It was recently announced that the Capetonian author, François Bloemhof, a prolific writer of adult, teenage and youth fiction, who has written close to 80 titles, is going to Hollywood!
This versatile writer’s adult work explores thriller, supernatural and more conventional dramatic themes, but for his Hollywood debut, he will be writing the screenplay of a movie with a thriller/sci-fi slant.
A friend encouraged him to pitch for the screenplay for Hollywood. Cleverly, he took the outline of an Afrikaans thriller which was published in 1997, Die Nagbesoeker, and gave it a sci-fi twist. And so, The Night Visitor was born.
The plot centres around the story of a successful city model whose sister is murdered in a coastal town, but hers is not the only murder that takes place! The model, who is already in a relationship, visits the town and becomes attracted to a man who recently moved there. Strange things happen. Friends react unexpectedly. She comes to the conclusion that no one is to be trusted.
Three copies of Bloemhof’s most recent novel, Feeding Time, are up for grabs. To stand a chance to win a copy, simply tell us the title of the Afrikaans thriller which Bloemhof adapted into The Night Visitor. E-mail your answer to email@example.com.
Published in the Sunday Times
Chatto & Windus, R290
Richard Flanagan has long been an eloquent advocate for the novel form. Soon after his sixth novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, garnered the 2014 Man Booker Prize he reiterated his belief in the indestructibility of novels, and declared “they allow us to come closer to certain truths for which we have few tools to otherwise comprehend”.
So it’s no surprise that he should peer deep into the nature of lies and truth, memoir and fiction in his seventh novel, First Person. But that it should speak so presciently to the nature of our times is something the 56-year-old Australian author shrugs off as “an accident of history”.
Indeed, First Person was seeded back in 1991 by his experiences when, as a young novice writer, he agreed to ghostwrite the memoir of Australia’s then most notorious conman and corporate criminal, John Friedrich, in six weeks for A$10 000. “Half-way through the six weeks Friedrich shot himself,” recalls Flanagan, “and I was left having to invent his memoir”.
Flanagan completed Codename Iago, declaring: “I can vouch for the veracity of none of it” before going on to carve out a luminous literary career with novels that include Gould’s Book of Fish, Wanting, The Unknown Terrorist and The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But as the years passed, he says: “I thought often about Friedrich and this bizarre small delirium he’d created that had fleeced millions of dollars out of banks and investors and how, in so many ways, he spoke to the coming age, this new world we’re now living in. I wanted to use that small experience to create a larger story about the world that was coming into being.”
He’s done that and more besides in First Person, which tells of a ghostwriter who is haunted by his conman subject. Narrated by Kif Kehlmann, a reality-TV producer who recalls when, as a young, penniless writer, he agreed to write the memoir of notorious conman and corporate criminal Siegfried Heidl in six weeks for $10000, it is an elegantly written tale. Sometimes comic, often dark, even disturbing, it lingers in the mind long after reading. For Kehlmann enters a Faustian bargain the moment he enters Heidl’s world, a world built on lies and which Kehlmann himself believes presages the world to come, resonant with names like Enron, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns, and where “a malicious future was already with us … a world of compounding fear”.
Despite completing First Person before fake news became an everyday term, before Trump was elected, Flanagan dismisses notions of prescience, pointing out that “the world that allowed Trump to reach the position he has was already in place. And when we talk about ‘fake news ‘and ‘alternative facts’ the question we should be asking is ‘why do so many of us want to believe in these untruths?’ People have to understand how, in the absence of stories that speak to the truth, we will search for stories that speak to lies and the worst in us.”
What intrigues him now “in a world that seems to use the word reality in place of the word truth”, he says, “is how novels seem to be the new counter culture. Novels, when they’re done with enough craft and honesty, they’re not a lie, they’re a fundamental and necessary truth about ourselves. Because a novel is not just what the author intended, it’s what others make of it. It’s in that act of reading where people discover not what the writer intended,” he adds, “but an aspect of their own soul.” @BronSibree
Published in the Sunday Times
Selfies, Sexts and Smartphones by Emma Sadleir and Lizzie Harrison
Penguin Random House, R220
I’ve always dreamt of writing a book – the idea seemed so glamorous. I learnt with my first book, Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex … And Other Legal Advice for the Age of Social Media, just how unglamorous book writing can be.
