonies narrating their experiences of the genocide and its aftermath.1 The earliest testimony was published just three years after the genocide in 1997, Yolande Mukagasana’s La Mort ne veut pas de moi. The majority of Rwandan women’s testimonies were written in French, which was the primary language of education in Rwanda until 2008,2 although two testimonies have also been written in English and one in German.3 It is important to note that, at the time of writing, all the Rwandan women to have published testimonies were living in exile in the West.4 Their testimonies have been published in Western publishing houses and seem to be targeting a predominantly Western audience.5 For the French-language corpus, the publishing houses are all based in the Paris area, with the exception of André Versaille in Brussels. They range from well-known, long-established publishers such as L’Harmattan and Gallimard, to relatively unknown organisations such as Klanba and Éditions Cultures Croisées.6 These texts are not widely available in Rwanda and have not been translated into English.7 While there has been very little cross-over between the French- and English-language texts, a number of the French-language texts have been translated into other European languages. For example, two of Yolande Mukagasana’s testimonies have been translated into Italian by publishing house La Meridiana, and she has also published a text in Italian aimed at younger readers.8 Esther Mujawayo’s testimonies have been translated into German and Italian.9

  • 10 Jean Hatzfeld. Dans le nu de la vie. Récits des marais rwandais. Paris: Seuil, 2000; Une saison de (...)
  • 11 For example, films such as Hotel Rwanda (dir. Terry George, 2005), Sometimes in April (dir. Raoul P (...)

4The fact that the majority of these testimonies were written in collaboration suggests that the women require what Richard Watts terms the ‘sponsorship’ (Watts 2005: 3) of an already established Western author in order to access the Western publishing industry. According to Catherine Coquio, given that literary culture in Rwanda is little developed, the testimonies of Rwandan genocide survivors are typically mediated by a third party: ‘Ce rôle du tiers dans la transmission est une constante de l’univers génocidaire’ (Coquio 2004: 102). In her préface to Berthe Kayitesi’s Demain ma vie, Coquio explains how knowledge of the genocide is generally disseminated in the West by edited collections of testimonies (such as Jean Hatzfeld’s edited trilogy)10 or certain artistic works.11 In the case of Rwandan women’s testimonial literature, it is the Western collaborator and/or contributor who functions as the ‘tiers’—or cultural mediator—both in terms of the writing and the paratextual framing. This is reminiscent of James Clifford’s notion of ethnographic salvage in which ‘it is assumed that the other society is weak and “needs” to be represented by an outsider’ (Clifford 1986: 113). It is the Western ethnographer who holds the authority while claiming to be putting forward the authentic voice of the marginalised ‘other’. The contribution—or interference—of these third parties manifests through the paratextual material. However, while collaboration with Western intellectuals and authors is highly problematic in terms of determining where control over the narrative ultimately lies, for the Rwandan women survivors living in exile, access to the publishing industry may be very limited. As such, there may well be a need for a tiers to mediate their stories and facilitate the process of cultural translation, particularly in the transition from an oral to a written form of narrative.

  • 12 See Hron, Translating Pain, 36. While Hron has published several articles pertaining to Rwanda, thi (...)

5Paul Bandia speaks of the ‘symbiotic relationship between translation—understood both pragmatically as interlingual transfer and metaphorically as representations of otherness—and postcolonial modes of expression’ (Bandia 2014: 12). According to Bandia, written discourse is informed by the oral traditions of postcolonial societies, and translation in the postcolonial context implies writing across both linguistic and cultural boundaries. This article considers translation in terms of a representation of otherness, where Rwandan women must actively engage in various levels of cultural translation in order to move from oral to written discourse and to convey the experience of genocide to a Western audience. Madelaine Hron’s conception of the ‘translation’ of pain is particularly useful when thinking about Rwandan women’s testimonies, especially in relation to how we conceive the pain and suffering of other cultures. Hron examines, across a range of ‘migrant’ narratives, the damage incurred from the process of immigration, including culture shock, the difficulties of acculturation, as well as social violence such as poverty, crime or racism.12 In addition to the literal translation of pain from sensation into words—and from words into writing—Hron argues that, in the case of immigrants, writers must also engage in a form of ‘cultural translation’ (Hron 2009: 41). I would posit that this is also the case for Rwandan women genocide survivors living and writing in exile as not only do they have to find words to express their pain, but they must also find a way to communicate this pain to another culture. As Hron explains,

cultural translation focuses on a target culture; its aim is to offer target recipients with as transparent a text as possible. In so doing, there is some attempt to educate target readers about elements from the source culture; however, there is also an emphasis on adjusting those cultural elements so that they are not too foreign or obscure for the receiving culture to understand. (Hron 2009: 42)

