Scholastique Mukasonga, a Rwandan author living in France, has won this year's Prix Renaudot, a prestigious French literary award, for her novel Notre-Dame du Nil. The award was a big surprise, since initially she wasn't even shortlisted.
Published this year, Notre-Dame du Nil is Mukasonga's fourth book, and her first novel. She debuted with the autobiography Inyenzi ou les Cafards (Inyenzi or the Cockroaches) in 2006, and also published La femme aux pieds nus (The Bare-footed Woman) in 2008 and L'Iguifou : Nouvelles rwandaises (L'Iguifou : Rwandan Novellas) in 2010.
Notre-Dame du Nil, which had already won the Prix Ahmadou Kourouma (for novels or non-fiction dedicated to Africa), is set long before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis. It describes life in the isolated elite girls school 'Notre-Dame du Nil,' and the tensions between Hutu and Tutsi pupils that exist in this very closed community.
Born in 1956, Mukasonga and her family were victims of the pogroms against Tutsis of the late 1950s / early 1960s. In 1973 she fled to Burundi, and she settled in France in 1992. During the Genocide, Mukasonga lost 27 family members, including her mother.