Our lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga

 

OurLadyoftheNile

 

Our lady of the Nile by Scolastique Mukasonga

Rwandan fiction

Original title – Notre Dame du Nil

Translator – Melaine Mauther

Source – Library book

I was rather shocked when last week I popped into the main branch of our Library in Chesterfield and saw this on a stand as last time I looked for an archipelago book my library hadn’t any so this was a real shock as it was on my to get list after earlier this year I reviewed Cockroaches by Mukasonga left me with a sense I had to get to this book at some point . Scholastique Mukasonga has lived in france since 1992 and worked as a social worker in Caen .

There were only two Rwandans on the entire teaching staff of the Lycee of Our Lady of the Nile: Sister Lydwine, and the Kinyarwanda teacher ,naturally. Sister Lydwine taught History and Geography, but she made a clear distinction between the two subjects: History meant Europe , and Geography, Africa.

Maybe they should have been Taught their own history !!

Now I for one am not a huge reader of boarding school books , even back when I was young they never grabbed me . But this is a school story that shows that a place can reflect the country it is part of the school in the book Our lady of the Nile is on the high on a hill by the origins of the Mighty Nile river  and is a private school  the sort where young girls are sent to become women  , where the staff are nearly all from outside Rwanda Nuns and fathers from the Catholic church . The book unfolds with each chapter about a particular girl but as the book progress like the year in the school we are following the life of the girls in the school turns darker. The problems start with a limiting on the number of Tutsi . This leads to tension in the school where some girls start to accuse people of being Tutsi due to their nose ,even the virgin Mary statue is a Tutsi statue. This slice of Rwanda in the 1980’s when the book is set a number of years before the genocide that the writer herself lost 27 members of her family.

“Modesta” said Glorisoa . “Have you taken a good look at the Virgin’s face ”

“Which one ?”

“Our lady of the Nile, the statue .”

“Yes and ?Sure it’s not like the other Marys . It’s Black the whites put black makeup on her . Probably to please us Rwandans , but her son  in the chapel remains white ”

“But did you notice the nose? It’s a straight little nose, a Tutsi nose ”

“They took a white virgin , painted it black and kept that white nose ”

“Yes but now she’s black , it’s a Tutsi nose ”

The Tutsi nose that cause a spilt and fights in the school !!

I enjoyed this as much if not more so than Cockroaches there is almost a freedom Mukasonga found in the fiction of  the event that lead up to the Genocide and using the school with its catholic nuns and priest  teaching the elite who are all from the outside Rwanda  barring two maybe don’t see what happens just under the nose where bullying and the inequality in even getting to the school all point to the undercurrents that lead to the uprising . The translation has kept a number of french words in place like Lycee (french for high school ), for me it kept a sense of place as most of the nuns seem to be from French-speaking Belgium , which was the country that ran Rwanda before Independence . This capture the sense of a place boiling under those racial tensions that had been simmering til the country boiled over in 1994. I was reminded of the Ulster of my youth in some ways where the tension between the sides came out in painting things and murals and of course the violence of the troubles but also a story my late step mother told me of a friend hers where he was stopped in Belfast in the seventies one evening as asked was he protestant or catholic , he said Jewish at which point he was as Protestant Jewish or Catholic Jewish , the point is that like Gloriosa the Bully in this book is like all  bullys will be violent what ever like the Nose in the book sometimes you have to be on one side or another even if you are not !!

 

Echoland by Per petterson

Echoland by Per Petterson

Norwegian Fiction

Original title – Ekkoland

Translator – Don Bartlett

I was in the library the other day looking for some new books to read that may be on the Man booker international longlist when it comes out next month. Per Petterson won the old IFFP prize in 2006. This is his debut novel which has been translated into english for the first time it is nice to see that  it has been but a shame that it has taken over ten years since the success of Our stealing horse and twenty years since this book itself came out. But that said time hasn’t effect this book no it has a timeless nature to it .

They sailed across the sea to Denmark. Along the Fjord the bonfires lit up the summer evening and Avrid stood by the railing gazing twoards land, pretending they were stars. The lights rose and fell and they shone on the water and he heard laughter and singing from the shore, but the ship was quiet

maybe the last line of the opening paragraph should be a hint of what is in fromt of him

Echoland is the story of Avrid , he is twelve and like many lads of his age is just become an adult. he is on his yearly family holiday to Denmark to the small island that his grandmother lives on . But he has reached an age where this small island is maybe to small . He captures a couple in the dunes in the middle of the act . He also sees the tension between his mother and Grandmother that he has never seen before , the family coping with the loss of a child  and meanwhile we see a young man struggling to cope with his growing up that awkward sense you have as a chap at that age. Then there is the outfall of previous visits and then we also in the ending what his raging Hormones drive him too.

