A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche

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Synopsis

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is a moving, passionate love story set amid the turmoil and terror of Rwanda’s genocide.
All manner of Kigali residents pass their time by the pool of the Mille-Collines hotel: aid workers, Rwandan bourgeoisie, expatriates, UN peacekeepers, prostitutes. Keeping a watchful eye is Bernard Valcourt, a jaded foreign journalist, but his closest attention is devoted to Gentille, a hotel waitress with the slender, elegant build of a Tutsi. As they slip into an intense, improbable affair, the delicately balanced world around them–already devastated by AIDS–erupts in a Hutu-led genocide against the Tutsi people. Valcourt’s efforts to spirit Gentille to safety end in their separation. It will be months before he learns of his lover’s shocking fate.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Gil Courtemanche

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Gil Courtemanche is a well-respected journalist specializing in international and third world politics, and the author of several works of non-fiction in French including Québec and Nouvelles douces colères. His journalism in print and film has taken him to various war-torn countries including Lebanon and Haiti. He has worked in politics and journalism since the 1960s, and is also one of the writers of Moi et l’Autre, Quebec’s most successful sitcom. “Very early I recognised that some things you could say in songs… some things you could say on radio and some things you could say in writing. So there are a lot of tools to do the same thing, which is being a witness and telling.” Courtemanche was first sent to Kigali by his newspaper in 1989 to research the problems for development being caused by AIDS in Africa. He travelled to Rwanda four times, spending a total of a year in the country, and produced an award-winning TV documentary, The Gospel of AIDS. It was ten years after his first trip to Rwanda that he wrote the first chapter of this, his first novel.He based the characters in the novel on people he met in Rwanda, most of whom died in the genocide. By giving them voices again through fiction, he helps outsiders to understand the desperate realities of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and to see beyond the horrors to the human face of the tragedy. “It is easy for us in the West to blame it on tribalism and thus exonerate ourselves from guilt,” Courtemanche has said. He shows the conflict in Rwanda to be not simply “ethnic” but catalyzed by the West and the forces of capitalism.As the novel progresses, protagonist Bernard Valcourt finds himself strangely more at home in Rwanda, and enraged with the outside world: global apathy, media blindness, arms suppliers, the foreign aid donors afraid to offend the corrupt Rwandan government, the UN officials who do nothing, the International Monetary Fund’s complicity in the country’s social crises, the first-world’s inability to comprehend the realities of third-world poverty. At times it rails against the injustice of what was allowed to happen, challenging us to take action rather than allow injustice to flourish. Courtemanche, a campaigner for action in the third world, is fascinated by the potential for an alternative global economy, and our capacity to change the world. “I use journalism as a political tool to change things,” he says. Yet A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is not journalism, and Courtemanche also gives voice to his characters’ lust for life. “My job is to talk about awful things so we don’t do them again. But I know all the beautiful things. That’s why in the novel I put dinners and parties.” He wanted to write a book about beautiful people who lived through terrible things and yet were full of lust for life.Patricia Claxton, who translated the novel into English and is twice a winner of the Governor General’s Award for translation, describes Courtemanche as someone who writes in a café and doesn’t come home much. David Homel in Books in Canada described him as a “take-no-prisoners kind of writer, a man who can be found in his favourite café in Montreal… surrounded by an overflowing ashtray and several cups of black coffee.” His literary heroes include John le Carré, Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad. He calls himself a “pervasive romantic” and says, “There is nothing in life but love that is important.”He is a columnist with the Montreal daily newspaper Le Devoir, and is writing a second novel. A French feature film production of A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is underway.
 
Published December 18, 2007 by Vintage. 274 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences, History, Romance, War. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

The Guardian

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A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche translated by Patricia Claxton Canongate £14.99, pp272 Primo Levi once said about the Holocaust: 'It happened, therefore it can happen again...

Oct 05 2003 | Read Full Review of A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

The Guardian

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A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche translated by Patricia Claxton £14.99, Canongate, 258pp A couple of years before the genocide, I left my parents' house and crossed the Uganda border in a bus bound for the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Oct 04 2003 | Read Full Review of A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

Publishers Weekly

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Bernard Valcourt is a Canadian journalist in Rwanda planning a film on the local AIDS epidemic when he falls in love with Gentille, a Tutsi who works at his hotel at the time of the Hutu-led genocides.

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BC Books

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For me, Gil Courtemanche’s A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali bore a great similarity to the screenplay for the film Hotel Rwanda.

Nov 21 2008 | Read Full Review of A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

Curious Book Fans

If this book were a film it would have to carry an adult rating because it’s absolutely packed with sex, violence but in this case such issues ARE necessary to the plot and it’s hard to write about the book without touching on these topics.

Jun 01 2010 | Read Full Review of A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

ReadySteadyBook

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali revisits one of the 20th Century's most chilling atrocities when, in Rwanda in 1994, at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were brutally massacred by Hutu extremists.

Sep 04 2003 | Read Full Review of A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

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