The Summer Book – Tove Jansson (tr. Thomas Teal)

It was good to read a Tove Jansson novel after a long time. The first book of hers I read – The True Deceiver – was dark and brilliant and it had found a place on my Best Books of 2011 list. It had also won the Best Translated Book Award that year. Having seen a lot of love for The Summer Book, it seemed like the obvious next choice, and I can now say that I join the chorus of praise for this novel.

The Summer Book is a lovely, beguiling novel that in twenty-two crystalline vignettes distills the essence of summer and captures the unshakeable bond between a 6-year old girl and her grandmother, two unusual but fascinating characters.

It was an early, very warm morning in July, and it had rained during the night. The bare granite steamed, the moss and crevices were drenched with moisture, and all the colors everywhere had deepened.

Sophia, her father and her grandmother spend the summer on an unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland. Sophia is young with her whole life spread before her, a life that teems with infinite possibilities. The grandmother is in her twilight years with decades of experience under her belt but now weighed down by physical impediments. Sophia is wild, impetuous and prone to bouts of anger, while the grandmother is wise, unsentimental and sometimes cranky.

But the two learn to co-exist and navigate each other’s temperaments and fears. As far as books go, they are unconventional individuals simply because both are not in the prime of life and yet there is something about the relationship between the two that makes The Summer Book such an engrossing read.

It’s a book where nothing much happens and yet the small moments build up to paint an enchanting picture of family life during a Nordic summer.

Together, Sophia and her grandmother go for strolls along the coastline, they build a miniature Venice from wood, keep a cat, and build boats out of bark. Despite the huge age gap between the two and stark, contrasting personalities, the pair gels quite well and also embark on various adventures together. In keeping with the setting, each of the vignettes is like a self-contained island and depicts an idea around an event. For instance, a child called Berenice comes to stay on the island with them and is fearful of everything, an unknown visitor builds an ugly house on an adjacent island, a raging storm swirls around the island wreaking havoc, a midsummer evening is spent enjoying fireworks, and Sophia even sleeps in a tent alone.

They all moved about the island doing their own chores, which were so natural and obvious that no one mentioned them, neither for praise nor sympathy. It was just the same long summer, always, and everything lived and grew at its own pace.

But more often than not, Sophia and her grandmother have illuminating conversations – sometimes solemn, sometimes laced with humour. They discuss God, nasty relatives, fear, love and even death.

In a chapter called “The Visitor”, the grandmother laments,

Nasty relatives. They tell him (her friend Verner) what to do without asking him what he wants, and so there’s nothing at all he really does want.

There is another beautiful piece called “Of Angleworms and Others” where Sophia is voicing aloud her thoughts on these creatures, and the grandmother is scribbling them down. When angleworms are split in two, the two parts become individual selves and grow. But do they experience pain? Sophia quips,

Nothing is easy when you might come apart in the middle at any moment.

And she makes a profound observation…

They realized that from now on life would be quite different, but they didn’t know how, that is, in what way.

This particular observation hints at an element of darkness in the novel, an occurrence only mentioned once, but which hangs like a Damocles sword over the family – the death of Sophia’s mother. This is conveyed to the reader in only a couple of lines, but its spectre cannot be entirely forgotten.

Sophia woke up and remembered that they had come back to the island and that she had a bed to herself because her mother was dead.

Meanwhile, Sophia’s father is both an absence and a presence – he is not the central character but remains a figure in the background going about his work, while the centrestage belongs to his mother and daughter.

The idyllic Scandinavian summer is beautifully evoked – luscious landscapes, the blossoming of flowers, sounds and smells of waves, the immenseness of the sea, the serene, calm weather alternating with the rage and fury of storms.

I loved the tenderness shown by the grandmother towards Sophia as she assuages her fears and patiently bears out her outbursts. What’s remarkable about the novel is the portrayal of two perspectives together – the characters are at the opposite ends of the spectrum of life – the young Sophia who is curious, inquisitive with burning questions about the world, and the old grandmother who is mature but is beset by her own fears, always knowing that she is veering towards the end of her existence and hating the discomfort and dependence this entails.

And yet, for all her inexperience, there are moments when Sophia seems wise beyond her years, specifically when they talk about death. And the grandmother, for all her maturity, displays the inner child within her as she and Sophia engage in various activities on the island.

