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Hardcover | $37.95 Trade | £31.95 | 188 pp. | 7.5 x 9 in | 70 duotone photographs | February 2006 | ISBN: 9781890951634
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Intimate Enemy

Images and Voices of the Rwandan Genocide


In 1994, an interim government in Rwanda orchestrated one of the world's worst mass crimes: a 100-day extermination campaign that took half a million lives. At the time, Rwanda's genocide went largely unnoticed by the outside world. Today there is growing interest in the Rwandan experience as many discover the horror that took place and seek to understand how and why violence of this character and magnitude could have happened in our time.

Intimate Enemy is a rare entrée into the logic, language, and imagery of Rwanda's violence. The book presents perpetrator testimony along with photographs of Rwandans, both perpetrators and survivors. The images and words are raw and unanalyzed; the reader is left to make sense of the killers and their would-be victims. Intimate Enemy challenges our assumptions about the genocide and about those who perpetrated it. It also prods us to consider how to represent and imagine violence on the scale of Rwanda.

About the Authors

Photographer Robert Lyons is the author of two notable books on Africa. Another Africa is an exploration, with writer Chinua Achebe, of the real Africa behind the stereotypes commonly held by Westerners; Egyptian Time is a collection of photographs of Egypt and its people, accompanied by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz's short story "The Cradle."

Scott Straus is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of several books on Africa and violence, including The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda, and is the translator of Jean-Pierre Chretien's The Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History. Formerly a Nairobi-based journalist, he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his 1996 reporting on the war in Congo.


Intimate Enemy is primarily composed of duotone photographs of the Hutu murderers of the Tutsi in Rwanda, now serving prison sentences. Photographer Lyons (Another Africa, with Chinua Achebe) shows seemingly "normal" individuals, with little or no malice in their faces. This aspect of everyday ordinariness staggers the mind: these people include teachers, businessmen, a plumber, farmers, an accountant, etc., who committed horrific crimes. Most confessed to killing, and few will be allowed to leave prison. There are images of Tutsi survivors as well. The accompanying text by former Nairobi-based journalist Straus (political science, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) is somber in tone, giving us a historical lesson few will forget. The interviews with these killers are straightforward and direct, lacking hyperbole and sensationalism.”—Library Journal
“The testimony, preceded by only the briefest of explanations, is often chilling, and the photos are poignant in this stirring look at the Rwandan genocide.”—Booklist
“While raw, unanalyzed interviews given by these Rwandans with Scott Straus, an expert on violence in Africa open the book, it's the striking black and white portraits taken by Robert Lyons which are so absorbing.... Photography this poignant is a good reminder that a picture really can speak a thousand words. This is a hauntingly beautiful book.”—Embassy


“It would be appalling to think that the hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutu who participated in the 1994 genocide were all either evil or psychotic. But it's even more shocking to learn the real lesson of this riveting book: that most of them were completely ordinary men, who went along with the killings for the most mundane of reasons—conformity, grudges, small loot, indifference, ennui. It's impossible to read the text and view the photos and not think: 'There but for the grace of god go I.' This publication is a major contribution both to the study of the Rwandan genocide and to the larger study of human nature under pressure.”
Gerald Caplan, author of Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide and founder of Remembering Rwanda.
“Though it names the most monstrous of crimes, genocide appears a damnably abstract word, veiling humanity in the cold accretion of numbers. To most, 'Rwanda' means hundreds of thousands killed in a hundred days. Intimate Enemy, by its photographs and words, its faces and voices, begins to restore what is too often missing in accounts of this unimaginable crime: the terrible intimacy of felt life.”
Mark Danner, author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror