Home > History, memoir > An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography

An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography

  • Author:  Paul Rusesabagina, Tom Zoellner
  • ISBN 13:  9780143038603
  • Publisher:  ISIS Large Print Books
  • Published:  January, 2008
  • Pages:  248
  • Language: English
  • Format:  PDF, RTF, EPUB, LIT, LRF, MOBI
  • Price:  $10.20

The remarkable life story of the man who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda

Readers who were moved and horrified by Hotel Rwanda will respond even more intensely to Paul Rusesabagina’s unforgettable autobiography. As Rwanda was thrown into chaos during the 1994 genocide, Rusesabagina, a hotel manager, turned the luxurious Hotel Milles Collines into a refuge for more than 1,200 Tutsi and moderate Hutu refugees, while fending off their would-be killers with a combination of diplomacy and deception. In An Ordinary Man, he tells the story of his childhood, retraces his accidental path to heroism, revisits the 100 days in which he was the only thing standing between his “guests” and a hideous death, and recounts his subsequent life as a refugee and activist.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. For former hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, words are the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal. For good and for evil, as was the case in the spring of 1994 in Rwanda. Over 100 days, some 800,000 people were slaughtered, most hacked to death by machete. Rusesabagina—inspiration for the movie Hotel Rwanda—used his facility with words and persuasion to save 1,268 of his fellow countrymen, turning the Belgian luxury hotel under his charge into a sanctuary from madness. Through negotiation, favor, flattery and deception, Rusesabagina managed to keep his “guests” alive another day despite the homicidal gangs just beyond the fence and the world’s failure to act. Narrator Hoffman delivers those words in a stirring audio performance. With a crisp African accent, Hoffman renders each sentence with heartfelt conviction and flat-out becomes Rusesabagina. The humble hotel manager not only illuminates the machinery behind the genocide but delves into Rwanda’s complex and colorful cultural history as well as his own childhood, the son of a Hutu father and Tutsi mother. Hoffman successfully draws out the understated elegance of Rusesabagina’s simple and straightforward prose, lending the story added vividness. This tale of good, evil and moral responsibility winds down with Rusesabagina visiting a church outside Kigali where thousands were massacred and where a multilingual sign-cloth now pledges, “Never Again.” He once more stops to consider words, the ones he worries lack true conviction—like those at the church—as well as the ones with the power to heal. For the listener, the words of Paul Rusesabagina won’t soon be forgotten. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Rusesabagina . . . weaves his country’s history with his personal history into a rich narrative that attempts to explain the unexplainable. . . . The book’s emotional power comes from his understatement and humility. (The Boston Globe)

An extraordinary cautionary tale. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Rusesabagina’s story of survival amid manic slaughter is as awful as it is gripping. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Read this book. It will humble and inspire you. (Sunday Telegraph, London)

Extraordinary—horrific and tragic, but also inspiring, because Rusesabagina refuses to give up his belief in the basic decency of humanity. (The Times, London)

About the Author

Paul Rusesabagina is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Civil Rights Museum’s 2005 Freedom Award.

Most helpful reviews

A COURAGEOUS MAN’S STORY SUPERBLY READ

By Gail Cooke

Paul Rusesabagina, the inspiration for the Oscar nominated film, Hotel Rwanda, is not an ordinary man but an extraordinary one. He is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Civil rRghts Museum’s 2005 Freedom Award – rightly so. During the 1994 bloodbath in Rwanda that resulted in the slaughter of some 800,000 people, he sheltered over 1,200 in the luxury hotel that he managed.

It all began with the shooting down of a plane carrying the Rwandan and Burundian presidents. Utter madness almost immediately ensued. When Rusesabagina turned to U.N. representatives for assistance their response was all but ludicrous.

How he managed to endure some 100 days of utter devastation and at the same time save the lives of others is a tale of heroic proportions. Here, in An Ordinary Man we’re able to hear his story in his own words for the first time. He is candid about the details of that dreadful 100 days, as well as his personal views of actions that might have been taken by international peacekeepers.