Like the brilliance of cut diamonds, The Summer Book sparkles with wisdom and humour from every angle, and is life affirming in many ways. The unchanging facet of island life is like a rock, an anchor against the turmoil and tempestuous moods of the sea and everything around it. It’s a testament to the fact that while life is unpredictable and has an uncanny ability to throw up challenges, there is comfort and solace to be found in the solidity of family rituals and relationships.

Difficult Light – Tomás González (tr. Andrea Rosenberg)

Difficult Light by Colombian author Tomás González is a poignant, beautiful book touching upon big themes of family, loss, art and the critical question of whether death can provide relief from a life filled with chronic pain.  

Our narrator is David, a painter by profession, who is now residing alone in a village in his native Colombia since the death of his wife, Sara, a couple of years ago. David’s specialty is capturing light in his paintings, and he has earned some renown for his craft. However, in his old age, David’s eyesight is failing because of macular degeneration, and he is gradually turning blind. The forms and shapes he discerns appear fluid and liquid rather than distinct and concrete. Thus, forced to give up painting, David turns to writing instead and this book in a way is his attempt to record some of the most difficult moments in his past.

In brief we learn that David and Sara marry in their early twenties, and despite some initial hiccups, theirs is a healthy marriage, only strengthened as the years roll by. Along with their three sons – Jacobo, Pablo and Arturo – the couple, after a brief stint in Miami, eventually move to New York. Sara and the boys settle down quickly in the megapolis, she in her new position as a counselor in a hospital, and the boys in college. David finds it difficult initially to adapt to the city, the noise is too much and the space is cramped. But a move to a larger apartment with a lot of light streaming in does wonders and David begins to make some strides in his art. With things coasting along smoothly, those are some of the happiest times that he recalls. And then tragedy strikes.

An inkling of this is provided in the first chapter itself. Indeed, I had to read the last couple of lines twice to make sense of what is happening, was it a translation mistake?

“…until I was awakened at seven by the knot of grief in my belly at the death of my son Jacobo, which we’d scheduled for seven that night, Portland time, ten o’clock in new York.”

The background to this development is this – Jacobo is on his way home in a taxi, when an oncoming vehicle driven by a drunk junkie rams into it. The taxi driver emerges unscathed, but Jacob’s life is shattered. The accident leaves Jacobo paralyzed from the waist below. But the irony is that while his lower body is now useless, the pain completely engulfs him. So soul crushing and immense it is that he begins to wonder whether death is not a better option.

This particular development and its harrowing consequences form the bulk of the book. Jacobo and Pablo, who in many ways is Jacobo’s anchor now, travel to Portland to induce death enlisting the help of a doctor.

I enjoyed nearly two years of artistic plenitude, a happiness that also brought with it pangs of anguish: I was finding treasures everywhere, like someone for whom the stones in the road were suddenly gemstones. How could I have known what was coming! Misfortune is always like the wind: natural, unforeseeable, effortless…

We are also shown a window into David and Sara’s personalities – David is the silent, melancholy type, while Sara is more extroverted and warm and able to connect with people better. David and Sara are extremely supportive of Jacobo’s decision, and yet the impending death of their eldest son is a source of heartbreak as well. When the doctor postpones the procedure by a few hours, David and Sara are filled with hope that maybe the doctor might not arrive or that Jacobo might change his mind. This heightens the narrative tension of the story, as the reader, while aware that his death is inevitable, is still left wondering whether Jacobo might not go through with it after all.

Difficult Light, then, is an unblinking meditation on grief, loss and our capacity for pain as humans. At a fundamental level, it questions whether an individual has the right to end his life rather than live an undignified existence of unrelenting pain. David and Sara, in their ways, understand the unbearable ordeal his son has to endure on a daily basis, and yet the hell that Jacobo experiences is something that only he can fathom.

Interspersed with this central theme, are David’s reflections on his paintings and the light he is always trying to capture. David also wrestles with the notion of fame. He craves for it in his earlier years, only for it to be denied. It’s only after Jacobo’s accident that fame and money come knocking on his door, and the irony is not lost on David – now he wants to shun the limelight, but has to grudgingly accept that the money is crucial for Jacobo’s treatment.

