Our Lady of the Nile: A Novel
For her most recent work and first novel - Notre-Dame du Nil, originally published in March 2012 with Gallimard in French - Mukasonga immerses us in a school for young girls, called "Notre-Dame du Nil." The girls are sent to this high school perched on the ridge of the Nile in order to become the feminine elite of the country and to escape the dangers of the outside world. The book is a prelude to the Rwandan genocide and unfolds behind the closed doors of the school, in the interminable rainy season. Friendships, desires, hatred, political fights, incitation to racial violence, persecutions... The school soon becomes a fascinating existential microcosm of the true 1970s Rwanda.
• Born in Rwanda in 1956, Scholastique Mukasonga experienced from childhood the violence and humiliation of the ethnic conflicts that shook her country. In 1960, her family was displaced to the polluted and under-developed Bugesera district of Rwanda. Mukasonga was later forced to leave the school of social work in Butare and flee to Burundi. She settled in France in 1992, only two years before the brutal genocide of the Tutsi swept through Rwanda. In the aftermath, Mukasonga learned that 37 of her family members had been massacred. Twelve years later, Gallimard published her autobiographical account Inyenzi ou les Cafards, which marked Mukasonga's entry into literature. This was followed by the publication of La femme aux pieds nus in 2008 and L'Iguifou in 2010, both widely praised. Her first novel, Notre-Dame du Nil (Our Lady of the Nile), won the Ahamadou Kourouma prize and the Renaudot prize in 2012, as well as the Océans France Ô prize in 2013 and the French Voices Award in 2014, and was shortlisted for the 2016 International Dublin Literary award.
• About the Translator: Melanie Mauthner read Modern Languages (French/Spanish) at Wadham College, Oxford and worked as a sociology lecturer before becoming a translator. Her publications include Ethics in Qualitative Research (Sage 2012), Sistering (Palgrave 2002), short stories and poems in magazines and anthologies. She obtained a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013 to translate Scholastique Mukasonga's collection L'Iguifou and is now translating her novel, Notre-Dame du Nil. She performs as part of the London writers' collective, Malika's Poetry Kitchen.
The author lives in France.