6As my analysis of the testimonies will show, the use of ‘annexes’ and other ‘repères’ in several of the testimonies provide readers with a sociohistorical background of Rwanda, chronological information about the events of 1994, and definitions of any unfamiliar terms which may be used within the narrative. As Amanda Nettleback argues in relation to Aboriginal women’s writing in Australia, the inclusion of such contextual information is an editorial decision which ‘emphasises the nature of the book as both personal testimony and social history’ (Nettleback 1997: 51), and is indicative of the aims of the book overall; although whether this is the collaborator’s or survivor’s express intention (or both) is difficult to determine.

7It is vital here to look in more detail at the notion of paratext in the Western publishing industry and its implications in a postcolonial context. In his seminal work Seuils, Gérard Genette observes that a text ‘se présente rarement à l’état nu’ (Genette 1987: 7), but is accompanied and reinforced by a number of both verbal and visual elements or paratexts (the title, author’s name, illustrations, preface, etc.). According to Genette, the paratext is ‘ce par quoi un texte se fait livre et se propose comme tel à ses lecteurs, et plus généralement au public’ (Genette 1987: 7–8). As such the paratext is a necessary condition of a book, that which presents it as a book as such to the reader, assuring its presence in the world, its reception and its consumption. The paratext can thus be considered as a type of threshold or, in Philippe Lejeune’s words, ‘une frange de texte imprimé, qui, en réalité, commande toute la lecture’ (Lejeune 1975: 45).

8As Genette elaborates, the paratext is a zone of transition but also of transaction:

lieu privilégié d’une pragmatique et d’une stratégie, d’une action sur le public au service, bien ou mal compris et accompli, d’un meilleur accueil du texte et d’une lecture plus pertinente—plus pertinente, s’entend, aux yeux de l’auteur et de ses alliés. (Genette 1987: 8)

9Genette talks about paratext in terms of authorial intention, a view that is also upheld by Marie Maclean, who views the paratext as ‘the place where the author displays intentions, where he or she speaks to the reader as sender to receiver’ (Maclean 1991: 278). In the case of marginalised authors, the paratext is also the site where cultural mediation and translation takes place, and where conflicts between authorial and editorial intentions are played out. As is often the case in the postcolonial context, the paratextual material is constructed not by the author herself but by her collaborators (co-authors, editors, prefaces by other authors who serve to validate and endorse the text). It is therefore rarely the intention or strategy of the author but of her collaborators that becomes apparent through the paratextual framing.

10In the context of the publication of postcolonial works in the French literary industry, the paratext becomes, in Beth McCoy’s words, ‘territory important, fraught, and contested. More specifically, its marginal spaces and places have functioned centrally as a zone transacting ever-changing modes of white domination and of resistance to that domination’ (McCoy 2006: 156). McCoy views the paratext in terms of textualised confrontations between white and black, situated at the intersections of race, power and culture. Indeed, Watts argues that ‘the circulation of Francophone literary works in the French literary institution can best be understood as a tension, a struggle, even a conflict’ (Watts 2005: 3):

Throughout the twentieth century, it is in the paratext that the struggle over who has the right to mediate and who maintains the authority to present and interpret this literature is fought. It is also in the margins of the text that the intense mediation of the francophone text’s gender, racial, political, aesthetic, and, in the broadest terms, cultural specificity takes place. (Watts 2005: 3–4)

11In Rwandan women’s testimonies, the paratextual material is used to contextualise, to inform, and to familiarise, to reduce the gap between the experience of the Western reader and that of the Rwandan women. Yet, by mediating the cultural specificity of the Rwandan texts in this manner, the paratext also exercises what Watts describes as a form of ‘discursive control’ over the text, which maintains the imbalanced relationship between the metropole and the works of subjects who are perceived as culturally ‘other’.

