Gaël Faye: Petit pays (Small Country)


A short but impactful novel (barely longer than a novella), tracing the coming-of-age of the son of a French father and a Burundian Tutsi mother, which coming-of-age is rudely interrupted when the genocide in neighboring Rwanda spills over into Burundi.  Along the way, the novel examines how our cultural identity is first drummed into us, and how ethnic stereotypes and hostilities, when fanned and exploited, will almost invariably lead to war and genocide.  And what starts out as an endearing but somewhat unremarkable read packs an increasing amount of punch as the story progresses — and becomes a tale of unspeakable heartbreak in the final part, in which it only took very few pages for the book to completely skewer me.

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