Kinyamaswa, by Andreas Morgner, is truly “an epic poem.” The author dragged painful memories from people who survived the genocide in Rwanda that bled the life from a nation in 1994. He uses masterful images that compel the reader to live the experience with them. His research had to be written with tears as he made notes of the stories he heard. Every word, every line, every image Morgner shares has meaning, undeniable meaning, that compels the reader to experience their pain. It is a book intended for adults. Youthful readers would confuse reality with science fiction, for truth is surely more impactful than fiction in this case. Morgner paints a picture that imprints on a reader’s mind, with images that cause frequent gasps for air. We don’t want to believe mankind can be this cruel or sink to the levels that genocide excavates.
Many years ago I listened to a masterful telling of Beowulf in the Celtic dialect. The fires of hell were in the words of that storyteller and I feel them still. I experienced war first hand, but not the kind of thing described in Kinyamaswa, which means “merciless.” The book is written for history lovers, people who enjoy free style poetry, and others who simply want to step into a seriously talented storyteller’s world.
I found myself saddened that the story is applicable to current events. When I began the journey through Morgner’s “cantos” I did not expect it to leave the impression it did. I applaud his work and respect his incredible command of our language.
I wholeheartedly recommend Kinyamaswa: An Epic Poem.
Author: Andreas Morgner
Reviewer: Michael D. Mullins