Philip Gourevitch, The Informer

Philip Gourevitch made his name reporting the genocide in Rwanda. Since taking over as editor of the Paris Review, he is bringing reportage to ‘the biggest little magazine in history’.

James Campbell in The Guardian:

In a Paris Review interview almost half a century ago, Ernest Hemingway offered a tip to the would-be writer in search of material: “Let’s say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down with mercy … At least he will have the story of the hanging to go on with.”

PgIt is safe to assume the advice was meant to be taken loosely, but Philip Gourevitch entered into the spirit more boldly than most when, in May 1995, he skipped the hanging and went straight to a genocide. “I stepped up into the open doorway of a classroom,” Gourevitch writes in the opening chapter of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, his book about the “100 days” of killings of Tutsi people by the dominant Hutus in Rwanda. “At least 50 mostly decomposed cadavers covered the floor, wadded in clothing … Macheted skulls had rolled here and there.” A few paragraphs on, the awestruck reporter, who had never seen dead people before, reacts angrily when his guide steps blithely on skulls as he walks across the grassy courtyard. “Then I heard another crunch, and felt a vibration underfoot. I had stepped on one, too.”

Gourevitch is now the editor of the Paris Review, “the biggest little magazine in history”, as Time magazine called it. The journal is known and admired for its consistent literary talent-spotting and the party-giving panache of its co-founder and editor George Plimpton who died in 2003.

More here.