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Curmudgeon dressed as Lamb: Sue de Groot speaks to crime novelist Mick Herron about his irascible antihero in Spook Street

Published in the Sunday Times

Spook StreetSpook Street
Mick Herron (John Murray)
*****

When Mick Herron wrote Spook Street – the fourth in his series of spy novels about a cluster of misfits in Britain’s intelligence service – the Westminster terrorist attack had not yet happened. Nor had the attacks on London Bridge, in Manchester and at Finsbury Park.

All these subsequent events make Herron’s plot even more eerily relevant. Spook Street begins with the bombing of a shopping centre in the UK. (“It lasted seconds, but never stopped, and those it left behind – parents and families, lovers and friends – would ever after mark the date as one of unanswered phone calls and uncollected cars.”)

There is a grim echo, in the deadly flash mob at Westacres “pleasure dome”, of JG Ballard’s dystopian Kingdom Come – but where Ballard’s work is queasily alienating, Herron’s is warmly human.

His characters are flawed and vivid, particularly Jackson Lamb, head of a team of MI5 oddballs nicknamed “slow horses” (their office is in Slough House) and one of the most irresistibly unpleasant men ever to let loose a loud fart.

Herron, who on the phone is thoughtful and polite and about as far from Lamb as it is possible to get, says he has a lot of fun writing Lamb’s political incorrect dialogue.

“It’s kind of a safety valve,” he muses. “Lamb says all the things that you know you can’t say in public – you wouldn’t WANT to say them, you would never want to address other people in the way that he does – but there’s a great deal of fun and mischief to be had in doing it in fiction and knowing that for all the nasty things he comes up with, he’s saying them for effect, to annoy people. If he was behaving like that without being aware of how offensive he was, and actually believed the things he was saying, then he would be a different kind of person entirely.”

Lamb, like all the best characters in fiction, has slipped the bonds of his creator’s keys and taken on a life of his own. Herron says he often wonders what lies beneath the irascible old spy’s obnoxiousness.

“I know that there are things in his past that I haven’t fully uncovered. A key line to his character, from a previous book, is ‘when the Berlin wall came down he built another one around himself’. And there’s a line in what I was writing just this morning [the fifth book in the series will be published in 2018] where one of the other characters says Jackson ‘spent half a lifetime going to battle for what he believed in, and the second half of his life revenging himself on a world that seemed to have screwed things up anyway’.

“I think there’s a great deal of disappointment and bitterness there, and being obnoxious is his way of coping with it all, but I’m not sure I want to uncover the exact reasons behind the bitterness. I think one can destroy a character by probing too deeply into the reasons why they are how they are. I think it’s more fun just to let them get on with it. I’m very much enjoying winding him up and watching him go.”

Herron has the same attitude towards the universe in which his plots play out. He can be prescient about the real world but does not set out to write social commentary. In Spook Street he writes that the mall attack became “a made-in-Britain version of all those headlines, which had shrunk over the years to a page-7 sidebar, about events in distant marketplaces. Nothing brought the meaning of ‘suicide bomber’ home quite so hard as familiar logos glimpsed through the rubble.”

Having previously written successful crime novels, Herron turned to the world of spying because he “wanted to look at a broader canvas. One of the things that drove me to that was the bombings in London, the 7/7 bombings, that brought home to me how these huge events impinge on the lives of all of us, and that you don’t have to be a particular expert to have an opinion and to write about that sort of thing.

“These things are now happening … it’s not unusual to pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio and find that something very like that has happened – it’s chilling, and it now seems to be an ever-present danger, so that’s what I wanted to write about, the fact that we have those dangers there among us all the time.”

His focus, however, is always on the story. “I’m a novelist, and I do want to entertain, and the fact that I’m drawing the source of my entertainment from the real world is obviously a very important part of it, but I don’t feel that I have anything especially to warn people about or to tell them about, I’m just writing about how I perceive things to be. I don’t think anybody’s going to learn very much from my books, I do hope they will be entertained, thrilled, maybe shocked occasionally.”

Who should play Jackson Lamb?
Given the growing popularity of Herron’s novels, there will undoubtedly be several screen versions of the world’s rudest spy. When it comes to the actor who would best portray Lamb, Herron says: “If we went right through anyone who ever lived, it would be Orson Welles in Touch of Evil (1958). Physically, I think he looks like Lamb in that film; and his voice tone would also be about right.”

