Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse’s All Your Children, Scattered – Brooklyn Rail

Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse
all your children, scattered
(European edition, 2022)
Translated from French by Alison Anderson

The resounding title of the novel, which we learn at the end, comes from the Catholic affirmation ceremony: a prayer from Europe that is centuries old. Before we even read the first pages of this book, however, we knew that these children were from Central Africa and that it was the recent genocide that drove them away. Less than three decades ago, the Rwandan Hutu brutally slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors in perhaps the ugliest recent outbreak of tribal hatred in the world.Internal organs spilling out of openings All your children, scattered, A passage that redefines terror as an affront to nature. At sunset, the local dogs began to lethargic, “filling their stomachs with the feast of man,” while the morning birds finally appeared, perched for the day, “so as not to bear witness.”

Can such a savage landscape return to decency and humanity? The answer has to be worked out by a few distant families, and in the rest of the narrative—though even the initial passages offer a hint of relief.Twilight, “Our killer is tired of a long day Work,” Survivors came out of hiding to forage. They did what they could to find comfort, even the scent of flowers, and thus enjoyed “a little, hidden peace.” In this way, as the poet puts it, the seeds of healing herbs had been sown.

Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse is actually a poet, he has a collection in French, and two storybooks. Born to a Tutsi, she eschewed the Hutu machetes and fled to France in her teens, where she began publishing two decades later.From the few pieces of her work I’ve seen, in translation or working with my old work vocabulary, the “infinite echoes” of the massacre in her hometown resounded through everything Myris did. However, this first novel gives a feeling of breakthrough and transcendence. Spanning two continents and three generations, it generates swift story dynamics but never lacks subtlety, resulting in a Holocaust literature that rivals the works that devastated the Jews of the last century. At least, all your children, scattered Offers the wonderful poetic triptych that defines tragedy this century – so far.

After all, the Rwandan exodus represents only a fraction of the global South’s diaspora. The massive displacement, showing no sign of abating, provided Myris with her precarious narrative structure. The malleability of her character identity from servile local handmaiden to suave privileged Westerner and back halfway through is reflected in the pivoting point of view, switching between the three main characters. Although a family, they each have a different home base and a different conception of their own names: mother Immaculata, daughter Blanche and grandson Stokely.

The eldest of the three can recall her being stunned by the sight of a white man, far from any ocean. Most of the novel is spent in her hometown of Butare, a woman who knows she is far from “perfect” at heart and will never forget her Tutsi name. The word, roughly “dumb,” was important to her recovery from the genocide. On the other hand, Sun Tzu, who prides himself on wearing the name of a black American activist, near his hometown of Bordeaux, corrects people’s misconceptions about the geography of Africa. As for Blanche, she matches her creator, Myris. She’s the most flexible of the main characters, and her return to Butare three years after the worst of the killings sparks the novel’s horrific opening line, which is actually a broken recollection of her mother. As for the young woman’s name, who grew up speaking Kinyarwanda at home but French elsewhere, she took advantage of a name that translates to “white.” In fact, Blanche’s father was French, a colonist.

However, Immaculata’s marital luck soon turned sour. Among the things she keeps silent is a lover, a native whose whole world changes once the Belgian protectorate becomes a Rwandan state. Her second child, a boy who was entirely African, was born depraved. The Hutus called him “the cockroach”. The ensuing catastrophe spared the mother and the two children—others were already identified in the first page—but when Blanche escaped into the French bourgeoisie and raised Stockley accordingly, Her stepbrother’s time in the revolutionary army had left him like Immaculate (who survived the hard way, starved and hid), with possibly untreatable wounds. Inevitably, this trauma also rocked Bordeaux’s grandson, showing how these labels we wear always threaten betrayal:

Words are often like ornate gourds, hollow and cracked beneath the shiny surface, or treacherous—when a snake hides inside, using the night to slip away from its narrow neck, filling a heart with suspicion and hostility.

The extended metaphor reveals the sophistication of Alison Anderson’s translation, the discreet work that prioritizes investment in the author’s complex architecture, her hops spanning half a century and the Mediterranean, full of energy and soul. My plot sketches hint at how Mairesse maintains the suspense, asking the question from one angle, one time series, and then answering it in another. But I gave little hint of how the back and forth caused the pain in the bones or the sudden grin.If I were to single out one particular victory, it would be fingertip details all your children Dealing with love is more calculated in Imakurata’s case and less careful in Blanche’s case.If I were to mention similar achievements, they would be two Booker Prize winners, Jokha Alharthi’s celestial body (translation winner) and Bernardine Evaristo’s girl, woman, otherAs it happens, the novel has already won several awards overseas, but whatever its final ranking is, it deserves credit, not only for its brave peek into an African hell, but also because it looks out across the world in search of a safe haven. As Blanche said: “The soul of a nation is an eternal construction site.”

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