In My Home There Is No More Sorrow by Rick Bass | Book review
Bass explores nature and human nature on a trip to Rwanda.
The first thing Rick Bass recalls about his ten days in Rwanda is the lovely April light: “soft and warm upon the incredible green that bursts from the fields and mountains.” Uh oh, the reader may think. Is this entire narrative going to be softly lit? Bursting with verdant beauty? But Bass is one step ahead: “Every word I spend here without getting to the bones feels like I am shirking or betraying the obligation of witness.” The bones he’s referring to are those of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis killed in 1994, now on display at genocide memorials. Last year Bass, his wife, his teenage daughter and writer-activist Terry Tempest Williams traveled to Rwanda to visit these memorials and mass graves, and to observe some of the world’s last silverback gorillas. With Williams, he also taught a two-day writing workshop at the National University of Rwanda where students shared personal stories of tragedy and loss, some of which are included here. (The book was first packaged with McSweeney’s Quarterly #40.)
Bass likens this travelogue to a trek up a volcano. To extend the metaphor, his complicated emotions—guilt, shame, the persistent feeling of being an “American lightweight” unable to carry his share of global awareness—are switchbacks snaking up the mountainside. It’s slow going, and some of his questions are frustrating in their generality: “Where did the evil go? Did it seep back into the earth?” Still, better to slog up introspective switchbacks than chart a quick, careless path to epiphany. The student writing is a fitting way to close the book, reflecting not an obligation to share, but an opportunity.