12In this respect, the paratext functions as a form of cultural translation. As Watts explains, ‘with works by a perceived cultural Other, (...) the paratext can more precisely be understood as one of intralingual cultural translation’ (Watts 2005: 19), especially for a metropolitan readership:

The paratext translates through its abbreviated textual forms (prefaces, dedications, jacket copy, etc.) as well as iconic forms (cover art, illustrations). This gives readers who might not otherwise be immediately able to ‘read’ the text’s cultural difference access to it. In turn, this renders the text, lest we forget the commercial imperatives of the paratext, a more approachable and desirable commodity. (Watts 2005: 19)

13Watts points to the adaptive versus literal modes of translation. Of particular interest here is the adaptive mode which ‘strives to reduce the disorientation the translated text might produce and make the source text easily assimilable by the readers in the target culture’ (Watts 2005: 19–20). Watts associates the adaptive mode with paratexts from the colonial period, while ‘paratexts from the postcolonial period [are] generally closer to the literal mode’ (Watts 2005: 20). However, I would argue that the paratexts framing Rwandan women’s testimonies more closely resemble the adaptive mode insofar as the contributors of the paratextual material adopt familiarising techniques to mediate the cultural specificity of the texts and to prepare the Western reader for their encounter with a text that is radically ‘other’, their encounter with what Alexandre Dauge-Roth describes as the ‘ob-scene’ (Dauge-Roth 2010: 48) experience of genocide. As such, the focus is on the target culture and the inclusion of recognisable Western contributors puts the Western reader at ease.

  • 13 See Gilbert, ‘Making the Impossible Possible?’.

14The testimonies of the three women discussed in this chapter contain a range of paratextual materials written by both the Western contributors and the Rwandan authors themselves. As such, the paratextual material framing the Rwandan women’s narratives becomes the site where the struggle for control over the narrative is played out. Nettleback highlights the ‘ambiguous implications of these textual frames’ (Nettleback 1997: 49) in her discussion of Australian Aboriginal women’s life narratives, particularly as they affect the reception of the texts for non-Aboriginal readers. In interpreting Rwandan women’s collaborative testimonies, the reader must therefore be aware of the complexities and struggles involved in the collaborative production rather than reading the text as a transparent monologue. My aim here is not to focus in depth on the nature of the collaborative relationships between the Rwandan women and their Western collaborators—which I have discussed in detail elsewhere13—but to examine the types of paratextual frames that are employed to mediate the texts and influence their reception.

  • 14 May collaborated with three Rwandan women authors before his death in 2009, and had also published (...)
  • 15 Belhaddad is a prize-winning author, journalist and interpreter of Algerian origin, living and work (...)
  • 16 Marie-Odile Godard. Rêves et traumatismes ou la longue nuit des rescapés. Ramonville-Saint-Agne: Éd (...)

15Yolande Mukagasana’s two testimonies were written in collaboration with Belgian journalist Patrick May.14 In La Mort ne veut pas de moi, the text is preceded by two maps, one of Rwanda and the other of Kigali indicating the key sites evoked in Mukagasana’s narrative. There is then a short avertissement au lecteur written by Mukagasana. The text is followed by an annexe that contains a ‘brève chronologie rwandaise’ attributed to May. N’aie pas peur de savoir contains the same maps, but the avertissement au lecteur is much longer, and the annexes compiled by May are more extensive, providing a brief history of Rwanda and its links to France, a ‘chronologie franco-rwandaise’ in the form of a table with key dates and descriptions, and a copy of the ten Hutu commandments that were published in 1990 and incited anti-Tutsi hatred. Similarly, Esther Mujawayo’s testimonies were co-authored with Souâd Belhaddad.15 SurVivantes opens with an epigraph from Primo Levi’s Les naufragés et les rescapés. There are then two prologues written by Belhaddad and Mujawayo respectively. The main body of the text is followed by an ‘entretien croisé’ between Mujawayo and prominent Holocaust survivor Simone Weil, facilitated by Belhaddad. The book also features a repères section that includes a list of key dates and a short extract from a book by French psychoanalyst Marie-Odile Godard.16La Fleur de Stéphanie, which focuses primarily on survivors’experiences of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda, contains similar repères and a ‘rencontre’ between Simone Weil and Mujawayo, with an avant-propos written by Belhaddad.

  • 17 See Gilbert, ‘Making the Impossible Possible?’, 120–121.

16If, as Maclean claims, the paratext ‘represents a means of lending the text authority’ (Maclean 1991: 276), in the case of Mukagasana and Mujawayo it is the authority of the third party that is being asserted over the text, particularly in terms of the signature of the collaborative author. I have elsewhere argued that it is the signature of the Western collaborator that carries greater ‘cultural authority’ than that of the Rwandan author and thus ultimately authorises and legitimises the narrative.17 In the case of Mujawayo’s testimonies, the co-authorship with Belhaddad is acknowledged explicitly on the front cover, unlike Mukagasana’s testimonies, where May’s name appears on the title page inside the book. As Alec Hargreaves observes in his examination of co-authored texts by French women of Maghrebi descent, the placing of a second signature on the cover ‘in a very visible way qualifies or dilutes the ownership of the primary author’ (Hargreaves 2006: 46). Seen in this light, it could well be argued that Belhaddad’s signature both authorises the published text as well as diluting Mujawayo’s ownership of the text.

