cover image Kibogo


Scholastique Mukasonga, trans. from the French by Mark Polizzotti. Archipelago, $16 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-953861-36-8

Mukasonga (Igifu) draws on Rwanda’s colonial history and ancient myths for an intriguing theological satire. In the opener, “Ruzagayura,” set in the aftermath of the 1943 famine, characters variously blame the disaster on Hitler, paganism, and missionaries. After a French priest, referred to only as “padri,” urges villagers to pray for rain, the elders call on their own mythical martyr, Kibogo, a king’s son who sacrificed himself to bring rain. Kibogo’s last priestess, Mukamwezi, lives on the local mountain and agrees to help. But when the rains come, the padri claims the Virgin Mary brought the rain. In “Akayezu,” the Rwandan title character is kicked out of a seminary for heresy after linking the story of Kibogo with that of Jesus and Elijah. In “Mukamwezi,” Akayezu attempts to baptize an old pagan woman, but instead, the two join forces. In the complex and revelatory “Kibogo,” a white professor arrives to record the stories of Kibogo told by two old men of the village. As the men compete in their storytelling, three young men join in, and the professor eventually hears the story he wants them to tell, Mukasonga complicates the blurry line between history and myth and critiques its relationship to colonialism. This speaks volumes to the power of storytelling. (Sept.)