What I also liked in the book is the portrayal of David’s family. On the day of Jacobo’s scheduled death, the family members and friends gather around in their house to show support – not by continuously doling out words of comfort, but by just being there. The palpable sense of tension and anxiety is punctuated by moments of talk and camaraderie as the family navigates the seemingly endless hours of waiting.

So many years have passed since then that even the pain in my heart has gradually dried up, like the moisture in a piece of fruit, and only rarely now am I suddenly shaken by the memory of what happened, as if it happened yesterday, and swallow hard to contain a sob. But it does still happen, and I nearly double over with grief. But at other times, I think of my son, and then I feel such warmth that in those moments it even seems to me that life is eternal, restful and eternal, and pain is an illusion.

González’s prose is crystal clear, limpid and sensitive whether he is describing the anguish of his characters, the debilitating impact of grief as well as the healing power of art especially the joy of nailing it right. When showcasing the family’s plight around Jacobo’s fate, González is compassionate without being overtly sentimental. It’s a beautiful book that dwells on the intimacy and humour of a family, of displaying resilience amid pain, and as another author has put it, “manages to say new things about the way we feel.”

Tea Is So Intoxicating – Mary Essex

The British Library, under the imprint The British Library Women Writers, has released some excellent looking titles recently, mostly books written by women in the early 20th century, which have largely been forgotten or sunk without a trace. I had already bought a couple of them – Mary Essex’s Tea Is So Intoxicating and Rose Macaulay’s Dangerous Ages, and based on my extremely enjoyable experience with the Essex novel, I plan to explore this series more.

Tea Is So Intoxicating, then, is a delightful comedy, a hilarious take on the challenges and pitfalls of running a tea-house in a quaint English village.

David Tompkins and his wife Germayne have arrived in the village of Wellhurst with dreams of opening a tea-house. The dream is more of David’s, who believes cooking is a simple affair if certain methods are followed. David is a retired Naval officer, and it is during a bout of illness that the idea of starting a new venture begins to take shape. What also gives David much confidence is his prior stint as an accountant at the Dolly Varden Cosy Tea Shops Ltd, although he has no practical experience of any kind on the actual running of a tea-house. But this is a point David refuses to acknowledge.

She [Germayne] was dubious about the success of the proposed tea-house. But, meanwhile, David had launched himself out into the thought of selling lunches packed ready to take on the road with you, teas in the garden, teas in the inglenook, teas you took away with you, or teas you took away inside you. In fact, it was a comprehensive plan, and it covered every line of resistance that man could offer. His flights of fancy took him into realms of the type of lunch that no hiker or biker wants, but that did not worry him in the least. He would educate them. Lobster mayonnaise in cartons, fresh salmon with cucumber discs, cut hyper-thin; smoked trout and cheese soufflé, trifle and pêches melba. He believed that he could make the wildest success of it all.

David wants the tea-house to be a classy affair, with the right china and ambience that attracts quality people and not the riff-raff.

The trouble was that these wretched country people did not understand how very first-class the place was going to be. Something ormolu. Something that was dignified and smart, nothing slapdash and likely to appeal to the scum. He was strongly against scum. His place was to be the best, providing the best and only for the best.

Meanwhile, David and Germayne set up residence in a cottage called Higgins-Bottom, a name David despises. He is hell bent on calling it Cherry Tree Cottage, but the villagers are having none of it and Higgins-Bottom stubbornly sticks. The Tompkinses are delighted with the prettiness of the cottage, although there are several practical drawbacks once they instill themselves there.

Essex also expertly weaves in brief backstories of both David and Germayne and how they end up as a couple into the main storyline. David was in a relationship with a woman who was not the marrying kind, an affair that dies a natural death. Germayne was earlier married to Digby, a wealthy man with a comfortable home, but quite set in his ways and also determined to turn Germayne into a new leaf. Both are ambivalent about parenthood, but end up having a daughter called Ducks. While motherhood continues to flummox Germayne, Digby finds himself thrilled to be a father despite his initial reservations. Doting immensely on Ducks, he spoils her silly, giving her free rein in the way she conducts herself. Feeling thoroughly stifled, and also because she considers Digby an insufferable bore, Germayne begins to see a way out when she meets David.

Romance blossoms between the two and Germayne divorces Digby to begin a new phase of life with David.