He wasn’t alone. Some distance away a man was jumping up and down in the water. the man was laughing out loud, and the Avrid saw the man wasn’t  on his own either. A knee was stuck up on either side of his chest above the water and when the man turned Avrid saw her face against his neck. Her long dark hair hung straight down, heavy and wet . She was quite still, clinging to the man and Avrid walked off through the water in the opposite direction, back to the rushes .

Avrid sees a couple up to more than he expected in the beach as he wandered .

I loved this the book Avrid has been in another Petterson book I read and I also know is in another i have yet to read  so he is a character that he revisit through his life. This is like the year after stand by me , I remember the lines in Stand by me about being a boy before you see girls well this is the year after that when hormones get you at the worst times . This is a classic growing up story but like many young men we miss sometimes the world around us the deep scars in his parents relationship that he doesn’t really see. I remember my own youth when my own parents split i was ten but for years I never really saw the fall out in their own lives till I had grown up in retrospective. I remember the years I was like Avrid a holiday in Spain about the same age when I had just discovered girls and my hormones where raging so could connect with some of the situations Avirid finds himself .I wouldn’t been shocked to see this on the Man booker .

Have you a favourite Per Petterson ?

Two weeks to Go to Pushkin Press fortnight mk two

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A quick reminder that it is two week to the second Pushkin Press fortnight . I am super excited I have order nine books from my library system to go with the three I have already to reading including the The evenings which has been on my radar for ages.file_000-5

I have also ordered from the library Summer before the dark the story of the year beofre the war and a fictional meeting between Stefan Zweig and Joesph Roth in the seaside of Belgium .

 

I have also ordered a couple of the Vertigo crime Novels The Dard novel Bird in a cage that Jacqui reviewed so well . Also Mystery of the three Orchids , it has been a while since I read a Italian crime novel. What have you lined up to read  for Pushkin Press fortnight ?

A dutch pair new arrivals

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This is the first of two Dutch novels to arrive in recent days , I have actually read this one finished it last night it is a tale of one mans story about the first world ar David is a teacher but he has an attraction to a shy pupil that needs a bright world that is what david tries to bring , but the war catches up and as he tries to teach then men un der him about the world and how to read and write he decides to try and escape the horror of the war. This was a big hit in Dutch speaking world it was pick for a dutch talk show as a book club read.

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Then we have a book by a writer I have featured before Otto de kat his man on the move was reviewed here seven years ago. This is story of Emma Verweij she is now 96 and waiting to die and looking back on her life and the war years when her home the house she is in now was stronghold for her friends during the war. As she tries to hide the first husband and the nazis past in Germany. Otto de kat is the pen name of the dutch publisher jan Geurt Gaarlandt he choose the name after a relative also called Otto de kat a successful Dutch painter in his day .

What books have you had arrive ?

Jan 2017 that was the month that was

I am terrible at round ups as all of you may know but every year I try to keep track of what has been read and reviewed this year I am just marking books I have reviewed on the page of my blog not read then reviewed.So I have reviewed 13 books this month . I have gone from Belgium via Quebec, Latin America and Africa and back to europe with books from 13 countries reviewed and 8 new writers to the blog and five with books already on the blog. Three new to the blog publishers as well. Last all Translated of course .

  1. Maigert’s dead man by Geroges Simenon
  2. The old king in his exile by Arno Geiger
  3. Brothers by David Clerson
  4. Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg
  5. Otared by Mohammad rabie
  6. Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
  7. The final bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi
  8. Cockroaches by Scholastique Mukasonga
  9. The Potato eaters by Manuel Rivas
  10. A horse walks into a bar by David Grossman
  11. The African shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
  12. 2084 by Boualem Sansal
  13. Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Now book of the month

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For me it is the Danish modernist classic Havoc , simply a classic of its time worthy of Waugh , Joyce or any of the great modernist writers . 600 pages of a man struggle with drinking and falling down that rabbit hole of drinking to much.

Books read

I have read 13 books as well some I have reviewed this other will be reviewed next month. You can follow via my Instagram what I am reading at the moment  as I have been recording my current reads this year over there .

Non book discovery

Each month I want bring some non book related to the month end and this it is a Tv series I have been enjoying over on Netflix it is the series A  series of unfortunate events from the Lemony Snicket ,childrens books. I missed the film with Jim Carey in back when it came out I had by time the film came out had my fill of Mr Carey so came to this not knowing much about the books or film. So for me it was a treat the series style wise reminds me at times of Wes Anderson the same twee world his films live in  the tales of the Baudelaire children as they try to get by after the death of their parents , as the evil relative Count Olaf wonderfully played by Neil Patrick Harris , was he really that loveable kid Doogie Howser MD years ago here as a mad actor and his troop of actors  trying to catch his three relatives for the fortune. What has your month been like ?

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