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Kasala Poems

Kasala Poems

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By Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Translated by J. Bret Maney

A new poetic form from Fiston Mwanza Mujila, lauded author of novels Tram 83 and The Villain's Dance and poetry collection The River in the Belly.

Publication Date: July 16th, 2024

Paperback ISBN: 9781646053377
eBook ISBN: 9781646053414


Kasala Poems are rooted in a traditional form of praise poem that ties together proverbs, myths, fables, and riddles into a recitation, accompanied by music. In Mwanza Mujila’s skilled hands, this becomes a multimedia form, set to the page while retaining the remarkable drama, emotion, and celebration of its performed root. In Kasala Poems, multiple lyrical traditions create a hybrid world of different global spaces and layers of time. Within this world, everything is possible, real and surreal at the same time. With the rhythmic, frenetic energy found in his poetry, prose, and performances, Fiston Mwanza Mujila reanimates and simultaneously deconstructs ideas of the (post)colonial environment.

Biographical Note

Fiston Mwanza Mujila was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1981 and lives today in Austria. His debut novel, Tram 83, published in English in 2015 by Deep Vellum, won the German International Literature Award and was longlisted for the International Man Booker and the Prix du Monde. In addition to The River in the Belly, he is the author of the poetry collections Craquelures (2011) and Soleil privé de mazout (2016), and three plays, Et les moustiques sont des fruits à pépins, Te voir dressé sur tes deux pattes ne fait que mettre de l'huile sur le feu (2015) and Zu der Zeit der Königinmutter (2018). His writing responds to political turbulence in his native country and frequently foregrounds its debt to jazz. Translated versions of his novel, The Villain’s Dance (translated by Roland Glasser) and poetry collection The River in the Belly (translated by J. Bret Maney) are available from Deep Vellum.

J. Bret Maney is a literary critic and translator from the French and Spanish. He is a recipient of several awards, including the 2020 Gulf Coast Translation Prize for his translations of Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s poetry and an International Latino Book Award and PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for his translation of Guillermo Cotto-Thorner’s novel, Manhattan Tropics (Arte Público, 2019), which he also co-edited. He is Assistant Professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York.


Praise for The River in the Belly:

"In this raucous, electrifying what-is-it?—memoir, broken novel, poem series? or is it mainly a protest against the way that dreams can vanish like migrating birds?—Fiston Mwanza Mujila opens every stopcock that holds back his lust for life. His words rush forward in punctuated swells— like the Congo River he so often mentions. International in his imagination, wary of spells cast by sorcerer-crocodiles and waitresses, Mwanza Mujila masters a visceral, multilingual, song-spiked account of human experience that no one will forget." Forrest Gander, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Be With

"This is, at its source, an expat author's declaration of identity, and just as the river has formed Mr. Mujila, he has laid a claim to its legacy." —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

"Composed of 101 numbered 'solitudes,' Mwanza Mujila's collection is equal parts hallucination, augury, and crônica, with fragments that appear out of order and are often enigmatically brief, grotesque, and surreally humorous." —Jay G Ying, Harriet Books

"Tram 83, the first of Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s works to appear in the United States, made for a thrilling read. Now he’s returned with a new collection inspired by the Congo River, giving readers an even greater sense of the range of his work." Vol. 1 Brooklyn