  • 18 Interview with Berthe Kayitesi, Ottawa, 9 October 2012.

17In contrast, Berthe Kayitesi’s testimony was single-authored. Nevertheless, while Kayitesi claims that ‘le texte m’appartient entièrement’,18 her narrative is accompanied by a great deal of paratextual material. A long preface by French academic Catherine Coquio takes up the first 50 pages of the book, accompanied by extensive notes at the back of the book, resulting in Kayitesi’s narrative being framed by an academic text, a style of writing that differs very much from Kayitesi’s own. Moreover, Coquio’s preface is indicated on the front cover of the testimony, emphasising the cultural value assigned to her intellectual contribution to the text. The testimony is also followed by an essay by American scholar Alexandre Dauge-Roth, ‘Les Amis de Tubeho’, and a chronology of Rwandan history compiled by Coquio, covering the period 1894 to 2009 (i. e. since the beginning of the colonial period). It is through the paratextual material that we learn that it was in fact Kayitesi’s fortuitous meeting with Coquio that enabled her to publish her story. As Kayitesi explains in the note d’auteure at the end of her testimony:

Ce projet qui touche à son terme date de plusieurs années. L’idée a commencé à se matérialiser à la fin 2004, où l’écriture est devenue un besoin vital. [...] Toutefois, ce n’est que grâce à l’heureuse rencontre avec Catherine Coquio que la publication est devenue envisageable.
(Kayitesi 2009: 285)

18For Kayitesi, then, Coquio’s involvement in the project seemed necessary in order to ensure the transmission of her story and, despite these textual frames of an academic nature, Kayitesi still feels she has maintained control of her narrative.

19The struggle for authority over the text is perhaps most visible in Mujawayo’s SurVivantes. Since its original publication with Actes Sud in 2004, SurVivantes has been republished by the Geneva-based Métis Presses in 2011. Interestingly, this edition contains more rather than less paratextual material. As well as the prologues, repères and entretien croisé with Simone Weil included in the original, this text opens with an interview between Mujawayo and her collaborator Souâd Belhaddad. There is also an addition of a postface by Dauge-Roth, entitled ‘Face à l’obliteration, témoigner pour se ressaisir vivante’, which reads like a short academic article (including footnotes) reflecting on the writing of history and the transmission of memory after the genocide. As the editor David Collin notes in his avant propos to the book:

Toute notre reconnaissance va aux auteurs pour l’entretien inédit qui, en début d’ouvrage, permet de refaire le chemin de ce livre depuis sa parution [...]. Reconnaissance également à Alexandre Dauge-Roth, qui s’associant à cette publication, nous offre un beau regard critique et une analyse qui permet de bien situer ce livre et le contexte testimonial et littéraire dans lequel il s’inscrit. (Mujawayo & Belhaddad 2011: 6)

20Here, the editorial intention to reforge the path of this book and to influence its critical reception is explicitly underlined, while Mujawayo’s own voice becomes even more heavily mediated as her story is re-appropriated.

21The question of the mediation of Mujawayo’s voice is further emphasised in Belhaddad’s prologue to SurVivantes in which she explains how the first section of the book was constructed:

Cette séquence s’est faite à partir d’entretiens retravaillés mais auxquels, volontairement, j’ai laissé le ton de l’oral, non pas par effet de style mais afin de traduire au plus près les tremblements, les hésitations, les nœuds et la sidération de cette parole.
(Mujawayo & Belhaddad 2004: 10)

22While Belhaddad claims to have remained faithful to the orality of Mujawayo’s narrative, the reader has no way of knowing to what extent the interviews have been ‘retravaillés’, making it unclear where authority over the narrative ultimately lies. Mukagasana evokes a similar situation in her avertissement au lecteur in La Mort ne veut pas de moi:

Je suis une femme rwandaise. Je n’ai pas appris à déposer mes idées dans des livres. Je ne vis pas dans l’écrit. Je vis dans la parole. Mais j’ai rencontré un écrivain. Lui, racontera mon histoire.
(Mukagasana 1997: 13)

23Mukagasana alludes to the nature of her collaboration with May, to whom she has given the authority to tell her story. Immediately there is a clear division between the speaking subject and the writer, echoing Lejeune’s conception of collaborative autobiography in which

l’effort de mémoire et l’effort d’écriture se trouvent assurés par des personnes différentes, au sein d’un processus de dialogue qui a la chance de laisser des traces orales et écrites. (Lejeune 1980: 236)

24Lejeune distinguishes between the model (who dictates the story) and the recorder (who writes the story). While this may appear to be a fairly balanced distribution of labour, Lejeune notes that ‘le modèle se trouve réduit à l’état de source’ (237), while the recorder makes choices about the style and construction of the text as well as the type of relationship being established with the reader. This in turn recalls the ethnographic model of life-writing where the Western collaborator exerts authority over the narrative and acts as a cultural mediator.

