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James Whyle Wins the 2011 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award

James Whyle

African Pens 2011Alert! South African playwright, screenwriter and journalist James Whyle was announced as the winner of the 2011 SA PEN/Studzinski Literary Award, for his short story, “The Story”, it was announced at The Book Lounge tonight.

Whyle’s story was chosen by JM Coetzee from a longlist of some two dozen entries. He wins £5 000 and the prestige that accompanies one of Africa’s biggest literary prizes.

Beth Hunt and William Oosthuizen were announced as the runners-up, for their short stories “Heatwave” and “The Ticket”. They win £3 000 and £2 000, respectively.

The PEN/Studzinski Award, which is held bi-annually, is organised by SA PEN and was last won by Karen Jayes. Formerly known as the SA PEN/HSBC Award, its past winners also include Henrietta Rose-Innes. John Studzinski, a “global banker and philanthropist”, sponors the prize money.

In his judge’s statement, Coetzee said, “the following five stories deserve honourable mention”:

  • “Quiver” by Rosemund J Handler
  • “The Sunday Paper” by Rosamund Kendal
  • “Parking the Guilt” by Kyne Nislev Bernstorff
  • “Claremont Park” by Bobby Jordan
  • “July” by Joline Young

That glimpse of Coetzee’s opinion is the only bit we’ve seen, so far, at Books LIVE; any statement concerning his reasoning for the winner and runners-up has yet to be released. Hopefully a longer judges’ report will be issued soon.

These five stories, along with the winners and the rest of the longlistees, are published by Jacana Media in the compilation African Pens 2011: New Writing from Southern Africa, available in SA bookshops now. The prize announcement doubled as the book’s launch.

Whyle was born on October 5, 1955 in Amatole, Eastern Cape. On his various websites, he describes himself as follows:

James Whyle once made a bad movie with Patrick Swayze, and now earns his living in Johannesburg inscribing runes on an electric stone. His first play, National Madness, based on his army experiences, was performed at the Market and Baxter Theatres in the early eighties and published in a collection – Market Plays (1). His second play, Hellhound, was performed at the Market Theatre in 1992. A story, Sapper Fijn and the Cow appears in The Penguin Book of Contemporary South African Short Stories. (2)

A radio drama, Dancing with the Dead, was broadcast in the U.K. in February 2002 on Radio 4. Richard E Grant played the leading role. A second BBC commission, A Man Called Rejoice, was re-broadcast for the third time in May 2004. It has been published as Rejoice Burning in a collection, New South African Plays, by Aurora Metro Publications. (3)

Whyle’s work has been compiled in Market Plays, edited by Stephen Gray (ISBN 0868520705), The Penguin Book of Contemporary South African Short Stories (also edited by Gray) and New South African Plays, edited by Charles J Fourie (ISBN 0954233018).

He maintains an active digital profile; here are key James Whyle links:

Readers of African Writing will be familiar with this excerpt from Whyle’s (forthcoming) memoirs:

In 1981, when I was running away from the army in Swaziland, I came across Nelson Mandela’s book, No Easy Walk to Freedom. It was a time when I had difficulty with any literature except pornography and Doris Lessing. All the devils of the military were on my tail and I struggled to concentrate. But I read some of Mandela’s speech from the dock and finally realized why he was in jail and why his writings were banned. It came as a shock because it was so simple. So down-home, common sense simple. The lies about why he was in jail were convoluted and gothic and worked on. And I grew up on a gruel of those lies. Fed and fattened we were on the lies about why Nelson Mandela was in jail.

Steve Biko was my first black hero and I only found out who he was after he was murdered by the police. The front page of the Daily Dispatch had a headline and picture of the man. Nothing else. That took up the whole front page. And I had no idea who he was. I had to ask my sociologist friends in the bar.

We’ll post more information on Whyle as it comes to light – and hopefully his winning short story, too. Meantime, congratulations to Whyle and the two runners-up!

Book details

Photo courtesy James Whyle’s Facebook profile


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 20th, 2011 @09:43 #

    Have added a few photos of the winner, snapped last night, to the bottom of the post.


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