I wasn’t sure I had the stamina to write another one. That’s where my co-writer Lizzie Harrison came in!
What motivated the book was a legal case in our office when a 13-year-old girl was harassed to such an extent via WhatsApp by a 14-year-old boy that she landed in ICU, having tried to take her own life. He had repeatedly asked her to send a nude photograph, which she eventually did, and it went viral.
That’s when I realised the magnitude of the problems that young people are dealing with today. Prevention is better than cure – once the harm is done in the digital age, it can have serious long-term consequences. We give talks at schools across the continent every day, but there are only so many people we can reach face to face.
That, coupled with the desperate calls, e-mails and messages we were receiving every day from parents and teenagers who were either the victims of social-media abuse or who had made their own mistakes online, was the catalyst in getting us to write a book specifically aimed at teenagers.
The vision was that it should be a “driver’s licence for the digital highway”. Before you can drive a car, you must learn the rules of the road; in the same way, before someone is given a smartphone, they should know how to use it properly and safely. Just as a mistake while driving could have serious consequences, so, too, can the incorrect usage of smartphones have negative and life-altering consequences.
Lizzie and I decided that if we could create an easy-to-read, digestible book for teenagers, perhaps we could influence their behaviour online, and help to create a culture of responsible digital citizens.
This book is a survival guide for every teenager who owns a smartphone or goes online. It covers all the major issues, including cyberbullying, sexting, addiction, internet safety, porn, anxiety, depression, privacy and reputation.
Published in the Sunday Times
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Matthew Sullivan, Cornerstone, R290
Prepare to be thrust into the life of Lydia Smith, a clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, as she is plunged into shock, confusion and mystery by an unfortunate discovery during the late shift – a regular customer has killed himself. The suicide forces her to confront a traumatic childhood memory. The plot is complex and puzzling from the get-go and, in the best way, becomes even more so, until ultimately everything links together in a wonderful net of sense and epiphany. Sullivan’s writing is exceptional, and it flows naturally between the past and present and culminates in an absolutely enthralling novel. – Jessica Evans
The Mitford Murders
Jessica Fellowes, Little Brown, R275
Fellowes, who has written the Downton Abbey official companion books, has started a new mystery series, The Mitford Murders. The story is inspired by the unsolved 1920 murder of Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of the original Nightingale, on a Brighton-bound train. But in the land of fiction, anything can happen, including an 18-year-old nursery maid and the 16-year-old daughter of a lord turning into sleuths. It is a gentlewoman’s mystery, where the society of pearls and furs collides with the realm of washerwomen and gamblers. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie
Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation
Edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, HarperCollins, R270
With all that is happening in Israel, this collection of essays is more important and urgent than ever. Written from inside the territories illegally occupied by Israel, the essays are glimpses into a water-restricted, violent world that finds creative solutions to the problems forced upon Palestinians. Whether it is the story of the soapmaker, the NGO that serves as a utility company or the parallels with the Black Lives Matter movement, each essay looks unflinchingly at life in Palestine and the occupied territories. No light reading, but its clarity and honesty make it as compelling as it is authentic. – Zoe Hinis @ZoeHinis
To help set caregivers up to read with their children in the new year, Nal’ibali – the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, has compiled a special calendar highlighting some of the major literacy activities taking place in 2018. Complete with instructions on how to collect the cut-out-and-keep storybooks included in each edition of the campaign’s multilingual supplement, it will also assist young or new readers to collect and build their own mini-libraries over the course of the year.
“We’re excited about this resource which we hope will help to promote a culture of reading-for-enjoyment in our country. Most South African families live beyond easy reach of a public library and very few households have their own collection of storybooks for children to read or choose from,” says Jade Jacobsohn, Managing Director at Nal’ibali. “By using the calendar as a guide, caregivers and teachers can help children collect 30 stories this year and create their own personalised story-powered book boxes to keep them in.”