Not so silent: Lamb quotes
“The next sound you hear will be me, expressing confidence.” He farted, and reached for the cigarette behind his ear.

“So you’re the boss of the famous Slough House,” Flyte said. “Isn’t that where they keep the rejects?”

“They don’t like to be called that.”

“So what do you call them?”

“Rejects.”

“That is quite possibly the worst cup of tea I’ve had anywhere. And I’m including France in that.” – All said by Jackson Lamb in Spook Street

Follow Sue de Groot @deGrootS1

Book details

Short Sharp Stories 2017 winners announced

The winners of the 2017 Short Sharp Stories Award have been announced.

The “Short Sharp Stories Award” for South African short-story fiction is made each year by the National Arts Festival. An anthology of selected stories is published annually and the theme set for writers differs from year to year.

The winning stories, selected from the stories to be published, by a panel of independent judges, are announced at an annual launch event at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

It is the aim of this award to encourage, support, and showcase established and emerging South African writing talent.

The Award is curated by Joanne Hichens.
 
 
 

Best Story

Wedding Henna
by Mishka Hoosen

“A powerful exploration of the erotic taboo behind the hijab. Tender and sensual writing that weaves a haunting tale as the narrator decorates her ex-lover’s hands before her wedding. At its core it’s about a broken heart and the longing that comes of it, but also hints at greater themes of personal
identity and the questions of higher power. Beautifully bittersweet” – 2017 Short.Sharp.Stories Judges’ Choice

Runners-Up

The Line of Beauty
by Mapule Mohulatsi

“This is different — courageous, intriguing, thought-provoking, undeniably South African. Mohulatsi will prove to be a strong voice on the SA short story writing scene. A literary storytelling journey of note, about a storyteller and where stories come from” – Tim Richman

Eye Teeth
by Megan Ross

“This is a lyrical psalm of recovery written from the worst type of betrayal. The reader is treated to a masterful rewriting of trauma narrative by a storyteller who reclaims the geography of her body to effect a re-imaging and re-imagining” – Liesl Jobson

Handle With Care
by Amy Heydenrych

“Most South Africans have horror stories about the postal service. This tale of redemption is successful at an allegorical level; it touches on fixing that which is broken in the country. The story is enlivened with a dose of magical realism and underscored by a heart-warming empathy and romantic optimism” – Phakama Mbonambi

Click here to view the full list of winners.

“Now is the time for SA to take up the pen and not the sword”: AVBOB launches poetry campaign

Today, Mandela Day – AVBOB are launching their much anticipated Poetry Campaign.

Now is the time for us, as a nation, to take up the pen and not the sword. This is when we should focus on what unites, rather than divides us. And the AVBOB poetry project strives to do exactly that.

Facts about the campaign:
• To bring this poetry project to life, AVBOB are launching a website – www.avbobpoetry.co.za – on 18 July 2017, on Mandela Day
• Open to all South Africans in 11 official languages
• As a token of our appreciation, an incentive of R300 will be paid to each person who’s poem is selected for our library on the website
• The winners in each language category will be awarded at a prestigious event in March 2018 and will receive a cash prize

When grief has rendered us mute, poetry enables us to capture the legacy of our loved ones for all eternity, and to express our loss in a meaningful way.

From left – Johann de Lange, editor-in-chief for the AVBOB poetry project, Mr Frik Rademan, CEO of AVBOB, Dr Mantoa Motinyane-Masoko, senior lecturer and head of African Languages and Literatures at UCT and Dr Stanley Madonsela, Directorate: African Languages, University of South Africa and Daniel Hugo, Afrikaans editor for the AVBOB poetry project.

 

A letter from CEO at AVBOB, Frik Rademan:

AVBOB has decided to sponsor a poetry platform, but that would be a gross over-simplification. The truth is, neither AVBOB nor any other business can actually ‘sponsor’ poetry. All we can claim is that we wish to be associated with the power of poetry – and with the beauty of the human spirit.

To suggest that AVBOB can do anything meaningful for poetry would therefore be completely erroneous. Rather, it is the other way around: poetry can mean so much to AVBOB and its people.

Ever since its inception in 1918, AVBOB has belonged to ordinary people. Indeed, it was originally established for humanitarian reasons to help families in times of need during the difficult years after World War I, when people suffered bitterly.

Today, 99 years later, people still suffer, and despondency is becoming an ever-increasing threat to our self-preservation. People are generally divided and riven with uncertainty. Work is scarce, and meaningful work even scarcer.

