As people mark the passing of the extraordinary travel writer and adventurer, Dervla Murphy, we share a First Flush piece from issue 177 back in November 1998, on her book Visiting Rwanda.
Visiting Rwanda|Dervla Murphy|Lilliput (November 1998)
The book about the horrific Hutu-Tutsi massacres (does genocide begin to sound like a euphemism?) which Murphy’s long-time English publisher refused because it isn’t in her usual vein. This is surely to mis-appreciate her.
Fergal Keane is quoted on the jacket talking of her compassion, understanding and courage, all of which are indeed extraordinary, but we have also seen—on Northern Ireland and on racism in Britain—an even more important and admirable quality, which is rare among travel writers, who are happy to observe and even admire and pretend to participate in the lives of other peoples, but who at the end of the day return to their comfortable Western homes and are content lo live off the proceeds.
By contrast, Dervla Murphy has a finely-honed social conscience and is happy to risk her royalties in order to tell the world that its soi-disant do-gooders of the UN have made a hames of dealing with a crime against humanity comparable with that of the Nazis’ holocaust—and not such an unsophisticated tribal affair as people like to think.
Since she is also a very human being and a capable writer, her book is readable (we steeled ourselves for some rough reading, but were enchanted and drawn into it by her very amusing account of herself in the unfamiliar role of grandmother), and indeed demands to be read.
Top marks to Lilliput for picking up the ball and running with it, and we hope they make London publishers John Murray feel as bad as they deserve to.