The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget
Murder and Memory in Uganda
By Andrew Rice
(Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805079654, 384pp.)
Publication Date: May 26, 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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From a new star of American journalism, a riveting murder mystery that reveals the forces roiling today’s Africa
From Rwanda to Sierra Leone, African countries recovering from tyranny and war are facing an impossible dilemma: to overlook past atrocities for the sake of peace or to seek catharsis through tribunals and truth commissions. Uganda chose the path of forgetting: after Idi Amin’s reign was overthrown, the new government opted for amnesty for his henchmen rather than prolonged conflict.
Ugandans tried to bury their history, but reminders of the truth were never far from view. A stray clue to the 1972 disappearance of Eliphaz Laki led his son to a shallow grave—and then to three executioners, among them Amin’s chief of staff. Laki’s discovery resulted in a trial that gave voice to a nation’s past: as lawyers argued, tribes clashed, and Laki pressed for justice, the trial offered Ugandans a promise of the reckoning they had been so long denied.
For four years, Andrew Rice followed the trial, crossing Uganda to investigate Amin’s legacy and the limits of reconciliation. At once a mystery, a historical accounting, and a portrait of modern Africa, The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget is above all an exploration of how—and whether—the past can be laid to rest.
Andrew Rice has written about Africa for The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and The Economist, among other publications. His article "The Book of Wilson," published in The Paris Review, received a Pushcart Prize. He spent several years in Uganda as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs and currently lives in Brooklyn.
“At its core, The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget is a keenly reported private detective story and police procedural about a son’s search for justice many years after his father’s betrayal and disappearance at the hands of Idi Amin’s military henchmen. At the same time, Andrew Rice’s book is an ably presented drama about the workings of a Ugandan courthouse. It is also an efficient primer on Uganda’s tumultuous history and a political précis of a succession of regimes, culminating with that of the current president, the increasingly authoritarian Yoweri Museveni. And on the broadest level, it is a vivid prism for examining some of the largest themes in Africa’s history.… A thoughtful meditation on the nature of memory, on forgiveness and reconciliation, told with a combination of attentiveness to historical background and genuine care for the lives of real people, The Teeth May Smile enriches the small world of serious Africa books for nonspecialists.”—The New York Times Book Review “A provocative story of war, death, and the quest for justice in the wake of Idi Amin’s ruinous reign in Uganda... Reconciliation is an increasingly important process in nations once torn by fratricide. Rice’s important book serves as an urgent case study, complete with a surprising outcome."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Treating the Lakis’ story as a microcosm of Uganda’s own, the author weaves together the family’s search for truth and justice with Uganda’s history. From its intimate portrait of Eliphaz’s grieving family to the wide-angle perspectives of the tumultuous post-independence years as Ugandans struggled to knit together a nation from the ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse peoples within their colonial borders, The Teeth May Smile recasts a familiar history in an entirely new light."—Publishers Weekly
“A deeply moving book, telling a whole nation’s story through one man’s struggle for justice.”
—Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland “Andrew Rice has done something remarkable: he has written a passionate, sophisticated, elegant book about modern African history. Even more extraordinary, he has used Uganda to explore fundamental truths about memory and justice, and thus turned an African story into a universal one.”
—Peter Beinart, author of The Good Fight “Few journalists succeed in peering as deeply into a nation’s soul as Andrew Rice has done with this remarkable exploration of memory, war and love in Uganda. This is more than a book about Africa, it is a book that holds up a mirror to the human soul.”
—Matthew Green, author of The Wizard of the Nile “Tyrant, killer, buffoon: Idi Amin was unforgettable. But his victims have largely been forgotten. Andrew Rice rescues one man’s memory, gives him a face and a voice and lets him speak for a multitude of the dead. This is reporting at its best—as gripping as any murder mystery, but far more important, because every painful word is true.”
—Robert Guest, former Africa editor of The Economist and author of The Shackled Continent
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