Wednesday 7 September 2022

Book Review: Kibogo by Scholastique Mukasonga (Literary Fiction)

Title: Kibogo
Author: Scholastique Mukasonga
Publisher: Archipelago - Steerforth Press
Publication Date: 13 September 2022
Pages: 162
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

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?


Kibogo was a delightful and interesting read. The text in this translation flowed beautifully and was easy reading, yet it was packed with intriguing themes and a wonderful dose of satiric humour. The four stories interlinked seamlessly, and it was fascinating to see the clash between traditional belief and culture and colonial Christianity, and how the two sides attempted to marry the two, whether through outright replacement or via a blending of beliefs. It was certainly a thoughtful work and I would definitely pick up more books by this author in the future. It gets four stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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