Loss makes people vulnerable, whether it is the loss of income or the loss of a dream at the death of a loved one – a mother, a father, a child – and, consequently, we are at a loss for words to say goodbye. And if we do not have the words to send off our loved ones, the ritual of parting is muted.

AVBOB’s invitation to poets to write poems with an elegiac feel in all our official languages is thus, of itself, a strategic decision, aimed at building a bridge between those who have the words (established and aspiring poets) and those who so desperately need to hear those words (the bereaved). The sponsorship is thus aimed at providing a platform for poets, both unknown and lauded, to offer words of comfort through their craft.

To bring this poetry project to life, AVBOB are launching a website – www.avbobpoetry.co.za – on Mandela Day, 18 July 2017 at 1pm, that will be completely devoted to South African poetry. The main features of the website are twofold. First, we want to publish as many quality new poems as possible, in all 11 of the official South African languages. These poems will be freely available to all lovers of this enchanting and everlasting literary form, and to all those searching for a verse to give expression to the complex and unique emotions they are experiencing.

Secondly, the website will form the platform from which we will launch a nationwide poetry competition. Again, just as AVBOB belongs to the people, so too does poetry – it knows no boundaries, and transcends all differences. For this reason, we have made a massive effort to make the competition as inclusive as possible. The competition will thus be open to all South Africans, in all 11 official languages, to celebrate the richness and diversity of all the voices of our land.

Should a poem be accepted by one of our editors, it will open up a world of exciting new opportunities for the entrant of the poem. First, every poem which is approved by the relevant editor will feature alongside other poems on the AVBOB poetry website, where it will become part of a library of content to provide words of beauty and comfort to the people of South Africa. As a token of our appreciation, an incentive of R300 will be paid for each poem selected.

In addition, all entrants of approved poems will be in line for the AVBOB Poetry Prize, in the specific language categories (there will be a winner in each language). The respective prizes will bring cash rewards.

This initiative is by no means accidental. I am extremely grateful to say that, over the years, AVBOB has been a proud supporter of the arts in our country. We have always believed that the arts provide emotional and intellectual upliftment for our people, and that it is a way to liberate them from the difficulties of daily life.

Every person who enters the Poetry project will stand an equal chance for their work to feature alongside that of some of our most accoladed poets in a 100-poem print anthology, entitled “I wish I’d said”. The anthology will be published in August 2018. The title of the anthology will also be the theme for the poetry competition. This theme resonated deeply with us because all of us, at some point in our lives, have felt regret for the things we’ve left unsaid. Perhaps we wish we’d said, “I love you”, “forgive me” or “I will never forget you”.

Regardless of what this phrase means to each individual, it is our wish that the AVBOB poetry project will become a vehicle for people to finally express those unspoken whispers of the heart.

When grief has rendered us mute, poetry enables us to capture the legacy of our loved ones for all eternity, and to express our loss in a meaningful way.

Now is the time for us, as a nation, to take up the pen and not the sword. This is when we should focus on what unites, rather than divides us. And the AVBOB poetry project strives to do exactly that.

Book Bites: 16 July 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

The CowsThe Cows
Dawn O’Porter (HarperCollins)
****
Book fling
It’s OK not to follow the herd. That’s the premise of The Cows, a powerful novel about three women judging each other, but also judging themselves and their ideas of children – wanting one, having one, and not wanting them. Tara, Cam and Stella are living their lives as best they can, but being constantly pressured to conform, they find it hard to like what they see in the mirror. When an extraordinary event brings them together, one woman’s catastrophe becomes another’s inspiration, and a life lesson to all. This is a surprisingly funny novel. – Nondumiso Tshabangu @MsNondumiso

Here Comes TroubleHere Comes Trouble
Simon Wroe (Orion)
***
Book buff
Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian flair is reborn in Simon Wroe’s Here Comes Trouble. Kyrzbekistan, a fictitious Eastern Bloc country, is caught in the thrall of political turmoil that may sound all too familiar to many South Africans and Americans. As load-shedding seems to become permanent, troubled teen Ellis Dau attempts to rise to the occasion by restarting The Chronicle, his father’s independent press. Ellis’s humour (both intentionally and otherwise) is snort worthy. An excellent read for YA and new adult readers. Those over 30, however, may feel that they’ve heard this tale before, despite the fact we are living it today. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