Research shows that children who are exposed to books and stories in their home languages, and who are read to regularly and right from birth, do better than their peers in the classroom, regardless of their social standing or economic circumstances.
To increase access to stories and literacy materials in different SA languages, Nal’ibali donates and delivers over 100 000 copies of its supplement to schools, libraries, reading clubs and fellow literacy organisations every second week during school term time. Members of the public can find copies in selected newspaper titles, or download them directly from the Nal’ibali website.
Created in partnership with the award-winning literacy organisation, PRAESA (the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa), the stories carried in the supplement are selected to promote and support South African authors and illustrators, and to expose children to a variety of different language and drawing styles. Stories are reproduced free of charge with special permission from the publishers and translated by PRAESA.
Currently the supplement is published in six different language combinations including English-isiZulu, English-isiXhosa, English-Afrikaans and English-Sepedi, and this year the campaign is excited to be adding Xitsonga and Setswana to this list from April.
“There is a need for collective action in motivating SA children to read, and it needs to be consistent. However small adults and caregivers may think this simple activity is, regularly spending time reading and sharing stories with children can have a massive and cumulative impact – helping them to reach their life potential,” concludes Jacobson.
To encourage continued reading throughout the year, Nal’ibali will be awarding spot prizes of additional books in a range of SA languages to readers who share pictures of their growing libraries on its Facebook page and Twitter feed (@NalibaliSA).
Nal’ibali supplements can be found in the Tiso Blackstar newspapers listed below, or downloaded directly from the Nal’ibali website (www.nalibali.org) where copies of the calendar can also be accessed.
• KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng: Sunday World – Sunday (English/isiZulu)
• Free State: Sunday World – Sunday (English/Sesotho)
• Limpopo: Sunday World – Sunday (English/Sepedi)
• Western Cape – Sunday Times Express – Sunday (English/isiXhosa)
• Eastern Cape – Daily Dispatch – Tuesday (English/isiXhosa)
• Eastern Cape – The Herald – Thursday (English/isiXhosa)
For more information about the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, free children’s stories in a range of SA languages, tips on reading and writing with children, details on how to set up a reading club or to request training, visit www.nalibali.org, www.nalibali.mobi, or find them on Facebook and Twitter: nalibaliSA.
“78% of Grade 4 learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning in any language” – Progress In International Reading Literacy, 2016.
Yet that doesn’t have to be the case. YOU can make a difference and contribute towards creating a South Africa where children read for enjoyment, meaning and understanding.
Together, we can read to 1 million children!
Reading aloud to a child is one of the most important things a parent and caregiver can do with children. Not only does it build a strong language foundation, it introduces vocabulary and can help develop empathy, curiosity and critical thinking.
World Read Aloud Day is on Thursday, 01 February 2018. On this day we all have a responsibility to spread the importance and power of reading aloud and sharing stories with children.
What you can do
This World Read Aloud Day we’re calling on YOU to add your pledge to read to the children in your life. This year’s story is ‘The final minute’ written by Zukiswa Wanner. You can download this story in any of South Africa’s official languages.
Click here to make your pledge.
BooksLIVE, in collaboration with Nal’ibali, recently ran a giveaway competition, offering 10 lucky readers the opportunity to win a copy of Storytime: 10 South African stories for children.
The first Sunday Times Storybook was launched three years ago to allow children from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience the magic of stories, especially in their own languages.
The Sunday Times has distributed two million copies of the first book in all 11 official languages free of charge to school, libraries and reading clubs across the country.
We asked readers to tell us why it’s so important to nurture a love of stories and reading among school children who have limited access to books.
Read Mangaliso Ngomane’s winning response:
Reading exposes a child to the avenues of their dreams so that they may be opened to the many available possibilities.
Thankfully there are many age appropriate stories in their own indigenous language to assist in early childhood development by relaying salient principles in a relatable way that they can understand and appreciate from a tender age.