But with new beginnings come seemingly insurmountable challenges. First, is the capital required to set up the tea-house.  Despite his ambitions, David can’t cook to save his life. There’s this funny, wonderful set-piece in the earlier part of the novel, where wanting to tap into his friend George for investing into his venture, David invites him and his wife Gertrude to spend the weekend at their cottage. But it turns out to be a disaster. David concocts an elaborate menu for dinner, but botches it up. Breakfast is also a paltry affair where David serves omelettes “looking exactly like pieces of yellow window leather.” Obviously, asking an irritable and hungry man for money is hardly going to yield the desired result.

Miraculously, David manages to raise some money anyway, and the project gets going. Things considerably liven up, when Mimi, the cake-cook from Vienna (“ma poor Vienna”, as she calls it) makes an appearance. The men find her utterly charming. George, who did not want to have anything to do with the tea-house earlier, is now open to the idea of lending money, if Mimi’s going to be a permanent fixture. Even Colonel Blandish, a striking figure in the village with a forceful personality, comes around to the view that a tea-house will be a welcome addition to the village, a refreshing change from the overall stodginess that characterizes the place.

But there are strong dissidents. Mr and Mrs Percy, who run a desultory tea place of their own, are hostile because they fear the competition. Mrs Arbroath, lady of the manor, with her domineering personality and conservative views, thinks she runs the village and is dead set against the idea of a tea-house being set up that will attract ‘foreigners.’ To add fuel to the fire, rumours doing the rounds that David and Germayne are ‘not properly married’ only antagonize the residents further. As for Mimi, the women of the village, including Germayne, see right through her and consider her a bad influence.

Her pathetic, “I ‘ave no ‘ome, I ‘ave no love, I work ‘ard, but people misunderstand, and poor Mimi she go on struggle,” brought a round of applause from the gentlemen and a peculiar chilliness from the women, who had no patience with her at all.

 All these ingredients mixed together rustle up a scenario of complete chaos, and when the utterly spoilt Ducks shows up at the village all hell breaks loose.

Will the tea-house become a raging success despite all odds? Or, will David’s best laid plans go awry?

Keeping the comic elements aside, Tea Is So Intoxicating perfectly captures the dynamics of village life – how it is resistant to the winds of change, the petty jealousies and politics, the lives of villagers bandied about as fodder for gossip, and how everybody makes it their business to poke their nose into other people’s affairs.  The novel also examines what makes marriage work (is an exciting, adventurous spouse preferable to a dull, dependable one), and how divorce, though legal, was still frowned upon in conservative circles.

The novel also subtly explores the sweeping changes that were being felt across England post the war, particularly with the imminent prospect of the Labour government coming into power. Rationing was still an issue, and with aristocracy dwindling, people of Mrs Arbroath’s ilk could no longer maintain their mansions, having to sell parcels of land to raise money.

Mrs Arbroath steeled herself against what was coming to the world, and she clung on to her previous glory with two clutching hands…Her income had started to drop, which was the fault of that miserable surtax, which she had always thought was thieving, and she had had to sell a few fields. Instantly there had sprung up a pale mushroom growth of awful little houses, with asbestos roofs, which made her groan. She could do nothing about it, though she tried, and what was worse, she had never given up trying.

Essex is witty and displays a wicked sense of humour, and her writing is deliciously tongue-in-cheek. All the characters are wonderfully realized and unique with their own set of quirks – the obstinate David with his inability to think quickly, the self-assured but dull Digby who believes his Ducks has verve and personality, poor shabbily-dressed Germayne who is driven crazy by the two men in her life, the formidable but lonely Mrs Arbroath who loves to relentlessly argue and have her own way, the dashing Colonel Blandish who can impress women with his “Simla finesse and Poona technique”, and of course not to be left out, the enchanting Mimi in her dirndl skirt and plunging neckline who can set men’s hearts racing.

Tea is certainly intoxicating, as is Mary Essex’s wonderful novel!

Blast from the Past: The Blue Fox – Sjón (tr. Victoria Cribb)

The Blue Fox was the first book I read of the Icelandic author Sjón, and it blew me away. I read it many years ago, pre-blog, and while recently sorting out some of bookshelves, came upon it again. Suddenly, I felt like penning some thoughts on it.

The Blue Fox is a haunting, mythical novella, a blend of historical fiction and fairytale, with a very dreamlike vibe pulsing through it.

Set in Iceland in the late 1800s, the book opens with the protagonist Baldur Skuggason, a priest, hunting for the mystical blue fox on the whitened, frozen landscape in the dead of winter.