25However, in Mukagasana’s case, within the text she repeatedly refers to May as ‘mon écrivain’, which suggests that she feels some sort of ownership over his role and is using him for her own ends. Indeed, Hargreaves views collaboration as an exchange, ‘a relationship in which both parties gain’ (Hargreaves 2006: 52). I would argue that, for Mukagasana, the collaboration with May has enabled her to fulfil her goal of writing and publishing her testimony in the West. Mukagasana’s authorial intention is felt even more strongly in the avertissement to her second testimony, which she addresses to the ‘Chers amis français’:

Français, la France ne veut pas savoir. [...] Parce que la France a peur de découvrir qu’elle est coupable de complicité dans le génocide rwandais. Je cherche seulement à vous informer. [...] La raison d’État prend chez vous le masque grimaçant du silence. C’est ce silence que je veux rompre. (Mukagasana 1999: 13–14)

26Above all, Mukagasana seeks to break the silence surrounding the genocide and to ‘inform’ the French readers about the truth of what happened in Rwanda, and she is dependent on her collaboration with May to achieve her goal.

27Just as Mukagasana’s aim is to ‘inform’ the French readership about the horrors of the genocide, Mujawayo also seeks to raise awareness about the events and counter the indifference of a Western audience. In Mujawayo’s prologue to SurVivantes, she situates the genocide within the context of Europe and the commemoration of the Second World War:

Un million de personnes a été exterminé en moins de cent jours dans un silence assourdissant et une indifférence totale. [...] En Europe, c’était exactement cinquante ans après le débarquement de Normandie, début de la défaite des nazis et début d’un espoir que plus jamais ‘ça’ ne se repasserait. (Mujawayo & Belhaddad 2004: 13)

28Here, Mujawayo is denouncing the hypocrisy of the West in their commemoration of one genocide and indifference towards another. This type of accusation seems intended to incite guilt in the Western reader, although it could also be interpreted as an attempt to raise awareness and urge the reader to take action.

29As Dauge-Roth notes in his afterword to Berthe Kayitesi’s Demain ma vie, his encounter with her testimony and those of other survivors compelled him to become involved with the orphans’organisation ‘Friends of Tubeho’. Coquio also mentions the work of the association Tubeho in her preface to Kayitesi’s narrative, underlining the hardships faced by the ‘orphelins chefs de ménage’ in Rwanda (see p. 13–15). This echoes the notion of an ‘activist framework’ (Schaffer & Smith 2004: 5) described by Kay Schaffer and Sidonie Smith, which is typical of human rights discourse more generally. Indeed, Dauge-Roth’s commentary at the end of the testimony, in which he describes the work of Friends of Tubeho, reads almost like promotional material for the organisation, even providing the website of the organisation. Short of asking for donations, Dauge-Roth is exhorting the reader to take action and help survivors:

Pour moi, interlocuteur de quelques survivants et lecteur de leurs témoignages, assurer l’accès aux études à ces orphelins est ma réponse, ma façon de m’engager et de réfléchir au rôle que chacun peut jouer dans leur reconstruction. Si cette réponse est aussi susceptible de devenir la vôtre, vous pouvez en savoir plus en visitant le site web de ‘Friends of Tubeho’. (Kayitesi 2009: 297–298)

30This particular framing of Kayitesi’s testimony could be seen here as an appropriation or recontextualisation of her narrative. As Schaffer and Smith observe, ‘activist framing may enfold the narrative within the individualist, humanist, and secular frameworks of Western rights, overwriting the customs and beliefs of the victims’ (Schaffer & Smith 2004: 5). However, this may help the reader to overcome some of their fears when faced with such an extreme story of otherness, of ‘ob-scene’ experience: ‘Some readers may respond to insecurities by enacting empathetic identification that recuperates stories of radical differences into their more familiar frameworks of meaning’ (Schaffer & Smith 2004: 12). The activist framing of the narrative thus situates the testimony within a more comfortable frame of reference for the target audience, employing a humanitarian discourse that the Western reader would feel more familiar with.

