The Rwandan author Scholastique Mukasonga is named finalist for the 2022 National Book Award for her latest novel Kibogo, in the category of “Translated Literature.”
The four-part novel was translated from French by Mark Polizzotti and published by Archipelago Books. It is described as weaving “stories of Rwanda’s core mythologies—those of a country faced with drought, famine, and war—in defiance of the colonialists and Christian missionaries determined to suppress and erase them.”
Read the book description below:
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?
This is Mukasonga’s second appearance. She was also named finalist in the same category in 2019 for The Barefoot Woman, a deeply-felt memoir of her mother, siblings, and the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994.
Also in running for the 2022 prize for translated literature are Jon Fosse for A New Name: Septology VI-VII, Mónica Ojeda for Jawbone, Samanta Schweblin for Seven Empty Houses, and Yoko Tawada, Scattered All Over the Earth.
The winners will be announced on November 15, 2022.
Fingers crossed for Scholastique Mukasonga!