Blue foxes are so curiously like stones that it is a matter for wonder. When they lie beside them in winter there is no hope of telling them apart from the rocks themselves; indeed, they’re far trickier than white foxes, which always cast a shadow or look yellow against the snow.

In the throes of a howling wind and a raging blizzard, the action in this section feels like watching a slow motion film, as the Reverend stealthily moves across the snowy slopes in his quest to trap the enigmatic vixen. When he thinks he has spotted it, the Reverend fires his gun and sets in motion an avalanche that blankets the region.

Like a camera angle zooming to another scene, we are then transported to a different storyline, where the spotlight shines on Fridrik Fridjonsson, a naturalist, who must bury a young girl he has been caring for. This young girl was called Abba and was afflicted with Down’s Syndrome. The story, then, moves backwards to give us a glimpse of the girl’s life up to moment she dies. It’s a heartbreaking tale showcasing Abba’s hard life, and the heavy burden that Fridrik shoulders as he is unable to turn a blind eye to her suffering.

What is remarkable is how Sjón masterfully interweaves these two seemingly disparate storylines, to reveal a surprising twist in the final pages. 

With concise prose that is both gorgeous and sinister, The Blue Fox is an impressive interlacing of lives, a spellbinding fable that is part mystery part fairytale that displays the dark recesses of the human heart. In the Baldur sections, Sjón takes us inside the minds of the hunter and hunted as they try to outmaneuver each other. More often than not, the reader’s sympathies lie with the blue fox as we secretly hope it escapes the Reverend’s mode of attack. With the Abba story thread, the book delves into the themes of human cruelty, the stigma associated with a genetic disorders and how society is so unkind to people born with them.  

Sjón’s prose is as sparse, crisp and still as the glacial surroundings depicted within. There is a lot of white, empty space around the printed words on most pages, which is symbolic of the stark, icy and wintry backdrop against which the book is set. Much of the prose throughout the book reads like lyrical poems.

It is a novella of surreal beauty interspersed with moments of volatile darkness that can strike as suddenly and violently as the avalanche triggered by the Reverend’s gun.

I simply adored this atmospheric novella, and I’ll end with a quote from the book that describes the stunning Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis), a natural phenomenon I was lucky to witness a few years ago, north of the Arctic Circle.

In the halls of heaven it was now dark enough for the Aurora Borealis sisters to begin their lively dance of the veils. With an enchanting play of colours they flitted light and quick about the great stage of the heavens, in fluttering golden dresses, their tumbling pearl necklaces scattering here and there in their wild caperings.

Subsequently, I have gone on to read his From the Mouth of a Whale, which I remember liking immensely at the time, but do not recall much of it now, unfortunately!

Cockroaches – Scholastique Mukasonga (tr. Jordan Stump)

Scholastique Mukasonga is an author I had been meaning to read for a while, especially since the wonderful Archipelago Books had published a slew of her memoirs, a novel and a collection of short stories. I decided to begin with Cockroaches, the first of her acclaimed autobiographical works.

We thought we could see implacable hatred in their eyes. They called us Inyenzi – cockroaches. From now on, in Nyamata, we would all be Inyenzi. I was an Inyenzi.

Cockroaches is Mukasonga’s hard-hitting and heartbreaking chronicle of her Tutsi childhood in Rwanda and the events leading up to the horrific 1994 Rwandan genocide, told with poetic grace and intensity.

This genocide is truly a dark spot in the annals of African history, where an estimated 500,000 Tutsis (as per Wikipedia) were senselessly massacred by the Hutu clan. Just before the opening pages, Mukasonga dedicates the book to the murdered members of her family – her father Cosmo, her mother Stefania, her brother Antoine and his family, her sister Alexia and her family, and her other sisters Judith, Julienne and Jeanne.

As we begin reading, we realize that the genocide was not a sudden occurrence. Seeds of it were sown much earlier. Mukasonga reveals how the Tutsis were relentlessly persecuted right from the early days of her childhood.

The first pogroms against the Tutsis broke out on all Saints’ Day, 1959. The machinery of the genocide had been set into motion. It would never stop. Until the final solution, it would never stop.

