Book Chapter

‘Récit d’enfance, récit de distance. Gaby as implicated subject in Gaël Faye’s Petit Pays’



Grayson H (2022) ‘Récit d’enfance, récit de distance. Gaby as implicated subject in Gaël Faye’s Petit Pays’. In: Fraiture P (ed.) Unfinished Histories: Empire and Postcolonial Resonance in Central Africa and Belgium. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, pp. 293-311.

First paragraph: Gaël Faye’s award-winning 2016 novel Petit Pays has received critical acclaim for its lyrical depiction of a childhood universe set alongside the violence of Burundi’s civil war and the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Translated into over forty languages, the novel has been hailed varyingly as an ode to a lost paradise of childhood in Burundi, and a contemporary oral tale of political realism. The focus of this reading will be on Faye’s interweaving of a child’s perspective with a sustained focus on proximity and distance, and how these shed new light on this historical experience. The figure of the child is a vehicle for exploring subjects implicated in violence; and alongside this, distance draws our attention to how intricately different actors remain involved. In this way we can start to inch beyond the binaries of innocence/guilt, victim/perpetrator that dominate discussion of this period when transitional justice frameworks remain the primary approach to episodes of extreme violence. Combining both these elements, Faye’s novel brings Gaby’s position to the fore and reveals such subjects as complexly implicated in systemic injustice. As such, the insight is not on those larger-than-life political figures so dominant in Great Lakes history, but rather on the childhood of an ordinary figure.

FundersThe Royal Society of Edinburgh
Publication date31/12/2022
Publication date online30/11/2022
PublisherLeuven University Press
Place of publicationLeuven, Belgium

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Dr Hannah Grayson

Dr Hannah Grayson

Senior Lecturer, French

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