For her most recent work and first novel – Notre-Dame du Nil, originally published in March 2012 with Gallimard in French – Mukasonga immerses us in a school for young girls, called ‘Notre-Dame du Nil.’ The book is a prelude to the Rwandan genocide and unfolds behind the closed doors of the school, in the interminable rainy season. Friendships, desires, hatred, political fights, incitation to racial violence, persecutions are all explored as the school becomes a fascinating existential microcosm of the true 1970s Rwanda.
Born in Rwanda in 1956, Scholastique Mukasonga experienced from childhood the violence and humiliation of the ethnic conflicts that shook her country. In 1960, her family was displaced into the under-developed Nyamata. In 1973, she was forced to leave the school of social assistance in Butare and flee to Burundi. She settled in France in 1992. The genocide of the Tutsi swept through Rwanda 2 years later. Mukasonga learned that 27 of her family members had been massacred. Twelve years later, Gallimard published her autobiographical account Inyenzi ou les Cafards, which marked Mukasonga’s entry into literature. Her first novel, Notre-Dame du Nil, won the Ahamadou Kourouma prize and the Renaudot prize in 2012.