Born in the late 1950s, Mukasonga’s first recollections begin from their new house in Magi, on the steep foothills of Mount Makwaza. Her big sister Alexia and her elder brothers Antoine and Andre went to school, while her mother worked the fields. Her father knew to read and write and worked as an accountant and secretary to the sub-chief Ruvebana. As soon as she was three, Mukasonga experienced her first brush with terror as she “heard noises, shouts, a hum like a swarm of monstrous bees, a growl filling the air.”

Her family manages to escape and hide in the banana groves. While still roaring, men burst into their house, launched a frenzied attack and destroyed all their possessions and belongings. Realising that they will never be able to resume their old life in Magi, a long period of exile begins for Mukasonga and her family. They are deported to Nyamata, in the district called Bugasera – an almost unpopulated savannah, home to big, wild animals, infested by tsetse flies.

The exiled families still harbor hopes of going back to Rwanda one day. But meanwhile, they must carve out an existence in the wild land right from scratch. And they manage to do just that. Bound by a sense of community and brotherhood, the exiled Tutsis begin focusing on the practical matters of restarting everyday life. Houses are built, latrines are dug, fields are cleared for growing crops, and for immediate money they begin working for the locals. Hardships are aplenty, but the Tutsis find a way to survive. Until the spectre of massacre comes to haunt them once again.

One day, thinking that the King is about to pay them a visit, the Tutsis dress up in their Sunday best on the appointed day. Morning quickly merges into the afternoon, and there’s still no sign of the king. However, helicopters suddenly make an appearance and start targeting the Tutsis who are once again compelled to flee for dear life. In this manner, Mukasonga’s family find themselves displaced yet again as they make their way to Gitagata to rebuild their lives.

What is remarkable about Mukasonga’s story is the indomitable spirit and the instinct for survival displayed by the Tutsis in the face of unspeakable tragedy. Mukasonga’s mother, for instance, dreads the prospect of moving again and having to begin life anew, but soldier on she must. The father is a resilient man too, and has ambitions of educating his children by sending them to school whatever the circumstances. That single mindedness yields results because we would not have had this book in our hands had Mukasonga also been murdered with the rest of the family.

It’s not all bleak though. Mukasonga writes about how the family manages to find moments of happiness and calm even when the world is crumbling around them and death is just around the corner. Mukasonga, particularly, cherishes some fond memories of her childhood – the daily routine, running for school, singing and dancing, making food preparations for festival days, enjoying languid afternoons with friends by the lake, and being enthralled by her mother’s storytelling skills.

As the book progresses, Mukasonga begins to develop an aptitude for education and learning, and we follow her journey from Nyamata “where the solidarity of the ghetto gave her the strength to endure the violent and even deadly persecution”, to the school in the city where “she would know the solitude of humiliation and rejection.”

It is the parents’ insistence that something of the Mukasonga family remains, and with that goal in mind they send Scholastique and Andre to pursue higher education in the city, even though they remain in the villages, so that the two avoid the tragic fate that is destined to befall the family (which is exactly what happens).

Andre becomes the head doctor of a hospital in Dakar, Senegal, while Scholastique pursues a career in social work eventually marrying and settling in France. And that is how they end up being the only survivors of the original Mukasonga family.

The penultimate chapter in the book focuses exclusively on the horrors of the 1994 genocide, and is quite brutal. The sheer random cruelty, mayhem, and mass murder make these sections painfully difficult to read. Mukasonga is tormented by the fact that she is not present with her family when these horrific crimes take place. It takes her nearly ten years since to revisit her Rwanda, to visit as she so calls “the land of the dead.”

The murderers tried to erase everything they were, even any memory of their existence, but, in the schoolchild’s notebook that I am now never without, I write down their names. I have nothing left of my family and all the others who died in Nyamata but that paper grave.

Cockroaches was first published in 2006 after a gap of nearly 12 years since the genocide. From the vantage point of adulthood, Mukasonga gains the necessary distance and perspective when recalling and retelling her brutal past. Her prose is spare and lucid, lyrical yet tragic. Her language is drenched in warmth and emits rays of great tenderness and beauty even amid all the pain.

The reality of the shocking, gruesome genocide is hard to digest, and I realized how easy it is for the reader to just snap the book shut and not read more if he/she is no mood to stomach these horrors. And that is fine. We have that advantage to choose. If only the Tutsis had that choice too – to shut out that violence, and lead a normal life like the rest of us.