by Roland Rugero
translated from the French by Chris Schaefer
In Baho!, the first Burundian novel ever translated into English, the 28-year-old Roland Rugero uses elements of fable and oral tradition to explore the themes of miscommunication and justice in his war-torn Central African nation.
When Nyamugari, an adolescent mute, attempts to ask a young woman in rural Burundi for directions to an appropriate place to relieve himself, his gestures are mistaken as premeditation for rape. To the young woman's community, his fleeing confirms his guilt, setting off a chain reaction of pursuit, mob justice, and Nyamugari's attempts at explanation.
Born in 1986 in Burundi, Roland Rugero grew up in a family where reading was a favorite pastime. He has worked as a journalist in Burundi since 2008. His novels include Les Oniriques and Baho!, the first Burundian novel to be translated into English. Rugero has held residencies at La Rochelle and at Iowa's prestigious International Writing Program. In addition to his work as a writer, in 2011 he wrote and directed Les pieds et les mains, the second-ever feature-length film from Burundi. Rugero is active in promoting Burundi's literary culture, co-founding the Samandari Workshop and helping found the Michel Kayoza and Andika Prizes. He lives in Kigali, Rwanda.
Chris Schaefer is a translator from the Spanish and French living in Paris. He has won the Ezra Pound Award for Best Translation from the University of Pennsylvania for his translations of the Cuban poet Javier Marimón. In 2012 he participated in the English PEN Translation Slam at the Poetry Parnassus in London. He lives in Paris.
Cover art by Jaya Nicely