Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

The 2012 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award Longlist

Alert! The Sunday Times published the longlists for its 2012 literary awards at the weekend.

The Alan Paton Award for non-fiction is accomapanied by the Fiction Prize – and both are accompanied by R75 000 cheques for the winners, making them the richest one-off prizes in SA Lit.

This year’s Alan Paton Award longlist sees over forty titles competing for the big gong – which was won last year by Ronnie Kasrils, for his memoir The Unlikely Secret Agent.

The shortlist will be announced on Saturday at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

Click here for the 2012 Sunday Times Fiction Prize longlist; and scroll away for this year’s Alan Paton hopefuls. Good luck, especially, to Books LIVE members, linked to in bold:

Sometimes there is a VoidBabarism in Higher EducationPinky PromiseMy Father, My MonsterPolitics in My BloodThe First PresidentThe Shadow WorldThe Devil in the DetailDiepslootTouch, Pause, Engage!Little LiberiaThe ProteasHemispheresKilling KebbleTutuCome Back to PortofinoAttuned LeadershipAn Inconvenient YouthPaper Sons and DaughtersLifebloodSouth African OdysseyThe Boers in Angola, 1928-1975Prophet without HonourA South African Censor's TaleBattle ScarredDavid KramerGrapeCities with 'Slums'Germany's Genocide of the HereroSouth Africa Pushed to the LimitByleveldStones Against the MirrorEating from One PotMetal That Will Not BendStranger At HomeThe African National Congress and the Regeneration of Political PowerA Living Man from AfricaDefining MomentsThe Unexploded BoerChallenging BeliefsMissing and Murdered

The Longlist

Tymon Smith writes up the longlist for the Sunday Times:

This year’s entries reveal a more critical examination by contemporary writers of the notions of truth and memory

The longlist for the non-fiction award always presents a difficult task for the judges, who have to balance the issues explored in the books with the need for a mode of expression that highlights excellence of writing and conveys ideas in a clear and accessible manner.

This year’s list reflects a society grappling with a number of multi-layered problems that, according to the judges’ report, “cannot be simply reduced to ‘the legacy of apartheid’ anymore, and a group of writers committed, in the main, to presenting and confronting these issues in ways that unravel their complexities and discover their nuances, forcing us to acknowledge particularly difficult problems.”

At the same time the longlist is mixed both in terms of substance and quality and there were, as ever, many books that the judges felt could have benefited from a more rigorous editing process. Several of the titles submitted, while often reflecting rich research processes, did not convey their findings in ways that keep readers interested or that speak meaningfully to society beyond their immediate focus.

There were also several books that the judges felt, “creatively contribute to a ‘re-memory’ (a term coined by Toni Morrison in her book Beloved) of our collective past, making certain silences in our history speak and animating otherwise stick figures in an expected and predictable march.”

While some of the judges were disappointed by the lack of quality, book-length contemporary reportage titles and a lack of focus on difficulties facing everyday South Africans, they were impressed by the ways in which “many of the books also pay attention to the very act of writing, experimenting with styles and techniques in very self-conscious ways, drawing attention to the position of the authors, the power-laden nature of the writing process and related relationships, and the effects or products of the written work on real people and real situations.” This is a good thing, as it reflects a more critical examination by contemporary writers of notions of the truth and memory.

As always, in spite of some reservations, the longlist for the award continues to demonstrate the rich, diverse and generally healthy state of non-fiction in the country today and reading these titles has proved a rewarding experience full of surprises and fascinating insights into our collective psychology as a nation.

The Judges


Antony Altbeker is a researcher and writer. Since 1994, he has worked in government, at universities and for a variety of think tanks. He is the author of three best-selling works of narrative non-fiction – The Dirty Work of Democracy: A year on the streets with the SAPS (2005) shortlisted for The Alan Paton Award, A Country at War with Itself: South Africa’s crisis of crime (2007), and Fruit of a Poisoned Tree: A true story of murder and the miscarriage of justice (2010). Altbeker is married with three children, lives in Joburg and runs the popular dinner-booze-and-book club at the Troyeville Hotel.


Prishani Naidoo is a writer, researcher and lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Wits University. She is co-editor of the New South African Review and author of a number of academic and popular essays on a wide range of issues. Before joining Wits, she co-founded the research collective RED (Research and Education in Development). She has a long history of activism, beginning in the early 1990s, when she joined the ANC western areas branch in Durban. She has a BA with majors in sociology and English, and an honours degree in comparative literature. After university, Naidoo, along with others, helped found the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) in Joburg. She was awarded her PhD in 2011, focused on struggles for basic services in post-apartheid SA.


Peter Harris practised law for many years at Cheadle, Thompson & Haysom. In the early 1990s, he was seconded to the National Peace Accord, after which he headed the Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission for the 1994 election responsible for the freeness and fairness of the election. He returned to law and also consulted internationally for the UN in various countries around the world. He currently heads a large management consultancy. Harris is the author of In A Different Time, winner of the Alan Paton Award in 2009, Jenny Crwys-Williams’ Book Club Book of the Year for 2009
award and winner of the South African Booksellers Choice Award 2009. His third book, titled Birth about a conspiracy to stop the 1994 election was published in November 2010.

Book details

eBook options – Download now!

eBook options – Download now!

eBook options – Download now!

  • Cities with ‘Slums’: From informal settlement eradication to a right to the city in Africa by Marie Huchzermeyer
    EAN: 978191989539
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!
  • A Living Man from Africa: Jan Tzatzoe, Xhosa Chief and Missionary, and the Making of Nineteenth-Century South Africa by Roger Levine
    EAN: 9780300125214
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    May 7th, 2012 @13:22 #

    I haven't read many of these, so I am going to plump for Karen Lazar's Hemispheres as a winner, or at the very least, a shortlist placing. Mazel tov!

  • sunilshah_99
    April 8th, 2013 @10:45 #

    hello all, Do you know how I submit for above competition for 2013? I cant find any guidelines, so I presume one doesn’t have to formally apply, that they just browse through available books. However, being self-published, how do I make them aware of my book? thank you!

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 8th, 2013 @12:06 #

    Hi Sunil - Entries for 2013, for books published in 2012, closed at the beginning of the year. If you publish a book in 2013 and want to enter the 2014 awards, get in touch again toward the end of this year. Sorry to disappoint!


Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat