Research Article

Surviving the Genocide: The Singularity of Suffering in Yvonne Owuor's “Weight of Whispers”


Although Theodor Adorno famously declared in 1983 that to write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric, profound acts of horror have inspired many literary masterpieces. The 1994 Rwandan genocide is no exception, having motivated some of Africa’s literary gems. While a huge archive of Rwandan genocide fiction easily and conveniently slips into the binaries of evil/good and Tutsi/Hutu, which have become default tropes of writing about this African traumatic reality, Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor sets her short story in Nairobi and after the genocide in order to offer alternative insights into the less explored aspect of genocide fiction — post-genocide suffering. Whereas the Kuseremanes ironically assume that they have escaped the ghost of the genocide when they relocate to Nairobi, Owuor’s spatial and temporal registers demonstrate how dislocation and innuendoes of their complicity in the genocide catalyses the family’s inordinate suffering. She invests her short story with implicitly nuanced and subtle techniques that forcefully foreground the point that the Kuseremanes might have escaped the horrors of the genocide such as mass murder and rape by relocating to Nairobi, but they are fated to endure inordinate suffering because of genocide induced dislocation and societal rupture.

Get new issue alerts for Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies