The Olive Schreiner Prize “honours new talent” and rotates between prose, poetry and drama; last year, there was no winner in the drama stakes, but the year before Rustum Kozain took the poetry honours. Poetry is up for consideration once again next year.
Green has moved from his home in KwaZulu Natal to the United Kingdom – I wonder if he made the London Book Fair? – but will be in South Africa later this year to accept his award. He wins R5 000 and “a prestigious certificate”.
From the book’s blurb:
Named after the Holy Fool and Gaper, Father Joseph Cupertino tells an extraordinary tale ranging from Austria to Bosnia, Natal to East Griqualand during the 19th and early 20th Century. It chronicles the journey of a monk, Franz Pfanner, through the obscure labyrinths of the Trappist order, avowed to a life of silent contemplation, to where he establishes the monastery at Marianhill in South Africa. Hardworking and devoted, Pfanner leaves in his wake a trail of controversy that reaches its apex at Marianhill which, through his missionery zeal, grows into one of the largest monasteries in the world. His success at spreading the Word of God, however, comes at a terrible price, for it requires his surrender to the world of words, through which faith, contemplation and grace become intermingled with demonic possession, madness, even murder.
Here’s the official announcement from the Academy, which contains biographical details:
The English Academy of Southern Africa is happy to announce the winner of the 2009 Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose. The award goes to Michael Cawood Green for his debut novel, For the Sake of Silence (Umuzi, 2008).
The judges report that the abundance of talent was most impressive, and it is with one drooping and one auspicious eye that they made their choice. Though there were two other chief contenders and a dozen or so others that could have been worthy winners, it was decided that Green’s novel was indeed the best. All in all, there were about 50 novels submitted.
The panel chose Green’s novel for three main reasons: first, technical accomplishment; second, a riveting narrative; and third, the full and fascinating historical research that lies behind the narrative. The judges had the following to say about the novel:
- It is a tour de force of artistic composition, through which the story of the greatly-achieving, deeply troubled, evolving Trappist Order and its South African founder, Franz Pfanner, is told. It is wonderful history, and spell-binding drama.
(A Chennells, R Gray and PJH Titlestad)
Michael Green was born and raised in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal. He completed his Masters at Stanford and Doctorate at York, and worked at Rand Afrikaans University before joining the then-University of Natal as a lecturer in English.
Green is one of the founders of the Poetry Africa and Time of the Writer Festivals in which he has appeared as both presenter and performer. He also initiated the creative writing programme in Westville Prison linked to these festivals and earned his second Distinguished Teacher Award for introducing and developing creative writing courses at the university.
Green has recently taken up the position of Reader in Creative Writing at Northumbria University, United Kingdom. Prior to joining Northumbria University, he was Senior Professor and Head of English at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, and then Head of the university’s School of Literary Studies, Media, and Creative Arts. He relocated to Northumbria University in September 2009 with the aim of returning to researching, teaching, and writing.
The prize will be presented to him later in the year. It is a cash prize and a prestigious certificate.
Congratulations to Green!