Voice performer Dominic Hoffman offers a riveting narrative of an this courageous man’s story during this nightmarish time in world history. – Gail Cooke

An Extraordinary Man

By Lynn M. Griesemer

Well written, provocative and emotionally captivating. “An Ordinary Man” should be required reading for everyone, especially young adults – our future generation. I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Rusesbagina when he spoke at a local college on April 10th to a crowd of over 1000. He is humble, bright and compassionate. He escaped death at least half a dozen times during the spring of 1994. I can only wonder if God’s plan was not only for him to save 1268 lives, but to bring the whole issue of genocide to the forefront of the minds of the hundreds of thousands who will read this book.

I bought his book on the spot and have been consumed by it for the past week. I’ve stayed up late; I began researching genocide and I’ve been lost in deep thought and prayer for those who were murdered and those who are being murdered by genocide as you read this. I plan on reading it again, more slowly in a few months in order to digest all of his ideas, opinions and suggestions.

History was presented to me in a boring manner in high school, but the movie “Hotel Rwanda” and now this book, have caused me to stop what I am doing and take a good hard look at the whole issue of genocide.

Not only genocide, but I can see how the power elite (high level politicians in our country) try to build a case with rhetoric and faulty arguments to get Americans to unknowingly agree with some ludicrous and dangerous beliefs, such as support for the current war in Iraq and possible aggression toward Iran.

In 1994, I remember listening to radio commentary that suggested that the US stay out of Rwanda’s affairs and I agreed because that’s the case that was built and that’s what I heard on the radio. Now I know differently. Imagine if the US stayed out of the affairs of the Nazi holocaust – would there be 6 million more deaths in the 1940’s? Because of this book, I have a renewed interest in history. And please, media, don’t let me hear you say “ethnic cleansing.” The term is genocide.

As far as I’m concerned, Paul Rusesabagina is on the level of Mother Teresa and has a lot in common with her – an ordinary man who was just doing what he could, using peaceful means. And today, Paul heads a foundation that helps the displaced orphans (500,000+).

Read this book as soon as you can and take heed – genocide is something that is ongoing in the Congo and Sudan, and may erupt again in the near future, if not in Rwanda, then somewhere else.

Should be required reading for everyone

By K. B. Brown

I heard Mr. Rusesabagina speak on April 4th at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and was fortunate enough to buy an autographed copy of the book. The writing is amazingly beautiful, and every page is filled with ideas that, if followed, will make us all better people. I’m on chapter two at the moment and preparing for the grisly details to come… but am astonished at the hope and spirituality evident even in the face of such ugliness. Paul Rusesabagina is a saint for modern times, and I would recommend not waiting for the paperback edition of this book…. it is destined to become a classic.

From Goodreads.com

Jenna Stone

Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

All over Rwanda, good men made their choices. Some joined the tide of evil, succumbing to the collective madness that overcame so many Hutus. Others did nothing. And many good men stood against evil, sheltering Tutsi refugees in their homes or churches, and died for their trouble.

Paul Rusesabagina chose to stand against evil, armed with a stash of good liquor and the proverbial “little black book” — his containing notes on the many influential people he had met over the years of his career managing high-class hotels in Kigali, Rwanda. Rusesabagina worked his network for all it was worth, sitting down for civilized conversations over drinks with military and government leaders in a position to protect Rusesabagina’s hotel — and the 1000+ Tutsi refugees inside — from the wholesale slaughter that consumed the rest of the country.

And amazingly, it worked. Not a single Tutsi under his care was murdered. Not one.

The book is well-written and a heartbreaking read, although in places I wished for more detail, especially in the latter third of the book, where there seemed to be somewhat less thoughtful analysis of the political context than in the early chapters. But this is a personal tale, not a scholarly book of history — and I especially appreciate the selected bibliography at the end that recommends other works on the subject for further reading.

