FINALIST FOR THE 2022 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
A new masterwork of satire, lore, and living memory from the leading voice of French-Rwandan literature
“Mukasonga breathes upon a vanished world and brings it to life in all its sparkling multifariousness” --J.M. Coetzee
In four beautifully woven parts, Mukasonga spins a marvelous recounting of the clash between ancient Rwandan beliefs and the missionaries determined to replace them with European Christianity.
When a rogue priest is defrocked for fusing the gospels with the martyrdom of Kibogo, a fierce clash of cults ensues. Swirling with the heady smell of wet earth and flashes of acerbic humor, Mukasonga brings to life the vital mythologies that imbue the Rwandan spirit. In doing so, she gives us a tale of disarming simplicity and profound universal truth.
Kibogo’s story is reserved for the evening’s end, when women sit around a fire drinking honeyed brew, when just a few are able to stave off sleep. With heads nodding, drifting into the mist of a dream, one faithful storyteller will weave the old legends of the hillside, stories which church missionaries have done everything in their power to expunge.
To some, Kibogo’s tale is founding myth, celestial marvel, magic incantation, bottomless source of hope. To white priests spritzing holy water on shriveled, drought-ridden trees, it looms like red fog over the village: forbidden, satanic, a witchdoctor’s hoax. All debate the twisted roots of this story, but deep down, all secretly wonder – can Kibogo really summon the rain?
Born in Rwanda in 1956, Scholastique Mukasonga experienced from childhood the violence and humiliation of the ethnic conflicts that shook her country. Her family was displaced in 1960, and was later forced to flee to Burundi. She settled in France in 1992, only two years before the brutal genocide of the Tutsi swept through Rwanda, which resulted in the massacre of 37 of her family members. Her previous books Our Lady of the Nile, Cockroaches, The Barefoot Woman, and Igifu have been the recipients of many awards and international acclaim.
Mark Polizzotti is a biographer, critic, translator of more than fifty books, editor, and poet. He is the author of Sympathy for the Traitor, Highway 61 Revisited, Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton. Polizzotti directs the publications program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.