Kinyamaswa by Andreas Morgner
Kinyamaswa: Merciless: An Epic Poem written by Andreas Morgner is a sweeping and engaging narrative told in extended poetic verse. Morgner has put together a lyrical journey that depicts what it was like for Rwandan refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. As it states in the book, in Rwandan, kinyamaswa means ‘like an animal,’ but it can also mean cruel, brutal, or merciless. This applies not only to the terrible atrocities these people had to face, but to the way Morgner writes, his words offering little mercy for the reader’s senses. This is more than just a poem, it is a story, it follows various characters and fleshes them out, making them more than just fragments or ideas, as Morgner’s talent makes them come alive on the page. This is poetic storytelling at its best.
Although there are separate poems in a way, broken down into numbered cantos, the entire narrative flows, the pieces running into one another in a pleasing manner even when the perspective or subject matter shifts. Morgner does an excellent job of describing the people, the settings, and the emotions that are taking hold of everyone as the exodus occurs and then lingers on. More than just a reflection on the people who are suffering, Morgner forces the reader to think about the social and political ramifications of genocide, and how it affects not only one group of people, but the entire world. Kinyamaswa is a one of a kind book that tackles a heartbreakingly difficult topic and makes something beautiful out of it.
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