Translated from by

Published: September 13, 2022





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Book Description


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, 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 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?

Mukasonga’s recounts, in four beautifully woven parts, the clash between ancient Rwandan beliefs and the missionaries’ determination 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.

Official dogma is no match for the mercurial power of storytelling in Rwandan-French writer Scholastique Mukasonga’s sly new novel Kibogo . . . Mischievous and satirical . . . The stories themselves are furtively retold and altered and added to across time, subsuming even their tellers as they demonstrate a life force and lifespan that mere mortals can’t compete with.
Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

There may be a lot of tall tales in Kibogo, but there are others we know to be true: the exploitation of Rwanda by the white man during colonialism and beyond, and the battle between the white man’s religion and Rwandan culture and beliefs. It is these truths that remain on our minds long after the fire dies down and the storytelling is done.
Susi Wyss, Washington Independent Review of Books

Mukasonga’s most accomplished novel . . . Kibogo is a parable about the power of folklore and the dangers of forgetting. (Mukasonga plays with the tension between oral histories and her role in transcribing them.) . . . Her books offer a way for younger Rwandans to rediscover their own culture through myths and stories that have largely been forgotten.
Kevin Okoth, The London Review of Books

A triumph . . . Biting and gloriously satirical, Mukasonga's novel shows how stories can wield a power that is greater than the sword, resisting ownership by any one person or power. It is a rich and hilarious work.
Declan Fry, ABC News

Priests and village elders, small boys and wise women, saviors both earthly and heavenly, local chiefs and anthropologists populate this slim volume, drawing the reader into a world that is distant in both time and space, a world that is well worth visiting.
Shara Kronmal, Chicago Review

A searing tale of contending gods, religions, and economies in colonial Rwanda . . . As Mukasonga’s story opens, a village subchief, bribed by a "Colonial" with “a watch, a pair of sunglasses, a bottle of port wine, two jerry cans of gasoline, [and] a swath of fabric for his wife and daughters,” rounds up the children to serve in the war effort against Germany by harvesting anti-malarial flowers. Other agents of change follow . . . Drought ensues, and with it the people starve, and with that they recall the old ways . . . Pensive and lyrical; a closely observed story of cultures in collision.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

[Kibogo] reads effortlessly . . . bringing both the spirit and the music of English in accord with the original.
Bronwyn Mills, Cable Street Magazine

Complex and revelatory . . . Mukasonga complicates the blurry line between history and myth and critiques its relationship to colonialism. This speaks volumes to the power of storytelling.
Publishers Weekly

Kibogo is a rich novel about how real people and events are transformed into legends, and how those legends empower the marginalized.
Eileen Gonzalez, Foreword Reviews

Powerful and playful . . . Seeded throughout with luminous poetic moments . . . Mukasonga adds a new layer to the canvas containing her vanished culture. Amid destruction there’s confusion and manipulation, but there’s also the power of myth and human resilience. With this book, Mukasonga looks into a very dark night and imagines distant stars containing beautiful possibilities.
David Varno, Words Without Borders

Mukasonga is an exquisitely original and sensitive writer.
Elaine Margolin, World Literature Today

The power of storytelling and the power of women is a constant amidst the stunning imagery and cutting anti-colonial critique of this collection, translated insightfully by Mark Polizotti. An immense achievement.
Pierce Alquist, Book Riot

The sense that reality can be transformed by belief or self-delusion forms a large part of Kibogo . . . Throughout a novel of shrewd and subtle observation, the character's reasoning is presented as always being in conflict with the impositions of missionaries or the representatives of the Rwandan state.
Declan O'Driscoll, The Irish Times

In an interview with Le Monde, Mukasonga referred to her books as 'paper tombs' for a Rwandan way of life that has been crushed by colonization and genocide. In Kibogo, that lost world comes to vivid, sardonic life.
Constance Grady, Vox

Mukasonga has spoken about digging into “the trunk of my mother’s tales.” At one point she recalls how “a little girl, forgotten at the storyteller’s feet, who refused to go to sleep like the others, stored away in her memory, without really understanding them, the enchanted words of the fable”. One wonders if it’s an image of her younger self.
Lucy Popescu, Financial Times


The Barefoot Woman is simultaneously a powerful work of witness and memorial, a loving act of reconstruction, and an unflinching reckoning with the Rwandan Civil War. In sentences of great beauty and restraint, Mukasonga rescues a million souls from the collective noun ‘genocide,’ returning them to us as individual human beings who lived, laughed, meddled in each other's affairs, worked, decorated their houses, raised children, told stories. An essential and powerful read.
Zadie Smith on The Barefoot Woman

Mukasonga is a master of subtle shifts in register – a skill inherited, perhaps, from the Rwandan traditions of intricate courtesy and assiduous privacy that Stefania maintained. She turns everything over restlessly: In her prose, poignant reminiscences sharpen into bitter ironies, or laments reveal flashes of comedy, determination, defiance.
Julian Lucas, The New York Times on The Barefoot Woman

Radiant with love... The Barefoot Woman powerfully continues the tradition of women’s work it so lovingly recounts. In Mukasonga’s village, the women were in charge of the fire. They stoked it, kept it going all night, every night. In her work – six searing books and counting – she has become the keeper of the flame.
Parul Sehgal, The New York Times on The Barefoot Woman

Haunted though they are by the memory of the unspeakable atrocities visited on her family and her people, these stories by Scholastique Mukasonga breathe upon a vanished world and bring it to life in all its sparkling multifariousness.
J. M. Coetzee on Igifu

A profound love of family and the Tutsi tradition infuses, suffuses, and animates Mukasonga's stories of the Rwandan genocide, the slaughter of her people. To mention “love” in the same sentence with “genocide” may appear odd, even indecent, but Mukasonga's brilliant writing (translated excellently by Jordan Stump) encompasses the two.
Lynne Tillman on Igifu

Mukasonga carefully attends to how individuals’ attempts to negotiate unspeakable tragedy can lead to sad, odd, and even grimly funny situations . . . Igifu is full of deeply human moments. Taken as a whole, it’s an impressive and affecting work of art.
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review on Igifu

What Scholastique Mukasonga accomplishes with this collection is nothing short of alchemy. There is scalpel-sharp precision melded with regenerative soulfulness at play here. Mukasonga is a genius and her work should be savored again and again.
Diriye Osman

Mukasonga’s formidable talent turns this novel about Rwandan girls in a Catholic high school into a masterful story about genocide, colonialism, and all the ways that the world can manipulate and destroy the aspirations of girls. This is a deeply moving exploration of human cruelties – and the stubborn hope that rests in each difficult moment. This is a book for our times
Maaza Mengiste on Our Lady of the Nile

Scholastique Mukasonga has wrought pain, grief and anger into art. Our Lady of the Nile demands that we ask ourselves how and where violence begins, and offers a clear-eyed view of a world falling apart. It is an important contribution to the literature of witness to Rwanda’s agony.
Aminatta Forna on Our Lady of the Nile

This book is made up of four stories that come together to capture a belief system being threatened by the “progress” colonization brings . . . Mukasonga is an incredible author.
Leah Rachel von Essen, Book Riot

This short, tightly drawn and fast-paced novel... explores themes of forgetting and remembrance, and the insidious legacy of Rwanda’s Christianisation... The undulating rhythms of oral storytelling are blended into what is, in fact, a carefully structured novel... To read Kibogo is to enter the enchantment of this delightful and provocative miniature masterpiece.
Aminatta Forna, The Guardian

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