The Last StopThe Last Stop
Thabiso Mofokeng (BlackBird Books)
*****
Book buff
Macko just managed to escape with his life after a bullet that was meant for him killed a child instead. His body may have survived but his mind is lost. He keeps seeing “things” and his stress is made worse by his dodgy taxi-owner boss and his money-grabbing girlfriend. Thabiso Mofokeng has done a sterling job of bringing to life the very real struggles of a taxi driver. It’s a poignant read and if you, like many, choose to forget the serious issues engulfing our country, this book will force them upon you. Thabiso, sir, never stop telling these very important truths. – Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

Book details

Goethe Institute to launch Library Gamebox Hub on July 29th

Join the Goethe Institute for the launch of their Library Gamebox Hub and discover Joburg’s brand new space for gamers, creative professionals and book lovers.

WHEN?
29 July 2017
Open Day 3.30 – 7.00pm

WHERE?
Goethe-Institut Johannesburg
119 Jan Smuts Avenue
2193 Parkwood

WHAT?
Come to their Open Day and:

· Enter the brand new Gamebox and discover the latest from the world of video games, including Virtual Reality
· Explore the space in a playful way through an Actionbound Rallye
· Try out a range of analogue games or jump into one of the Cosplay costumes
· Apply for a space in their new hub, which offers working spaces for individuals and collectives from the creative world
· Sign up for their library membership and select from an extended offer of books, magazines, films, music and children’s literature – from Germany, South Africa and other countries
· Enjoy the fully refurbished interior and use the space to study or research
· Come through with your kids and show them the children’s corner

Check out the Facebook event page for more!

Jacket Note: Rafique Gangat on his book Bending the Rules

Published in the Sunday Times

Bending the RulesBending The Rules: From De Klerk to Mandela – Stories of a Pioneering Diplomat
Rafique Gangat (Kwela)
 
 
Bending the rules, challenging the system, finding common ground, making a difference – and sometimes paying the price for it – has been the story of my life. I have many stories to tell, and always wanted to share them, but I had no idea where to begin.

A few years back, it started as a selection of short stories that could have only happened in South Africa. I was South Africa’s first diplomat of colour – I worked for Foreign Affairs under the National Party and then for the ANC government, straddling the transition.

This book documents my battles against bigotry and prejudice, but also includes stories from my travels – which then gave it an entirely different complexion. Finally, they assumed a life of their own as they threaded themselves into a memoir of short stories.

The manuscript went into hibernation until a meeting with Professor Brian Polkinghorn of Salisbury University. He was teaching a course on conflict resolution and mitigation at Tel Aviv University and was accompanied by a group of his Israeli and Palestinian students. I met them to discuss the role I had played as a talkshow host on a radio station, facilitating dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. A project that was untimely curtailed.

I mentioned to Brian that I had written a collection of short stories. He expressed an interest and I e-mailed them. He responded: “What an interesting set of stories! I can’t help but think you are a ‘character’ that has made it through some incredibly tough and historic times due to the sheer intellectual prowess and guts one needs to pull off some of the things you have accomplished. I think these short stories act as bursts of insight on all matters social. Love, drugs, music, morals, immorality, oppression, racism, sports, pulling fast ones, working with historical figures, and, in all of that, seeing the irony, innocence and contradiction.” That encouraged me to seek a publisher.

Later, he even honoured me by inviting me to Salisbury to be their keynote speaker on their annual theme – ‘One person can make made a difference’. To the theme, I added, ‘By Bending the Rules’. That’s where the title of the book came from.

And then I met JM Coetzee at PALFEST, a festival of literature in Palestine, and I was bowled over by a note he sent: “This is just a note to thank you for Bending the Rules, which I read during the flight back to Australia and enjoyed very much.” – Rafique Gangat

Book details

Short story writing course with Niq Mhlongo

Niq Mhlongo is leading a new short-story workshop aimed at both new and experienced writers. The workshop runs over four weeks, held on consecutive Saturday afternoons. Based on his own success with his short story collection Affluenza, and his three novels, Niq guides writers in developing their creativity.

Your writing skills will grow through in-depth, professional feedback on how to develop elements of your story including characters, dialogue, plot and setting.

You will also read and discuss the work of other writers in the group. Held on Saturday afternoons, the course is designed for anyone seeking to improve their writing.

To help writers expand their range of reading, participants in the course received a 15% discount on any books bought at Bridge Books during the month of the workshop.