31Reference to the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis in Europe is also a recurring feature in the paratextual material surrounding Rwandan women’s testimonies. In contemporary Western culture, the testimonies of Holocaust survivors have come to be perceived as narratives of trauma par excellence. As Schaffer and Smith observe:

So important and influential have Holocaust stories become, and so ingrained in Western audiences invoking a pattern of response, that this signal event has become a template for all forms of traumatic telling, response, and responsibility within the contemporary field of human rights. (Schaffer & Smith 2004: 7)

  • 19 This expression is used, for example, in the title of Immaculée Ilibagiza’s testimony, Left to Tell(...)

32Given its wide cultural resonance, the Holocaust is used by many scholars as a ‘template’ to approach the genocide in Rwanda, particularly as a means of introducing the Western reader to the Rwandan context. Survivors themselves draw comparisons with the Holocaust in their own discourse about the genocide. Indeed, the genocide in Rwanda is even referred to by some as ‘the Rwandan Holocaust’.19

33Both survivors and scholars alike often call on the Holocaust as a means of universalising the experience of suffering and draw parallels between the experiences of survivors. For example, Holocaust survivors share many of the difficulties expressed by Rwandan survivors in trying to communicate their stories. In her ‘entretien croisé’ with Mujawayo at the end of SurVivantes, Holocaust survivor Simone Veil evokes the same refusal to listen encountered by Rwandan survivors:

Je pense à ce refus de nous écouter parce qu’on ne nous croyait pas et parce que c’était insupportable pour les gens de penser à ce que des hommes sont capables de faire à d’autres hommes... (p. 284)

34This ‘endorsement’ or legitimisation of Rwandan women’s experiences by a well-known Holocaust survivor, while highly problematic, may well be necessary in ensuring that the Rwandan women’s testimonies do not go overlooked by a Western audience. Indeed, the inclusion of this interview in the paratextual material helps achieve the aim stated by Belhaddad of giving ‘une portée universelle’ (Belhaddad 2009: 206) to this narrative of atrocity and suffering, reaching out to a wider public.

35For Hron, however, this continued focus on the Holocaust highlights the ‘problematical privileging of Western history’ (Hron 2009: 36), a hierarchy that is maintained through un-nuanced parallelism and a universalising of suffering that doesn’t take into account cultural specificity. According to Hron, this is particularly true of trauma studies, where Holocaust testimony is a model that we have come to expect and that has become very popular in the West as part of our consumption of trauma. Hron urges that ‘ [t] he importance of genre cannot be underestimated in the context of the translation of suffering and in its sociocultural interpretations’ (Hron 2009: 43). Genre is identified as one of the problematic factors involved in the mediation of narratives of trauma and suffering:

In immigrant narratives, the issues of culture, genre, and social expectations are similarly and crucially important in both the transmission and reception of the sufferings of immigration. In many cases, such literary and sociocultural conventions prove even more problematical than the linguistic limits of expressing pain. (Hron 2009: 39)

36This is also emphasised in David Morris’The Culture of Pain when he writes: ‘The shaping force of genre extends beyond form to meaning. In fact, audiences depend on generic patterns to provide a framework for interpretation’ (Morris 1993: 44). I would suggest that, in terms of Rwandan women’s testimonial literature, the Western audience has come to depend on paratexts to provide just such an interpretative framework, and that the authors must comply with these generic expectations in order to reach their target audience.

  • 20 Yolande Mukagasana. L’Onu et le chagrin d’une négresse: Rwanda/RD-Congo, 20 ans après. Saint-Denis- (...)

