How to Raise Sheep, Part 2 of 3: A Country Without Books

Putting this back up after a fellow blogger wrote that he was having difficulty finding a good biography of Melchior Ndadaye in print in Bujumbura. For those many readers to whom the name “Melchior Ndadaye” means nothing, Ndadaye was the first democratically elected president of Burundi (in the early 1990s, after colonialism, a short-lived monarchy and some military coups). He was assassinated and is now a national hero. Imagine being in a large Canadian city and not being able to hunt up a book about a revered former leader– a MacDonald or a Trudeau, a Jefferson or a Kennedy. It’s unthinkable. But this, sadly, is the country without books.

(While you’re rooting around in those August 2012 posts, check out the other two posts from my “How to Raise Sheep” trilogy: The Opiate of the Masses and Intellectual Genocide )

UPDATE: A Burundian reader in South Korea comments, “Instead of complaining, contribute!” My friend Diomède Niyonzima (the same friend who directs the Kira Burundi project for street children) is trying to launch a French-language library in Ngozi, with a little help from the Quebec government. If you would like to donate books for the library project, email

UPDATE #2 Thank you to Burundian poet and author Thierry Manirambona for sharing this on his excellent blog, La Plume Burundaise Si vous parlez français et vous vous intéressez au Burundi, allez-y jèter un oeil!!

Ruby Pratka - Year of No Fear

Yesterday I went to the Librairie St-Paul, the only bookstore in Bujumbura, which makes it the only bookstore in Burundi, unless Ngozi, a university town in the north, has a bookstore I don’t know about. A lavender stucco monstrosity across from the American embassy. If the expansive exterior looked promising, the interior was a big disappointment.

The store was dark and dusty. Some of the shelves were entirely empty. The back shelves were lined with books on Catholicism, the lives of Mary, of Jesus, of the saints, of famous priests and missionaries, how to pray…with separate sections for each.  On the front shelves were university textbooks in law, communication, French and economics. Scattered among the textbooks were more prayerbooks and writings of Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul, and more priest and saint biographies. Children’s books from France, obviously aimed at the expat market (what would a Burundian child do…

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About msmarguerite

Young Quebec City-based freelance journalist. once and future nomad. I blog about life, about travel, about things I notice and every so often about work. I enjoy language learning, singing, swing dancing, skating and...other stuff, sometimes. My heart is somewhere in East Africa, Haiti or Eastern Europe. English, français, русский, malo slovensko, un poco de espanol, um pouco de português ndiga ikirundi, mwen ap aprann kreyòl...
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1 Response to How to Raise Sheep, Part 2 of 3: A Country Without Books

  1. Pingback: Un pays sans livre, Ruby Pratka • La plume burundaise

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