Workshop details

Sessions will be held 3-5pm at Bridge Books on the following Saturdays:

22 July

29 July

5 August

12 August

Cost

R1,500

Goals

Writers will be expected to have completed a story by the end of the course.

About Niq Mhlongo

“My advice to wannabe writers is to write, and do not try to sound like any writer except yourself. The world is waiting for your unique story that is still trapped in your head. Get it out before it drives you insane. How did I get there myself? There was a story that was troubling me and giving me sleepless night. After getting it out, I felt healthier again. Reading a lot of literature will only help boost your confidence and give you an idea of how to write. But you must still write. I write stories that get published because I believe in my stories. I don’t tell the story like other writers. I use my original voice.” (Interview in Panorama Magazine)

Niq Mhlongo was born in 1973 in Soweto. In addition to Affluenza, Niq has written three novels – Dog Eat Dog, After Tears and Way Back Home.

Affluenza

Book details

 
 
Dog Eat Dog

 
 

After Tears

 
 

Way Back Home

Fiction Friday: read Bushra al-Fadil’s winning entry for the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing

The Sudanese writer Bushra al-Fadil was announced as the winner of the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing on 3 July. His story, “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, translated by Max Shmookler, was published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction (Comma Press, UK, 2016).

Press release from the Caine Prize for African Writing:

Bushra al-Fadil has won the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for his short story entitled “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, translated by Max Shmookler, published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction (Comma Press, UK. 2016). The Chair of Judges, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, announced Bushra al-Fadil as the winner of the £10,000 prize at an award dinner this evening (Monday, 3 July) held for the first time in Senate House, London, in partnership with SOAS as part of their centenary celebrations. As a translated story, the prize money will be split – with £7,000 going to Bushra and £3,000 to the translator, Max Shmookler.

“The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” vividly describes life in a bustling market through the eyes of the narrator, who becomes entranced by a beautiful woman he sees there one day. After a series of brief encounters, tragedy unexpectedly befalls the woman and her young female companion.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes praised the story, saying, “the winning story is one that explores through metaphor and an altered, inventive mode of perception – including, for the first time in the Caine Prize, illustration – the allure of, and relentless threats to freedom. Rooted in a mix of classical traditions as well as the vernacular contexts of its location, Bushra al-Fadil’s “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, is at once a very modern exploration of how assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those we would turn to for solace we can became mentally exiled in our own lands, edging in to a fantasy existence where we seek to cling to a sort of freedom until ultimately we slip into physical exile.”

Bushra al-Fadil is a Sudanese writer living in Saudi Arabia. His most recent collection Above a City’s Sky was published in 2012, the same year Bushra won the al-Tayeb Salih Short Story Award. Bushra holds a PhD in Russian language and literature.

Read “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” here:

The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away
Bushra al-Fadil

Translated by Max Shmookler

 
There I was, cutting through a strange market crowd – not just people shopping for their salad greens, but beggars and butchers and thieves, prancers and Prophet-praisers and soft-sided soldiers, the newly-arrived and the just-retired, the flabby and the flimsy, sellers roaming and street kids groaning, god-damners, bus-waiters and white-robed traders, elegant and fumbling.

And there in the midst, our elected representatives, chasing women with their eyes and hands and whole bodies, with those who couldn’t give chase keeping pace with an indiscrete and
sensual attention, or lost in a daydream.

I cut, sharp-toothed, carving a path through the crowd when a passerby clutched his shoulder in pain, followed by a ‘Forgive me!’ Then a scratch on a lady’s toe was followed with a quick ‘Oh no!’ Then a slap to another’s cheek, after which was heard ‘Forgiveness is all I seek!’

So lost in dreams I could not wait for their reply to my apology.

The day was fresher than a normal summer day, and I could feel delight turbaned around my head, like a Bedouin on his second visit to the city. The working women were not happy like me, nor were the housewives. I was the son of the Central Station, spider-pocketed, craning my neck to see a car accident or the commotion of a thief being caught. I was awake, descending into the street, convulsing from hunger and the hopeless search for work in the ‘cow’s muzzle’, as we say.

I suppressed my unrest. The oppressed son of the oppressed but despite all of that – happy. Could the wretched wrest my happiness from me? Hardly. Without meaning to, I wandered through these thoughts.