37Just as there is mainstream demand for ethnic autobiographies that, according to Susan Hawthorne, are ‘precipitated by voyeurism on the part of the dominant culture’ (Hawthorne 1989: 263), so too is there a high demand for narratives of trauma. Yet these narratives must be ‘rendered amenable to a mainstream reading public’ (Huggan 2001: 155). According to Graham Huggan, such minority narratives are controlled by the dominant culture and are ‘caught in the dual processes of commodification and surveillance’ (Huggan 2001: 155). In the case of Rwandan women’s testimonial literature, the texts are mediated and ‘commodified’ through the paratextual material. As such, the testimonies are presented as culturally ‘other’ and the marginalised status of the Rwandan women authors is maintained, thus highlighting the continued hierarchical nature of postcolonial relations between Rwanda and the former European colonial powers. While the Rwandan women may seek to challenge this structure, they also rely on the endorsement of Western authors and intellectuals in order to access the Western publishing industry. In a postcolonial context, as Watts affirms, the paratextual frame, while acting as ‘an instrument of control’, is also ‘a necessary component of the book’s circulation’ (Watts 2005: 18). Nevertheless, recent developments suggest the possibility of a new trajectory for certain Rwandan authors. One particular case in point is the recent publication of Mukagasana’s third testimony, L’Onu et le chagrin d’une négresse.20 Interestingly, this is the first of her books to be written alone and, with the exception of a word of support from Boubacar Boris Diop on the back cover, contains no paratextual material or endorsement by other intellectual figures. As a well-known genocide survivor who has had success with her previous publications, Mukagasana appears to have acquired a certain degree of freedom in the Western publishing industry. However, for unknown Rwandan authors who wish to publish in the West, there seems to be an ongoing need for the patronage of established Western literary and intellectual figures in order for the testimonies to circulate and reach their target audience.

Bibliographie

Works Cited

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Belhaddad, Souâd. ‘Être témoin du témoin ou l’Autre, c’est (parfois) moi’. La Pensée et les Hommes 71 (2009): 205–8.

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Coquio, Catherine. Rwanda: Le réel et les récits. Paris: Belin, 2004.

Dauge-Roth, Alexandre. Writing and Filming the Genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda: Dismembering and Remembering Traumatic History. Lanham/Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2010.

Genette, Gérard. Seuils. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1987.

Gilbert, Catherine. ‘Making the Impossible Possible? Collaboration in Rwandan Women’s Testimonial Literature’, in The Unspeakable: Representations of Trauma in Francophone Literature and Art, Névine El Nossery and Amy L. Hubbell, eds. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013; 115–135.

Hargreaves, Alec G. ‘Testimony, Co-Authorship, and Dispossession among Women of Maghrebi Origin in France’. Research in African Literatures 37.1 (2006): 42–54.

Hawthorne, Susan. ‘The Politics of the Exotic: The Paradox of Cultural Voyeurism’. Meanjin 48.2 (1989): 259–268.

Hron, Madeleine. Translating Pain: Immigrant Suffering in Literature and Culture. Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

Huggan, Graham. The Post-colonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.

Kayitesi, Berthe. Demain ma vie. Enfants chefs de famille dans le Rwanda d’après. Paris: Laurence Teper, 2009.

Lejeune, Philippe. Le Pacte autobiographique. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1975.

Lejeune, Philippe. ‘L’autobiographie de ceux qui n’écrivent pas’, in Philippe Lejeune. Je est un autre: L’autobiographie, de la littérature aux médias. Paris: Seuil, 1980; 229–316.

Maclean, Marie. ‘Pretexts and Paratexts: The Art of the Peripheral’. New Literary History 22.2 (1991): 273–279.

Mccoy, Beth A. ‘Race and the (Para) Textual Condition’. PMLA 121.1 (2006): 156–169.

Morris, David. The Culture of Pain. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Mujawayo, Esther, and Souâd Belhaddad. La Fleur de Stéphanie. Rwanda entre réconciliation et déni. Paris: Flammarion, 2006.

Mujawayo, Esther, and Souâd Belhaddad. SurVivantes. Rwanda dix ans après le génocide. Paris: Éditions de l’Aube, 2004.

Mujawayo, Esther, and Souâd Belhaddad. SurVivantes. Rwanda, histoire d’un génocide. Geneva: Métis Presses, 2011.

Mukagasana, Yolande. La Mort ne veut pas de moi. Paris: Fixot, 1997.

Mukagasana, Yolande. N’aie pas peur de savoir. Paris: Robert Laffont, 1999.

Nettleback, Amanda. ‘Presenting Aboriginal Women’s Life Narratives’. New Literatures Review 34 (1997): 43–56.

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Watts, Richard. Packaging Post/Coloniality: The Manufacture of Literary Identity in the Francophone World. Lanham and Oxford: Lexington Books, 2005.

Notes

1 Dancille Campagna Gwiza, Immaculée Ilibagiza, Pauline Kayitare, Annick Kayitesi, Berthe Kayitesi, Esther Mujawayo, Yolande Mukagasana, Madeleine Mukamuganga, Scholastique Mukasonga, Élise Rida Musomandera, Illuminée Nganemariya, Laetitia Umuhoza Kameya, Chantal Umuraza, Marie-Aimable Umurerwa, Chantal Umutesi, Marie Béatrice Umutesi, Denise Uwimana-Reindhart.

2 The Rwandan government ordered that the language of education be changed to English in 2008. Rwanda joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 2009.