Like our dearly departed president Nelson Mandela once said “talk to a man in his language and it goes to his heart”. That is especially true about a child reading in their language and thus taking pride in their cultural heritage and it also preserves their culture for future generations.
Considering all of this it is inconceivable that there are still children that have limited access to books and not just books but interesting books to nurture their love for reading
I for one have a toddler daughter for whom I’m always trying to get books and establish a library for in either siSwati (our home language) or isiZulu (the next best thing: both are Nguni languages).
I read to hear now and when she’s old enough to read on her own there will be a smooth transition into siSwati literature and an overall love for reading.
I recognize in myself, I love speaking siSwati and reading it now however because I picked up on siSwati as a First Additional Language in high school I had to work a little bit harder at it specifically and at reading any language generally.
I’m trying to correct that in her because if you read, there’s no limit to what you can do so I want to equipment her mind with the best possible tool with which to navigate the world.
Nal’bali column No 1, Term 1: Published in the Daily Dispatch, 15 January 2018; Herald, 18 January 2018
By Carla Lever
Scriptwriter, director and Zodiac
novelist, Sam Wilson. ©Matthew Brown
Your output is amazingly varied – you’ve penned everything from a conceptual thriller to a comic book series commissioned by the Welsh Rugby Union. Your knack for storytelling has spanned different ages, genres and media. What’s the secret ingredient?
Honestly, it’s poor self control. I can’t say ‘no’ to a project if it sounds interesting, no matter what it is or how much I’m already doing. Occasionally it’s a disaster and I won’t sleep, but at least I tried something new.
You have a lot of fun with words, whether it’s for work or play. For instance, there’s your @genrestories Twitter account, where you pepper us with 140-character short stories in wildly varying styles. What is it about stories and language that gets you excited?
Words are incredibly powerful. You can create thoughts and emotions and ideas out of nothing. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
You’ve written four children’s stories for the charity Book Dash, volunteering with other writers, editors, illustrators and designers for a day of intense work to create open access stories for children that are also printed and distributed locally. What makes you so passionate about this cause?
Literacy is a huge issue in South Africa. Book Dash creates books that are free online, and can be printed and sold by anyone. It’s an amazing way to give every child in South Africa their own books. And I get to do something I love for a great cause.
What was your most recent 2017 Book Dash experience like?
Every Book Dash is great. A large group of people makes new books in a 12-hour sprint. It’s a highly creative environment, and as you can imagine, the kind of people who would do it are the kind of people worth spending time with. It’s a blast, and this year the quality of the final books was extremely high.
A recent PIRLS global report put literacy in SA at crisis levels – 8 out of 10 grade fours currently cannot read for meaning in any language. Where on earth do we start as regular citizens?
The simple answer is, read to your children. It takes time, but nothing will have a bigger impact on their enthusiasm for reading.
You’ve created several children’s books that are entirely wordless. What inherent value do you feel storytelling has for children and adults everywhere?
Wordless story books teach something more fundamental than reading: That if you look at them in the right way, a bunch of flat pieces of paper can become a world full of emotions and surprises and things worth knowing. If kids don’t understand this then they won’t want to learn the squiggly symbols we call words. But once children love books, they’re hooked.
What value is there to always playing with words and ideas?
Play looks messy, but it’s a great way to understand things on a deep level. And if you get really good at play, it becomes indistinguishable from work. People pay you to do it. It happens in an office. It can be really, really hard, and it can take years. The difference is that it’s fun.
You have a young daughter. Can you tell us a little about how you are introducing her to imaginative worlds through books and storytelling?
Matilda has just turned one, and we read to her every day. As soon as she can talk I’ll make up stories for her. I’m looking forward to it, but not as much as I’m looking forward to the stories she’ll be telling me.
Help Nal’ibali read aloud to one million children this World Read Aloud Day, Thursday 01 February! Visit the Nal’ibali webpage at www.nalibali.org to sign up and download the brand-new story by acclaimed South African author, Zukiswa Wanner, in any official South African language. You’ll be joining a wave of adults across the country reading to children and raising awareness of the importance of this simple yet effective activity.