The people around me were a pile of human watermelons, every pile awaiting its bus. I approached one of the piles and pulled out my queuing tools – an elbow and the palm of my hand – and then together they helped my legs to hold up my daily depleted and yearly defeated body. I pulled out my eyes and began to look… and look… in all directions and to store away what I saw.

I saw a blind man looking out before him as if he were reading from that divine book which preceded all books, that book of all fates. He kept to himself as he passed before me but still I felt the coins in my pocket disappear. Then I saw a woman who was so plump that when she called out to her son – ‘Oh Hisham’ – you could feel the greasy resonance of the ‘H’ in your ears. I saw a frowning man, a boy weaving an empty tin can along the ground with his feet. I saw voices and heard boundless scents and then, suddenly, in the midst of all of that, I saw her. The dervish in my heart jumped.

I saw her: soaring without swaying, her skin the colour of wheat – not as we know it but rather as if the wheat were imitating her tone. She had the swagger of a soldier, the true heart of the people. And if you saw her, you’d never be satiated. I said to myself, ‘This is the girl whose birds flew away.’

Her round face looked like this: Her nose was like a fresh vegetable and by God, what eyes! A pharaonic neck with two taut slender chords, only visible when she turned her head. And when she turned her head, I thought all the women selling their mashed beans and salted sunflower seeds would flee, the whole street would pick up and leave only ruts where they had been, the fetid stench of blood would abandon the places where meat was sold. My thoughts fled to a future I longed for. And if you poured water over the crown of her head, it would flow down past her forehead.

She walked in waves, as if her body were an auger spiralling through a cord of wood.

She approached me. I looked myself over and straightened myself out. As she drew closer, I saw she was holding tight to a little girl who resembled her in every way but with a child’s chubbiness. Their hands were woven together as if they had been fashioned precisely in that manner, as if they were keeping each other from straying. They both knit their eyebrows nonchalantly, such that their eyes flashed, seeming to cleanse their faces from the famished stares of those around them.

‘This is the girl whose birds flew away,’ I said.

I turned to her sister and said, ‘And this must be the talisman she’s brought to steer her away from evil. How quickly her calm flew from her palm.’

I stared at them until I realised how loathsome I was in comparison. It was this that startled me, not them. I looked carefully at the talisman. Her mouth was elegant and precise as if she never ate the stewed okra that was slowly poisoning me. I glanced around and then I looked back at them, looked and looked – oh how I looked! – until a bus idled up and abruptly saved the
day. Although it was not their custom, the people made way for the two unfamiliar women, and they just hopped aboard. Through the dust kicked up by the competition around the door I found myself on the bus as well.

We lumbered forward. The man next to me was smoking and the man next to him smelled as if he were stuffed with onions. If the day were not so fresh, and were it not for the girl and her talisman and their aforementioned beauty, I would have gotten off that wretched bus without a word of apology. After five minutes, the onionised man lowed to the driver: ‘This’s my stop, buddy.’

He got off and slammed the door in a way that suggested the two of them had a long and violent history. The driver rubbed his right cheek as if the door had been slammed on him. He grumbled to himself, ‘People without a shred of mercy.’

The onion man reeled back around and threw a red eye at the driver. ‘What?’ he exploded. ‘What’d you say?’

‘Get going, by God!’ I yelled. ‘He wasn’t talking about you.’

As the bus pulled away, the onionised man’s insults and curses blended with the whine of the motor. As if the driver wanted to torment us, he continued the argument as a monologue, beginning, ‘People are animals…’

Continue reading here.

Enter the annual Poetry in McGregor Poetry Competition

WIN R5000 IN THE POETRY COMPETITION:

One of the highlights leading up to the annual Poetry in McGregor weekend is the Poetry Competition: Last year the organizers were delighted to receive hundreds of entries from across the nation. The entries for this year`s competition is now officially open: All unpublished poets may enter the Poetry in McGregor competition: The theme this year is: Poetry against Poverty. Your entry must reflect this theme.

Billy Kennedy, Chairman of the Poetry in McGregor committee, believes that Poetry plays an important part in our lives: “Someone once wrote that much of the violence and psychological illness and unease in our society is probably due to poetry deprivation. Bigotry and prejudice and fundamentalism contract the mind, and our world is full of it. Poetry expands the mind. It limbers up the imagination. It does to the mind what Yoga does for the body. We are looking forward to reading the works of budding poets. Enrage us, challenge us, uplift us, inspire us!”

There are two categories for this year’s Poetry Competition:

Adult open category: prize money for winner: R5000.00
School category (open to students grade 7 to 12) – Prize: a brand new iPad.

