A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

Gil Courtemanche won the 2004 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for this novel set during a contentious time in Rwanda.

Gil Courtemanche, translated by Patricia Claxton

A documentary filmmaker from Quebec finds himself at a hotel in Kigali in the middle of a very contentious time in Rwanda. As he gets to know the local community, the extent of the crisis and the country's troubles are revealed. But he also finds himself falling in love with Rwanda, despite the conflict that rages around him. A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali is a riveting and devastating look at a country in peril and the people whose lives hang in the balance.

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali won the 2004 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

From the book

In the middle of Kigali there is a swimming pool surrounded by deckchairs and a score of tables all made of white plastic. And forming a huge L overhanging this patch of blue stands the Hôtel des Mille-Collines, with its habitual clientele of international experts and aid workers, middle-class Rwandans, screwed-up or melancholy expatriates of various origins, and prostitutes. All around the pool and hotel in lascivious disorder lies the part of the city that matters, that makes the decisions, that steals, kills, and lives very nicely, thank you. The French Cultural Centre, the UNICEF offices, the Ministry of Information, the embassies, the president's palace (recognizable by the tanks on guard), the crafts shops popular with departing visitors where one can unload surplus black market currency, the radio station, the World Bank offices, the archbishop's palace. Encircling this artificial paradise are the obligatory symbols of decolonization: Constitution Square, Development Avenue, Boulevard of the Republic, Justice Avenue, and an ugly, modern cathedral. Farther down, almost in the underbelly of the city, stands the red brick mass of the Church of the Holy Family, disgorging the poor in their Sunday best into crooked mud lanes bordered by houses made of the same clay. Small red houses — just far enough away from the swimming pool not to offend the nostrils of the important — filled with shouting, happy children, with men and women dying of AIDS and malaria, thousands of small households that know nothing of the pool around which others plan their lives and, more importantly, their predictable deaths.

From A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche, translated by Patricia Claxton ©2003. Published by Vintage Canada.