Published in the Sunday Times
A new year, a new pile of books to read. Here are some highlights to look forward to in 2018, as compiled by Michele Magwood.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Headline)
Four siblings are told the exact date of their death by a psychic. The novel traces their lives over four decades in a story described as “a moving meditation on fate, faith, and the family ties that alternately hurt and heal”.
Under Glass by Claire Robertson (Umuzi)
The much-anticipated third novel from the award-winning author, set on a sugar estate in 19th-century Natal and chronicling the lives of the Chetwyn family. A deeply researched historical novel and an intriguing mystery, it is described as “a high-stakes narrative of deception and disguise”.
What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson (Little Brown)
A new essay collection from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist that examines the political climate and the mysteries of faith. She offers hope and a call to action.
Michael K by Nthikeng Mohlele (Picador Africa)
A brilliant take on JM Coetzee’s classic that explores the weight of history and of conscience, by one of South Africa’s most compelling young authors.
Knucklebone by NR Brodie (Pan Macmillan)
Nechama Brodie is a welcome new voice on the krimi scene. This is a disturbing story set in Johannesburg that wrangles sangomas, disillusioned cops and animal poaching.
Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Setting aside his popular detective Harry Hole, Nesbo takes on Shakespeare’s immortal story. “It’s a thriller about the struggle for power, set both in a gloomy, stormy crime noir-like setting and in a dark, paranoid human mind,” he says.
Heads of the Colored People: Stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Simon & Schuster)
Timely and darkly funny stories examining black identity in a supposedly post-racial era.
A Spy in Time by Imraan Coovadia (Umuzi)
A new novel from the award-winning Coovadia always creates a buzz. Here he imagines a futuristic South Africa, where Johannesburg has survived the end of the world because of the mining tunnels that run beneath it.
The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin (HarperCollins)
Has a book ever been as eagerly awaited as this? The sixth novel in the fantasy series on which the TV show Game of Thrones is based is due for release this year. But then, it was due last year too.
Tsk-Tsk: The story of a child at large by Suzan Hackney (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
In a style reminiscent of Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Hackney writes of a childhood on the run, fighting to survive in a world of abandoned and abused children.
The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in His Head by John Hunt (Umuzi)
Surely one of the best titles of the year, it’s the story of a boy growing up in Hillbrow in the ’60s and his friendship with an eccentric homeless person.
The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton (Pan Macmillan)
The acclaimed Australian author leaves his familiar coastland settings and heads for the interior to the saltland next to the desert. A young runaway is on a desperate quest to find the only person who understands him. Described as “a rifle-shot of a novel – crisp, fast, shocking – an urgent masterpiece”.
Transcription by Kate Atkinson (Transworld)
The popular author’s new novel is based on the life of a female former Secret Service worker. Sure to be another runaway bestseller.
A Short History of Mozambique by Malyn Newitt (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
A comprehensive overview of 500 years of turbulent history, from its modern origins in the Indian Ocean trading system to the 15-year civil war that followed independence and its lingering after-effects.
Toy Boy by Leon van Nierop (Penguin)
Billed as an erotic coming-of-age tale and based on the life of a real person, this is the story of Tristan, a mysterious Johannesburg gigolo.
Homeland by Karin Brynard (Penguin)
The much-awaited English translation of Karin Brynard’s bestseller Tuisland. Captain Albertus Beeslaar is about to hand in his resignation when he is sent on one final assignment to Witdraai.
Brutal Legacy by Tracy Going (MF Books Joburg)
The shocking story of TV star Tracy Going’s abusive relationship that emerged when her battered face was splashed across the media in the late ’90s. She writes of her decline into depression and the healing she has finally found.
The Broken River Tent by Mphuthumi Ntabeni (Blackbird)
An entrancing novel that marries imagination with history, set in the time of Maqoma, the Xhosa chief at the forefront of fighting British colonialism in the Eastern Cape in the 19th century.
The Fatuous State Of Severity by Phumlani Pikoli (Pan Macmillan)
A fresh collection of short stories and illustrations that explore the experiences of a generation of young, urban South Africans coping with the tensions of social media, language and relationships of various kinds.
