Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Running Man by Gilbert Tuhabonye

The Running Man by Gilbert Tuhabonye and Gary Brozek
First published in America by John Blake in April 2007. Also published under the title This Voice In My Heart.

My 2000s read for my 2017-18 Decade Challenge

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

How I got this book:
Bought from a Torquay charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £8.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £7.19 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £2.48 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Gilbert Tuhabonye is a survivor. As a high school student in the African nation of Burundi, his dreams were of becoming a champion runner and Olympic athlete. These dreams were cruelly interrupted when the centuries-old battle between the Hutu and the Tutsi tribes found its way to his school. Fuelled by hatred, the Hutus forced more than a hundred Tutsi children and teachers into a small room and used machetes to slash most of them to death. The unfortunate ones who survived were doused with gasoline and set on fire. Gilbert lay under the bodies of his smouldering classmates for an agonising and terrifying eight hours. During this terrible ordeal, when almost all hope was lost, there was one thing that gave this remarkable young man the strength to survive - God's voice, which told him he would live through this ordeal. Gilbert was the only survivor of this terrible atrocity and he thanks his enduring faith in God for his survival.

Today, Gilbert has re-built his life and is following his dream. He now lives in the USA and is a world-class athlete and running coach, using his survival instincts to spur him on in his goal to qualify for the 2008 Olympic summer games. This gripping and emotional book brings home not only the horror of the events that took place in Africa, but how, even after such trauma, an existence can be rebuilt and forgiveness can transform a life.

The first thing I think to say about this memoir is that it is not a book for the faint-hearted. Tuhabonye does go into graphic detail of the violence he witnessed and experienced inflicted on Tutsi students by Hutu men. Secondly, this isn't really a running memoir either. Tuhabonye is indeed a runner and now a successful running coach, but that is only one aspect of his life. For me, The Running Man is a richly detailed memoir of a Burundian childhood, one which gives insights into a disappearing way of life.

Expertly ghostwritten by Gary Brozek, I found The Running Man to be a compelling read from start to finish. Chapters about Tuhabonye's idyllic childhood, his determination to gain a good education, and the importance of his religious faith, are interspersed with horrific scenes of the later violence that would force him into exile from his country. This vivid contrast heightens both narratives. I know it is important to witness and to remember genocide in the hope that eventually humans will move beyond such indiscriminate hatred, however I don't think I could have stomached reading these scenes together as a whole chapter. Tuhabonye does explain the immediate triggers of the Burundian genocide and the historical cultural inequalities in which anger had simmered for generations. Still, there's a lot about humanity that I don't think I will ever truly understand.

If you can bear (or skim read) the violence, I would highly recommend this memoir. Tuhabonye has an engaging voice and isn't afraid to show himself in negatives as well as positives. I am glad to have read this memoir, especially with its ultimate message of hope even after such a tragedy.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Gilbert Tuhabonye / Biography and memoir / Books from Burundi

No comments:

Post a comment