The Past Ahead

The Past Ahead

A Novel
Gilbert Gatore, edited by Gilbert Gatore, translated by Marjolijn De Jager
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/04/2012
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-00665-3
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A 2012 Africa Book Club Book of the Year

The Past Ahead is the story of the destinies of two people after their experiences of the genocide in Rwanda. Isaro is orphaned, exiled, and now returned to her native country. Niko is a character in a novel that Isaro writes to help her understand her country's recent horrific past. Isaro's quest to recover the memory of the life she has lost is haunted by her nightmare imaginings, whose horror is given expression through Niko, a mute social outcast. When an army intent on massacre reaches his village, the once gentle young man is forced to become a killer. After the fighting ends, Niko retreats to a cave that he shares with a family of gorillas to try to escape the burden of his guilt. In his solitude, he is plagued with painful memories that will not leave him. As Isaro writes Niko’s story, she succumbs to the sadness of death, violence, and the dreadful reminders of her terrible past. Stunning and powerfully written, Gatore’s novel lays bare the unfathomable human cost of this international tragedy.

Author Bio

Gilbert Gatore was born in Rwanda in 1981. During the civil war, he kept a diary that was later lost during his escape. He began writing fiction in an attempt to recreate the impressions recorded in his diary.

Marjolijn de Jager is a translator who specializes in Francophone African literature. She received the Distinguished Member Award from the African Literature Association in 2011.


“The story of the destinies of two people after their experiences of genocide in Rwanda, this stunning and powerfully written novel lays bare the unfathomable human cost of this international tragedy.”

“At the beginning of the genocide, writer Gilbert Gatore opens an abyss. The Past Ahead is the history, powerful and marvelous, of an executioner and a victim.”
 — Ouest France

“As a child, he witnessed the murderous folly of identification cards. Thanks to fiction, he closely approaches horror that is impossible to utter.”
 — Télérama

“Surviving the Rwandan tragedy, Gilbert Gatore at age 26 has published a strong first novel the poses universal questions with delicacy and courage.”
 — Livres et idees (France)

“The slow realization that everything is wrong.”
 — Foreign Policy

“...[a] vibrant work of fiction that explores what it takes to make a monster out of a human being, and challenges the definition of survivor.”
 — ForeWord

“The Past Ahead is a novel of blurred lines, the alternately healing and destructive power of memory, and irrepressible nature of truth. If we can only truly understand genocide through the art it inspires, then Gatore's The Past Ahead is as close a historical account of the atrocities of war and both the resilience and malleability of the human spirit as we can hope to receive. ”
 — Big Muddy

“A real novel where memories comprise the trauma of a lost diary.”
 — Presse Regional (France)

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