3 Immaculée Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin. Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2006; Illuminée Nganemariya with Paul Dickson. Miracle in Kigali: The Rwandan Genocide—A Survivor’s Story. Huntingdon: Tagman Press, 2007; Denise Uwimana-Reindhart with Johannes Pfründer and Wolfgang Reindhart. Mit Gott in der Hölle des ruandischen Völkermords: Sie war, was man eine Tutsi nannte. Und sie war eine Christin. Mitten im Inferno wurde sie wundersam bewahrt. Mit gutem Grund: Auf sie wartete ein Auftrag der Liebe... Giessen: Brunnen-Verlag, 2013.

4 The majority of them continue to do so, apart from Mukagasana who has since returned to live in Kigali.

5 With the exception of Laetitia Umuhoza Kameya’s Rwanda 1994: le génocide. Témoignages et réflexions. Rwanda: I. P. N., 2011, which is the first testimony to be published in French in Rwanda.

6 Both these establishments are non-profit associations publishing works by Francophone African authors.

7 However, it is important to note that the first testimony to be written by a Hutu survivor, Marie Béatrice Umutesi’s Fuir ou mourir au Zaïre. Le vécu d’une Réfugiée Rwandaise. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000, has been translated into English: Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire, trans. by Catharine Newbury. University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.

8 La Morte non mi ha voluta, trans. by C. Sciancalepore. Molfetta: La Meridiana, 1999; Le Ferite del silenzio. Testimonianze sul genocidio del Rwanda. Molfetta: La Meridiana, 2008; Un giorno vivrò anch’io: Il genocidio del Rwanda raccontato ai giovani. Molfetta: La Meridiana, 2011.

9 Auf der Suche nach Stéphanie, trans. by Jutta Himmelreich. Berlin: Peter Hammer Verlag, 2007; Ein Leben mehr: Wie ich des Hölle Ruandas entkam, trans. by Jutta Himmelreich. Berlin: Ullstein Buchverlage, 2007; Il fiore di Stéphanie, trans. by Barbara Ferri. Rome: E/O, 2007.

10 Jean Hatzfeld. Dans le nu de la vie. Récits des marais rwandais. Paris: Seuil, 2000; Une saison de machettes. Paris: Seuil, 2003; La Stratégie des antilopes. Paris: Seuil, 2007.

11 For example, films such as Hotel Rwanda (dir. Terry George, 2005), Sometimes in April (dir. Raoul Peck, 2005), etc.; the play Rwanda 94 by the Belgian Groupov; and the fictional texts of other African writers such as Boubacar Boris Diop and Véronique Tadjo.

12 See Hron, Translating Pain, 36. While Hron has published several articles pertaining to Rwanda, this particular volume examines ‘migrant’ literary narratives from Algeria, Haiti and Czechoslovakia.

13 See Gilbert, ‘Making the Impossible Possible?’.

14 May collaborated with three Rwandan women authors before his death in 2009, and had also published a book on the trial of four suspected génocidaires that took place in Brussels in 2001: Quatre Rwandais aux assises belges: la compétence universelle à l’épreuve. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001.

15 Belhaddad is a prize-winning author, journalist and interpreter of Algerian origin, living and working in France.

16 Marie-Odile Godard. Rêves et traumatismes ou la longue nuit des rescapés. Ramonville-Saint-Agne: Éditions Érès, 2003.

17 See Gilbert, ‘Making the Impossible Possible?’, 120–121.

18 Interview with Berthe Kayitesi, Ottawa, 9 October 2012.

19 This expression is used, for example, in the title of Immaculée Ilibagiza’s testimony, Left to Tell.

20 Yolande Mukagasana. L’Onu et le chagrin d’une négresse: Rwanda/RD-Congo, 20 ans après. Saint-Denis-la-Plaine: Aviso, 2014.

Auteur

Department of Comparative Literature, King’s College, London
Is currently a a Teaching Fellow in Comparative Literature and English at King’s College London. Her research interests span postcolonial African literatures and cultures, cultural translation, women’s life-writing, cultural memory and trauma. She completed her PhD in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Nottingham, UK, in 2013. From a perspective of trauma theory, her thesis engaged with the published testimonies of Rwandan women genocide survivors, seeking to understand how the genocide is remembered both individually and collectively and the challenges Rwandan women face in the on-going process of surviving trauma. She has published articles in the journals Dialogues Francophones and Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies as well as a chapter in the edited volume The Unspeakable: Representations of Trauma in Francophone Literature and Art (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2013).

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