Kim

This movie and book went in a contrary direction. The movie was made and then Paul Rusesabagina wrote the true story. Considering his weapon was words, the book feels like the ‘right’ way for him to tell the tale.

And what a tale it is. This book narrates the build up to the genocide in Rwanda and the seventy six days Paul kept 1 268 people alive and safe in his hotel. The story is told openly and plainly, without drama or exaggeration. And this makes it even more powerful and harrowing than had any of those tools been employed. Told like a simple narrative, the horror of what happened and how the world let it happen is raw and obvious.

Paul does not try to excuse the Rwandans or paint them in any sort of sympathetic light. But he also dispels the idea that the mass murder of 100 000 people was tribal rivalry gone awry. The international community should have to answer for each of the deaths, both in creating and allowing to fester, the circumstances in which they occurred, as well as for doing nothing to intervene once they had started.

Not an easy read by any description, this book will keep you turning the pages, grimacing and struggling to believe. This is the kind of book that should be a setwork at school – maybe if more people read it fewer would be capable of recreating it in the future.

Never Again is the hope Rwanda has after 1994. But unless the international community of power does something, this kind of slaughter based on race will continue to occur. Hitler, Bosnia, Serbia, Rwanda – how many times do we have to see his kind of extreme racism before everyone says Never Again. And means it? Read this book – it is an experience worth having.

Shannon

I couldn’t put this down. After watching Don Cheadle’s brilliant performance of Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda, I fervently wanted to read Rusesabagina’s autobiography. This man has so much integrity; he protected 1,268 Rwandan refugees in the Hotel des Mille Collines during a period in which hundreds of thousands were brutally executed, including Hutu political moderates like him. The book begins examining the possible origins of the ethnic divide between the Tutsi and Hutu. The origin of Rwanda’s class system has little to do with appearance. Tutsis are considered to be taller, to have smaller noses, but evidence suggests they share a recent common origin (e.g., they share the language of Kinyarwanda, the same storytelling traditions, and religions). Rusesabagina believes the ethnicities developed from artificial political distinctions. He is actually considered Hutu in spite of his mother’s Tutsi heritage due to Rwanda’s patriarchal system in which ethnic identity of a child depends on the ethnic identity of the father.

British explorer John Hanning Speke used Bible passages to theorize that the Tutsi were a lost tribe of Christians while the Hutu were the cursed descendants of Noah’s son Ham. Before World War I, Germany was the colonizing power of Rwanda. It was then handed over to Belgium, and the Belgians adopted the race theories of Speke. Subsequently, Rwandans received identity cards specifying their ethnic class. Resentment slowly grew from the doctrine of Tutsi superiority and later, Hutu Power ideology emerged as a response. Due to Belgian influence, Rwanda quickly became one of the most Christian nations on the planet. Interestingly, Rusesabagina chose Paul as his baptismal name after the NT character who described himself as “all things to all people.” I found this to be the most fitting description of Rusesabagina.

This is a fantastic autobiography, exquisitely written. It illustrates the early manifestation of ethnic division, the subtle tension and irrational fear that develop from this division, the dangers of ethnic-stereotyping propaganda, and the international community’s persistent failure to act. The end of the book discusses a phrase popularized in response to the Holocaust: “Never Again.” Rusesabagina poignantly asserts that the words Never Again will persist in being one of the most abused phrases in the English language and one of the greatest lies of our time if we continue to neglect such atrocities.

This is one of my favorite passages concerning the genocide in Rwanda:

It started as a failure of the European colonists who exploited trivial differences for the sake of a divide-and-rule strategy. It was the failure of Africa to get beyond its ethnic divisions and form true coalition governments. It was a failure of Western democracies to step in and avert the catastrophe when abundant evidence was available. It was a failure of the United States for not calling a genocide by its right name. It was the failure of the United Nations to live up to its commitments as a peacemaking body.”

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Categories: History, memoir Tags: ,
  1. August 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  2. August 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm

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  4. September 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm

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