cover image Igifu


Scholastique Mukasonga, trans. from the French by Jordan Stump. Archipelago, $18 (110p) ISBN 978-1-939810-78-6

French Rwandan writer Mukasonga’s superb collection (after the memoir The Barefoot Woman) conjures the lives of Rwandan Tutsis dwelling on the margins of society following the Hutu revolution in 1959 and during waves of genocidal killings over the next two decades. In the five stories, characters fear for their lives as Hutu-led governments encourage their slaughter; endure deprivation (igifu means hunger); and grapple with how to best honor their lost families and lost way of life. Notably, Mukasonga carefully attends to how individuals’ attempts to negotiate unspeakable tragedy can lead to sad, odd, and even grimly funny situations. In “Grief,” four Rwandan Tutsi girls visit a Burundi seminary’s neglected cemetery each day, pulling weeds and planting flowers, and imagine that “these could be our parents’ graves.” In “The Glorious Cow,” a proud Rwandan Tutsi teaches his son to herd imaginary cows (his were slaughtered in the genocide), forgoes drinking milk, and reviles a fellow refugee for keeping goats. (“Milking goats! What could be more shameful for a Tutsi?” the father says of his encampment neighbor, Nicodème. “Hardship had dragged Nicodème into the depths of degradation.”) Mukasonga’s collection is full of deeply human moments like this. Taken as a whole, it’s an impressive and affecting work of art. (Sept.)