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Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda

J.P. Stassen
J.P. Stassen

Remember how shocked you were by the likes of Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde or Palestine and Art Spiegelman’s Maus? J.P. Stassen has produced a graphic novel on the horror and madness of the sudden genocidal attacks in Rwanda in 1994 which saw over ¾ of a million people slaughtered in a short space of time as racial tensions between Hutu and Tutsi people flared into murderous hatred.

Deogratias is just a boy; Benina is just a girl - teenagers like teenagers everywhere. Only he is a Hutu, and she is a Tutsi — so say their ID cards. We are in Rwanda in the days leading to a swift and gruesome genocide; the world will watch and do nothing. In less than a hundred days, eight hundred thousand human beings will be hacked to death.

Moment by moment, piece by piece,  J.P. Stassen skilfully builds a masterpiece, an unforgettable tale that probes man’s inhumanity to man. His eloquence, his storytelling power, and his sheer poetry elevate this harrowing story to the rank of a testimonial to one of the darkest chapters in recent human history.

With great skill and understanding, Stassen’s Deogratias takes us back and forth in time, showing only before and after the killings — and inexorably revealing the grip of madness and horror on one young boy and his country. Difficult, beautiful, honest, and heartbreaking, this is a masterwork by a major artist of our time.

Sacco’s work has sometimes been referred to as ‘graphic journalism’; while not necessarily wrong, this is often used as a description by people – especially literary critics – as their way to excuse reading ‘comics’, because they don’t like to acknowledge that mere comics can cover every spectrum of storytelling, from garish four colour superheroes to the most deadly serious matters facing people, from the holocaust to abusive relationships. Well, we do know that our genre can deal with such awful issues and often informs readers more than newspaper articles. This is a heavy subject to tackle for reader and creator alike, but an important one to tell and to read; no wonder if won at the Angoulême comic festival.

First Second Books, paperback, 96 pages, published May 2006 


£14.99  £10.3431 %

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