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Corina van der Spoel’s Call to English Writers and Readers to Join Protest Against Afrikaans “Super Books Page Editor”

Corina Van der Spoel

The protest among Afrikaans writers, reviewers, publishers and other concerned parties against Media24‘s decision to appoint a single “super books page editor” – who will compile identical book pages for all their newspapers (including Beeld, Die Burger and Volksblad) – has now reached the pages of the Mail & Guardian.

Corina van der Spoel of Boekehuis in Johannesburg writes that it is surprising that the discussion has not been taken up by SA literature’s vehicles in English – and names BOOK SA as one of these. We beg to differ, of course, seeing as BOOK SA has been covering the debate from the start:

It might be said, however, that as there hasn’t been any organic discussion on BOOK SA around the posts, that van der Spoel has a point.

Van der Spoel writes that it is important for English-speaking readers and writers to support the protest against the “super editor”, as the Afrikaans press also publishes quality reviews of SA Lit in English. A single editor and identical book pages for all the newspapers will limit the variety of opinions and views expressed, she says, and mentions many reasons why this is a bad idea:

Discussion has been raging over the past few weeks in the Afrikaans press and on Litnet about Media24 newspapers’ decision to discard the books editors of their national dailies, Beeld (northern provinces including Gauteng distribution), Die Burger (Cape-based) and ­Volksblad (Free State) and to contract a super editor for books who would create an identical book page for the three newspapers.

Not only does this move concentrate too much power in one person, it also means that fewer perspectives and opinions will be expressed about fewer books.

A lively, growing and discoursing literary scene depends on a variety of voices and perspectives. It promotes vibrant intellectual debate and informs critical perspective on politics and the cultural life of the nation.
Some aspects of this decision:


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    March 25th, 2011 @11:40 #

    Email your concern about this decision to the following address:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    March 25th, 2011 @23:37 #

    My bad. I somehow missed this. And the idea is a indeed a Very Bad One. Thanks for the e-address, Liesl. Corina makes a good point: Die Burger was just about the only newspaper to give column inches (not just a carrot, but an intelligent review) to Jane Bennett's under-rated short story collection, Porcupine.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Arthur Attwell</a>
    Arthur Attwell
    April 4th, 2011 @16:05 #

    I agree that it's unfortunate, and for literature as an art form, a very bad thing. However, literature as an art form doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's sustained by publishers, the businesses that represent it. The Media24 move is more evidence that book publishing is a very small pea under the great mattress of entertainment media, and only some of us care that it's there. Unless *publishing businesses* find ways to mean more to more people, their share of the attention pie is going to get smaller and smaller.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 5th, 2011 @06:15 #

    Well put, Arthur.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 11th, 2011 @12:11 #

    For those following this story, the new national books editor for Media24 is Elmair Rautenbach; her first interview:


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