Cover Image: Igifu

Igifu

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Member Reviews

A rich collection that reads more like a cohesive look at a people in turmoil than a set of stories. Each one is a beautiful and angst-evoking glimpse into the refugee experience. Artfully paced and skillfully balanced, they draw a reader in with both the cultural detail and the archetypal human experience and leave us with a shared sense of loss while avoiding despair. A worthwhile and rewarding read.
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Thank you NetGalley and Archipelago for the e-copy. 
Heartbreaking and important stories touching on Tutsis lives during the Rwanda genocides. 
Scholastique Mukasonga's writing is like any other, and the stories she wrote based on her recollection of the genocides and her childhood in Rwanda broke me. Important and insightful. Can't recommend this story collection enough, and can't wait to read more translated works from Archipelago.
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My review for Shelf Awareness Pro is here:
https://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=3813#m49604

The review has also been cross-posted to my Smithsonian BookDragon blog:
http://smithsonianapa.org/bookdragon/igifu-by-scholastique-mukasonga-translated-by-jordan-stump-in-shelf-awareness/
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Reading Scholastique Mukasonga has become a bit of a Women In Translation month (#WITmonth) tradition for me. In 2017, when I participated for the first time, I read Our Lady Of The Nile. In 2018, I read Cockroaches, which is astounding and incredibly powerful, and made my list of best books that year. In 2019, I read The Barefoot Woman. And so I was really disappointed when this year I saw that her newest book, Igifu, was due to come out in September – too late to make it onto my #WITmonth list. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to secure a review copy via NetGalley – the tradition lives to fight another year!

Igifu, translated by Jordan Stump, is a collection of largely autobiographical short stories which draw on her childhood in Rwanda and recollections of the genocide. Igifu means hunger, and the titular story talks about the all-encompassing hunger which permeated childhood for Tutsis growing up before the Rwandan genocide but when oppression was well and truly in progress. It’s one of the most powerful stories in the collection – what’s most striking for me is how normal it seems to the characters to get one meagre meal a day, but equally how the hunger pervades their entire lives.

Another highlight is The Glorious Cow, which centres around the relationship between Tutsis and their cows. In this story, we see through the eyes of the protagonist’s father how cows are central to a Tutsi’s identity and status, and the pain felt when they have been taken away by their oppressors. A neighbour has managed to hang onto their cow in exile – and the community gathers round to see the cow being milked with an almost religious reverence.

The stories in this collection are different from her previous autobiographical writing, Cockroaches, because the focus moves away from the violence of the genocide itself and towards stories of everyday life, filled with grief, hunger, love, longing and memory. They’re no less powerful for this and can be difficult to read at times, because they’re simply stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, at least in the eyes of a Western reader. Mukasonga’s prose is as beautiful as I have come to expect in Stump’s excellent translation, and would make a worthy addition to any bookshelf.

I see that there are a few of her works still untranslated from her native French which leaves me in hope that I’ll be able to continue my tradition into 2021 and beyond!

Igifu is published by Archipelago Books on September 15th 2020. Thanks to the publisher and to Netgalley for the review copy.
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This is a collection of short stories based on reality. The author went to Europe to study before her Rwandan village was decimated, and these stories are based on her memories of her life before.

Though often sad, the stories also contain some joy- they are based on childhood, and coming of age in instability. They focus on what a young girl/young woman would attend to: other young women, tales of each other, and relationships. 

The writing is elegant- simply done, yet effectively conveying all the emotions of youth, and of the grown woman looking back. The reader is placed in Rwanda, feeling the sun, tasting the dust of a dry afternoon. Each character is portrayed as a memory- only the storyteller’s recollections of the character’s personality are seen. Family relationships are warm and comforting. 

I truly appreciated this book, and will read whatever of the author’s works are translated. She is a unique voice in fiction, and needs to be heard. Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and Archipelago for the ARC. 

also here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3384565623
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Igifu is the omnipresent state of hunger, as experienced by Scholastique Mukasonga, starting from her life at the age of five with her family in exile from native Rwanda.  Beautifully written and devastating in content, thanks to a lovely translation by Jordan Stump who has worked on her previous semi-autobiographical books.  Many thanks to Archipelago for publishing works of amazing depth and interest, making available for English speaking readers.
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I really enjoyed this! My only criticism is that I wish it was a bit longer. It was such a thoughtful reflection on the writer's past, and I particularly felt the grief section of the book, which was beautifully written.
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“Like it or not, the death of our loved ones has fueled us – not with hate, not with vengefulness, but with an energy that nothing can ever defeat. That strength lives in you too, don’t let anyone try to tell you to get over your loss, not if that means saying goodbye to your dead. You can’t: they’ll never leave you, they stay by your side to give you the courage to live, to triumph over obstacles” - Scholastique Mukasonga, Igifu.

Igifu, meaning hunger, it’s a collection of autobiographical stories surrounding the plight of Tutsis in Rwanda, before and after the 1994 genocide. But unlike “Cockroaches”, Mukasonga’s memoir, it doesn’t depict the terrible violence but focused on a diversity of interesting characters, their pain, resilience and hope. It’s funny and deep and we get this beautiful vignettes of Tutsis’ traditional way of life. I particularly enjoyed the story of Helena, the most beautiful Tutsi woman in the village, her rise and fall. I can not recommend Igifu enough.
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This is the first book of short stories I've seen in English from Rwandan author Scholastique Mukasonga. She is a master of the form; each story gives the reader a glimpse into the depths of terror, grief and hunger in the community of Tutsi refugees as they navigate emigration to Burundi and to Europe, and their eventual return to their homeland of Rwanda. These stories are poignant but accessible, even to high school or college students.
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*Thank you to Net Galley and Archipelago Books for the advance copy*

Igifu is a heart breaking and beautifully written autobiographical book of stories from Scholastique Mukasonga. The stories are from written from the point of view of Colomba, a young Tutsi girl living with her family in rural Rwanda. Colomba painstakingly describes the daily hunger (igifu) she experiences in the opening story of the book, also named Ifigu. Mukasonga jumps through different moments in Colomba's life. We follow her across the Rwandan border to Burundi, through her time as a teacher in exile, and are part of her journey when she returns to Rwanda to revisit the village she left behind. 

Mukasonga's story is difficult to read at times, but the writing and translation (by Jason Stump) are so gorgeous they almost contradict the prose in a way that makes it easier for the reader to connect with the material. I will be checking out more of Mukasonga's work.
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"[...] these things she'd been doing weren't what her dead wanted at all. They weren't here, in this land of exile, in these foreign churches, they were waiting back home, in the land of the dead that Rwanda had become."
Mukasonga's story is harrowing, heart-breaking and yet powerful, dealing with the Rwandan genocide and exploring the struggles that follow exile.
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