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From the Archives—Dervla Murphy’s Visiting Rwanda

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.