Scholastique Mukasonga launched Igifu at Transnational Series Presents on September 30, 2020. She was in conversation with Maaza Mengiste with translation by Omar Berrada.
Scholastique Mukasonga is a Rwanda-born France-based writer who came to international fame with the publication of her 2006 memoir Inyenzi ou les Cafards. It was followed by her other memoirs La femme aux pieds nus (2008) and L’Iguifou: Nouvelles rwandaises (2010). Her first novel, Our Lady Of The Nile, won the Ahamadou Kourouma prize and the Renaudot prize in 2012, as well as the Océans France Ô prize in 2013 and the French Voices Award in 2014, shortlisted for the 2016 International Dublin Literary award and Finalist for 2019 National Book Awards for Translated Literature with The Barefoot Woman.
On September 12, the author announced that there was a new translation of her 2010 L’Iguifou: Nouvelles rwandaises into English done by Jordan Stump. The title which has the name Igifu is described in her official website thus;
“Scholastique Mukasonga’s autobiographical stories rend a glorious Rwanda from the obliterating force of recent history, conjuring the noble cows of her home or the dew-swollen grass they graze on. In the title story, five-year-old Colomba tells of a merciless overlord, hunger or igifu, gnawing away at her belly. She searches for sap at the bud of a flower, scraps of sweet potato at the foot of her parent’s bed, or a few grains of sorghum in the floor sweepings. Igifu becomes a dizzying hole in her stomach, a plunging abyss into which she falls. In a desperate act of preservation, Colomba’s mother gathers enough sorghum to whip up a nourishing porridge, bringing Colomba back to life. This elixir courses through each story, a balm to soothe the pains of those so ferociously fighting for survival.”
One of the first events to present her new title was the Transnational Series Presents hosted by Brookline Booksmith a bookstore in Greater Boston, Massachusetts, United States. That series focuses on stories of migration, the intersection of politics & literature, and works in translation. The evening’s discussant was Maaza Mengiste with translation conducted by the excellent Omar Berrada.
For the one hour and change the author, streaming from France, read excerpts from her book and spoke about the intersection of her life and the work in question. We learnt that she was born in Rwanda and had to flee to Burundi where she stayed for twenty years before finally making her way to France in 1992. It was in France that she heard what was happening in her country of birth and immediately knew that a genocide was underway. She had not planned on writing a memoir until she went back home in the early 2000s and decided that she had to have her notes officially published.
It was a wonderful back and forth between the authors that was on offer with a translator at the top of his game giving us the standard in sharing between languages.
P.S. You can get more of Scholastique Mukasonga at the Belfast International Arts Festival on November 1.
P.P.S. You can follow another very cool gig in the Transnational Series Presents as Namwali Serpell engages Chris Abani on her book Stranger Faces on October 14. More details on that event here.