Finalist, National Book Awards 2022 for Translated Literature

book cover for Scholastique Mukasonga, Kibogo
ISBN 9781953861368
Archipelago Books
Scholastique Mukasonga

Scholastique Mukasonga was born in Rwanda in 1956. She settled in France in 1992, only two years before the brutal genocide of the Tutsi swept through Rwanda. More about this author >

author photo Mark Polizzotti. (Photo credit: Jacqueline Colliss Harvey)
Mark Polizzotti

Mark Polizzotti’s books include Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton, monographs on Luis Buñuel and Bob Dylan, and Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto. More about this author >

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Translated from the French 

From the publisher:

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.

Judges Citation

In Kibogo, Scholastique Mukasonga’s compassion and humor create a vivid, poignant picture of a Rwandan village in the mid-twentieth century. In tales told by women at night around a fire, the villagers struggle to come to terms with the many and changing forms of the white colonizers and, at the same time, hold on to their own myths and their own identity. The incantatory rhythms of the “enchanted words of the fables” spun by the storytellers are beautifully captured in Mark Polizzotti’s translation.


Nicholas Elliott, reads for Scholastique Mukasonga, and Mark Polizzotti at the 2022 Finalist Reading