Born in Chains: the diary of an angry ‘born-free’ by Clinton Chauke (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
Debut author Chauke shows how his generation is still affected by apartheid policies but writes with wit and a unique sense of humour about his life. It’s a story of hope and perseverance, and of succeeding against all the odds.
The Golddiggers: A Novel by Sue Nyathi (Pan Macmillan)
The Zimbabwean author recounts the experiences of her fellow compatriots trying to make a life in Jozi. The stories of these desperate immigrants is both heart-breaking and heartwarming.
Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl (Penguin UK)
Subtitled “How to Make the Most of Uncomfortable Situations” New York Magazine’s Dahl offers a thoughtful, original take on what it really means to feel awkward, relating all sorts of mortifying moments and how to turn them to your advantage.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove Press)
One of the most talked-about books coming in 2018. Described as unsettling and powerful, it is an extraordinary debut novel about a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.”
The Madiba Appreciation Club: A Chef’s Story by Brett Ladds (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
A delightful memoir by Mandela’s former chef, spilling stories about meeting kings and queens, presidents, rock stars and even the Pope, as well as sharing Mandela’s favourite foods. – Michele Magwood, @michelemagwood
By Mila de Villiers
One happy bibliophile granny!
Exclusive Books recently granted Carina Greyling her birthday dream of a lifetime – the 60 year old grandmother from Kempton Park was treated to spending a night in their Hyde Park branch! Carina’s daughter, Leeanne, mailed the bookstore asking whether they could realise her mother’s lifelong birthday wish of “being locked in an Exclusive Books for the night” and CEO Benjamin Trisk (who happens to share a birthday with Carina!) happily obliged. Here’s how she spent her night…
I’m curious to know what the first thing you did the moment your family left?
I looked around in wonder – I was amazed, overwhelmed and flabbergasted. Felt like I was in a dreamworld! My daughter, Leeanne, made me sit down on the bed and poured me a coffee so I could gather my thoughts!
What section did you make a bee-line for?
The new releases! Went back there about eight times.
How many books did you manage to read (or at least skim through)?
Not sure. I walked from shelf to shelf picking up and reading and moving on! Could be hundreds… Couldn’t decide what to read but eventually settled on a pile of about 30 books! Along with the books piled next to the bed of my favorite authors! Eventually I placed a shorter list of books on the bed to look through. I read half a Janet Evanovich book – and have asked Exclusive Books to hold onto six books for me which I can’t be without! Will be going back this weekend to get them!
Could you expand on what it’s like to have an entire bookstore to yourself?
Absolutely a dream come true! It was the most fantastic, exciting beautiful place I have ever been in. The smell of new books was unbelievable! Such a comfort and serenity – given an opportunity – I would live here forever and would never leave! Such a sanctuary – surrounded by 1000s of books was unbelievable! One night was way too short!
Was it ever slightly eerie?
Not at all! I was absolutely comfortable! Felt at home, at peace! Surrounded by my best, best friends in the world (books!) I’ve have never felt more at peace and safe in my whole life!
Or overwhelming (in the best, most epic sense of the word?)
The start was a bit overwhelming, but once the shock and excitement wore off, and I realized that this was my reality for the evening, being in the best place in the world, I was in heaven! Once I realized I could really stay there the whole night – I was so so happy and excited! I got stuck in straight away! Gulped down a cup of coffee and ran to the new releases section! Couldn’t wait to touch the books and read and explore! The snacks prepared by the chef were so delicious – I ate every single macaroon and cheesecake on the platter!
Did you do anything slightly frowned upon whilst perusing books? (Eg. sneakily eating, leafing through expensive magazines, etc…)
Aside from sitting in every couch I could, I just bee-lined to find my favorite books! I was so worried that I would run out of time exploring so I got stuck in! Kept thinking someone would come in and tell me I had to leave because the store was closed – but eventually realized I had the store to myself and started reading every cover I could! I had to pick so carefully because I really could’ve taken the whole store home!