2020 Zaharoff Lecture

Black and white images of Scholastique Mukasonga


In collaboration with the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages
This event is part of the Humanities Cultural Programme

Wednesday 11 November 2020, 17:00-1800

Live Event: watch here


Please note this lecture will be given in French



Scholastique Mukasonga, Author

Introduced by Professor Catriona Seth, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature; Fellow of All Souls College. 


Survivre pour témoigner/témoigner pour survivre:



J’essaierai au cours de cette cette conférence de retracer mon cheminement vers l’écriture.

Rien ne me destinait en effet à devenir écrivaine. C’est le génocide des Tutsi au Rwanda en 1994 qui a fait de moi une écrivaine. Survivante, et pour échapper au remords qui hantent toujours les survivants, je n’avais d’autre choix que d’être la gardienne de la mémoire des miens assassinés. Je me devais donc d’édifier un tombeau pour ceux qui resteraient toujours sans sépulture, et ce tombeau serait un livre, un tombeau de papier.

Tels furent pour moi mes premiers livres. L’intérêt qu’ils suscitèrent auprès des lecteurs m’incita à persévérer. On attendait mes livres. De l’autobiographie, aux nouvelles et aux romans, presque à mon insu, j’étais devenue écrivaine.




I will try during this lecture to retrace my journey towards writing.

Nothing in fact destined me to become a writer. It was the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 that made me a writer. As a survivor, and to escape the remorse that always haunts survivors, I had no choice but to be the memory keeper of my murdered loved ones. I felt the need to build a tomb for those who would always remain without burial, a tomb which would take the form of a book, a paper tomb. This is what my first books represented for me. 


The interest they aroused in readers prompted me to persevere. People started waiting for my books. From autobiography, to short stories, novellas, and novels, almost unbeknownst to myself, I had become a writer.



Scholastique Mukasonga

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 to the polluted and under-developed Bugesera district of Rwanda. Mukasonga was later forced to leave the school of social work in Butare and flee to Burundi. She settled in France in 1992, only 2 years before the brutal genocide of the Tutsi swept through Rwanda. In the aftermath, 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. This was followed by the publication of La femme aux pieds nus in 2008 and L’Iguifou in 2010, both widely praised. 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. In 2020, her novel Our Lady Of The Nile is adapted as film by Atiq Rahimi. The Film won the “Crystal Bear” at Berlinale 2020 and be part of the Official Selection for TIFF 2019.


To watch an 'in converstation' with Scholastique Mukasonga please click here for more.