Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Conversations with History: Philip Gourevitch - Reporting the Story of a Genocide

Philip Gourevitch - Reporting the Story of a Genocide
Conversations with History (Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley)
Interviewed by Harry Kreisler

Our guest is Philip Gourevitch, staff writer at the New Yorker. His first book, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda, which was published in 1998, was a winner of numerous awards including the National Book Critics' Circle Award for Nonfiction, the George Pope Book Award for Foreign Reporting, among others. In addition to his work for the New Yorker, Mr. Gourevitch has written extensively from Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States for numerous publications, including Granta, Harpers, and the New York Review of Books. He's a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute and a contributing editor of Forward newspaper.

Background ... books and other influences ... writing fiction

Writing ... sense of urgency ... knowing what you want to say ... the gap between the ideal and one's abilities

Reporting ... starting in ignorance ... listening and imagining the story ... Vietnamese boat people ... getting people to tell their stories ... convergence of private life and public events

Rwanda and Extreme Situations ... aftermath ... the individual in societies in turmoil ... Rwanda and the Holocaust ... dimensions of the Rwanda genocide ... the case of Paul Rusesabagina ... crucial test of character ... the case of Elizaphan Ntakirutimana ... mystery of human capacity for genocide ... malleability of people
Rwanda and the International Response ... failing the post-Holocaust promise of "never again" ... misreading World War II ... failure of the UN ... promises shouldn't be made ... refugee camps or military bases? ... false morality of "neutrality"

Rwanda and Reconstruction ... slow, painful, uncertain ... the difficulties of state-building ... rational fear and suspicion impede reconciliation

Conclusion ... telling the story ... a reporter's responsibility ... advice to students

To Listen to the Interview

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