Entries to be mailed to mcgpoets@gmail.com before 30 July 2017. Entries can be in Afrikaans or English. Please see www.poetryinmcgregor.co.za for competition details, terms and conditions.

POETRY IN MCGREGOR:

There is a great range of poets performing at various venues at this year`s event: Koos Kombuis, Ashley Dowds, Hugh Hodge, John Maytham, Nic de Jager, Kobus Moolman, Lungiswa Nyatyowa, Lerato Sibanda, Philip de Vos, Diana Ferrus, Daniel Hugo, Lara Kirsten, Fanie Olivier, Koos van der Merwe, Mavis Vermaak, Wendy Woodward and many more. A Complete list of all the performing poets can be found at http://mcgregorpoetryfestival.co.za/2017-poets/

As part of the Poetry in McGregor Weekend, the MAC project will also be hosting the Schools’ Festival on the morning of Friday 25 August. Over 800 pupils from schools in the village and surrounding areas will be attending the event. Cape Town based artist Ha Man! together with his partner, Joke Debaere, will be presenting music, songs, drama and poetry. The Afrikaans group Ruk!, two dynamic young performers from Cape Town, will also be performing for the children at this exciting event.

For those poets who would like to participate spontaneously a number of Open Mic sessions will also be taking place during the “Poetry in McGregor” weekend. These sessions are hosted by Hugh Hodge (http://hahodge.blogspot.co.za/p/about-me.html) and no tickets or booking are required. Anyone wishing to read or recite their poetry is welcome – from the well-known to budding, new poets.

Accommodation: It is advised to book accommodation in advance:
Temenos Retreat: www.temenos.org.za / temenos@lando.co.za / 023 625 1871
McGregor Country Getaways: www.mcgregor-accommodation.co.za / info@mcgregor-accommodation.co.za / 023 625 1409 / 076 411 9477
McGregor Tourism Bureau: www.tourismmcgregor.co.za / info@tourismmcgregor.co.za / 023 625 1954
McGregor Backpackers: www.mcgregorbackpackers.co.za /083 206 8007
Robertson Tourism Bureau: www.robertsontourism.co.za / info@robertson.org.za / 023 626 4437
Robertson Wine Valley: www.robertsonwinevalley.com / manager@robertsonwinevalley.com / 023 626 3167

Tickets available from Computicket from mid July 2017.

Web and social media:

www.poetryinmcgregor.co.za

https://www.facebook.com/McGregorPoetry/

https://twitter.com/mcgpoetry

https://za.pinterest.com/mcgregorpoetry/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCI-ksT9BcSe34670JlWXPKw/feed

Wesgro Cape Town and Western Cape: http://goto.capetown/home

Join us for a magnificent weekend, words rooted in heart!

Applications for ANFASA Grant Scheme for Authors now open

ANFASA, the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors’ Association of South Africa, announces the next round of the grant scheme to benefit authors of academic and general non-fiction works

What is a “general non-fiction work”? Just as an example, it could be a biography or an autobiography; a history of a town or a region or a religion; a book about music or sport or theatre; a political or social analysis; an account of everyday life in a township; a book about nursing, or cooking, or fashion, or fishes, or traditional medicines, or cars – those are just a few of the many topics supported by the ANFASA grant scheme in the past.

If you are currently working on a scholarly or a general non-fiction work, you are eligible to apply. However, although we accept applications from authors whether or not they are ANFASA members, only ANFASA members may actually receive an award. The grants are intended to provide a sum of around R20 000 to R25 000 to be used for an author to “buy time” – to take leave, for instance, and devote herself or himself to writing; or to travel in order to conduct research. The grants are for research and writing and do not cover the cost of publishing the manuscript.

An independent committee will assess the applications and select the most deserving. The selection committee aims to offer awards to a wide-ranging group of authors and subjects, and the selection process will respect the need to treat new and experienced authors equally; to bear in mind authors writing in rural as well as urban locations; and to consider authors at all levels of education from the untutored to the degreed. The ANFASA grant scheme especially encourages writing by new authors. Applications for books written in all the official languages will be equally considered.

Go to http://www.bursaries2017.co.za/general-bursaries-south-africa/anfasa-bursary-grant-scheme/ to apply online or send an e-mail to info@anfasa.org.za. The closing date for applications is 30 September, and the successful applications will be announced in December.