Between his fiction and his humanitarian work, Jean-Christophe Rufin has been just about everywhere – from the Philippines to the Balkans, Afghanistan to Rwanda. He’s worked as a doctor in Latin America, an ambassador in Senegal, and a human rights activist in Latin America. It’s fitting, then, that Rufin is one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders – an organisation designed to provide medical aid in developing or war-torn countries, regardless of race or religion.
Rufin is also a writer, with wide-ranging interests: he’s the author of everything from the ‘Rufin Report’ on anti-semitism in France, to swashbuckling historical adventure novels and a forthcoming memoir, The Santiago Pilgrimage, about his journey along the Way of St. James.
In conversation with Santilla Chingaipe, Rufin will talk about striking a balance between creativity, travel, diplomacy, and humanitarianism – and what drove him to embark upon an 800km journey to Santiago de Compostela by foot.
Jean-Christophe Rufin is a doctor, historian, novelist, and the former French Ambassador to Senegal and Gambia. Having worked for NGOs for more than 20 years, Rufin has led missions in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Soudan, Rwanda and the Balkans. He is one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders. He was the administrator for the French Red Cross (1994-1996) and the president of Action contre la faim (2003-2006).
Rufin has written historical and political essays, as well as science fiction and adventure novels. He is the author of numerous bestsellers, including The Abyssinian, for which he won the Goncourt Prize for a debut novel in 1997 and Brazil Red, the winner of the 2001 Goncourt Prize.
‘Celebrities and corporations spew forth “smash the patriarchy” and benefit financially from that. You want to talk about boards? I want to talk about how some women can’t get a job.’
Santilla Chingaipe is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. Chingaipe created and hosted the Africa Talks series in partnership with the Wheeler Centre, which explored perceptions about African-Australian identity, representation and politics. She also curated Australia’s first all-day, anti-racism festival, Not Racist, But.... Her work explores contemporary migration, cultural identities and politics. She reports regularly for the Saturday Paper and is a member of the federal government’s advisory group on Australia-Africa relations.