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The 2012 Sunday Times Fiction Prize Longlist

Fiction Prize Judges

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

The richest one-off prizes in SA Lit, the Fiction Prize and Alan Paton Award come with cheques for R75 000 each.

This year’s Fiction Prize longlist comprises some thirty-nine titles published in 2011 – which will be whittled down to a handful when the shortlist is announced on Saturday at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

Last year’s winner was Sifiso Mzobe, for Young Blood.

Click here for the 2012 Alan Paton Award longlist.

Without further ado, the 2012 Fiction Prize longlist (best of luck to Books LIVE members, linked to in bold!):

The Lazarus EffectShooting AngelsOther People's MoneyHyenas in a Place of JoyTrackersFalloutThe Colour of PowerHear Me AloneCruel Crazy Beautiful WorldThe Dancing and the Death on Lemon StreetPlanet SavageLost GroundGallows HillCounting the CoffinsEveHomemaking for the Down-at-HeartCanvas under the SkyBitter PillDivine JusticeSnakeBom BoySolomon's StoryBad BloodA Year in the Wild30 Nights in AmsterdamThe Lies We SharedOnion TearsEddie SignwriterRhumbaDust DevilsThula-ThulaNinevehBad SexThe ClassifierThings I Thought I KnewHistory of a Pleasure SeekerNever Too NakedThe West Rand Jive Cats Boxing ClubThe Landscape Painter

The Longlist

 
Tymon Smith writes up the longlist for the Sunday Times:

Crime novels and thrillers are emerging as genres in which South African authors can explore issues both past and present

In a year when the literary merits and rising popularity of crime fiction in the local industry have provided a hot topic for debate on the internet and in the pages of newspapers and literary journals, it was unsurprising to find that this year’s longlist was dominated by crime novels and thrillers. These extended not only to South African stories but also to stories centred on African characters living in the country today. The judges felt that “it is clear, and perhaps for reasons we haven’t fully understood yet, that crime, the whodunit, is generating a feasible and readerly way of writing about the South African present, the question of politics, the complexities of race and class interests”.

The experiences of other African citizens also provided a wealth of material for local authors, both at home and abroad. The judges felt: “The most exciting development in South African letters today is the role of the foreigner, the alien, the despised African from beyond our borders who is now in our midst and who educates us on how to be human, by word or precept, and who lends to our vocabulary a language shot through with the kind of humanity and courage we still have to relearn.”

It was also heartening to see young authors competing toe-to-toe with their more established counterparts and to see the ways in which contemporary issues and concerns are becoming more important to local fiction writers as they try to navigate the maze of identities, histories and pressures of life in a fast-paced democratic post-apartheid South Africa.

While, as always, the judging panel congratulates local publishers for encouraging and nurturing new writing talent, there were concerns in some cases that a lack of attention to editing meant that several good ideas were not as well executed as they could have been and suffered as a result. Attention to editing will only help the industry as a whole in the long run, as it means that good ideas will be ably supported by excellence of execution, making it easier for these writers to compete on a level with those authors who have benefited from the advice of a patient and knowledgeable editor.

The local fiction market is a difficult place at the best of times and it is always encouraging to see that it continues to grow. In the words of the judges: “Good writing in this country must still carry something of a charge, and electricity, in relation to the extraordinary complexities of being South African at present.”

The Judges

MANDLA LANGA

Mandla Langa was born in Durban in 1950, studied for a BA at the University of Fort Hare but left following widespread student protests in 1972. He taught at a high school in KwaMashu in 1973/74 before going into exile in 1976. He has lived in Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, Hungary and the UK. In 1980 he won the pan-African Drum Magazine story contest and in 1991 he was awarded the Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary. He was deputy chief representative and cultural representative of the ANC in the UK and a weekly columnist for the Sunday Independent. He is the author of five books, including The Memory of Stones and The Lost Colours of the Chameleon, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Africa Region in 2009 and was shortlisted for The Sunday Times Fiction Prize. In 2007 he received the country’s National Order of Ikhamanga (Silver) for his literary, journalistic and cultural achievements. From 1999-2005 he chaired the Independent Communications Authority of SA. He chairs the board of MultiChoice Africa and co-chairs the board of Koketso Holdings.

IMRAAN COOVADIA

Imraan Coovadia was born in Durban and educated in the US and has lived in London, Melbourne, Boston and New York. He is the author of The Wedding, Green-Eyed Thieves and High Low In-Between, which won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize in 2010. Coovadia teaches creative writing at the University of Cape Town and his latest novel, The Institute for Taxi Poetry, was published last month by Umuzi.

SARAH NUTTALL

Sarah Nuttall is Research Professor in English at the University of Stellenbosch. She worked for 10 years at Wiser (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) in Johannesburg. She is the author of Entanglement: Literary and cultural reflections on post-apartheid and co-editor of Load Shedding: Writing On and Over the Edge of South Africa and Johannesburg – The Elusive Metropolis.

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    May 7th, 2012 @08:33 #
     
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    Nice to see some of my favourites up there and especially glad for my drinking pals. I'll start sending out my extremely potent good vibes when the shortlist comes out. Don't scoff.

    I take it Richard de Nooy's The Big Stick wasn't eligible. Else there's a hole there where it belongs.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    May 7th, 2012 @11:38 #
     
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    I'm glad 'Nineveh' is there, it's a fine novel. But where's 'Absolution'?

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    May 7th, 2012 @11:39 #
     
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    It's a great list, huge congrats to everyone!

    I second the OMG-how-could-they-overlook-The-Big-Stick though. Was it not eligible?

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    May 7th, 2012 @12:29 #
     
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    Novels by SA citizens published in 2011 were eligible; not sure if that rules out either Richard's or Flanery's.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 7th, 2012 @12:43 #
     
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    Didn't Justin Cartwright WIN the prize a few years ago in spite of not having lived here for 30 years or something? I remember a bit of a dust-up about that. Did they change the rules after that? (also scratching head at gap where The Big Stick should be). Plus I don't see Mark Thornton's Kid Moses here, and he's an American who lives in Tanzania, so that might explain it. But the question of who is a citizen needs to be clarified, because Troy Blacklaws IS on the list, but then he's a Saffer abroad, as opposed to the citizen of another country.

    I also wish short story collections counted: would be great to see Diane Awerbuck's Cabin Fever and Siphiwo Mahala's African Dreams on this list.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 7th, 2012 @12:49 #
     
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    And congratulations all, and well done to the judges for compiling such a varied and meaty list. I am going to nail my completely biased colours to the mast (no doubt offending a dozen friends) and say I want Hear Me Alone to win. Although there are a lot of titles here that bring me joy.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    May 7th, 2012 @13:17 #
     
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    I'd like someone to get clarity on this too - there's a case to be made for works that deal with South Africa, rather than born and bred etc etc. If I was to draw a line, it might be around 'resident in SA' - which would exclude the Cartwrights, Coetzees and so on - but it's a tricky issue.

    Maybe I'm swayed in this regard because I'm close to finishing 'Absolution' - and gosh, it's impressive, more so than any other piece of SA fiction I've read the last few years: saying this despite an occasional worry that its plot is so neatly sewn up as to inch towards the contrived at times, and not buying two minor characters....

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  • <a href="http://imago.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sophy</a>
    Sophy
    May 7th, 2012 @13:23 #
     
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    Absolution isn't eligible because Patrick Flanery hasn't lived in SA. The Big Stick is technically eligible but Jacana could only submit four titles and clearly had a tough time deciding which ones to include. Same with Kid Moses. Here're the rules, for interest: http://www.scribd.com/doc/72893185/Call-for-Entries-Sunday-Times-Fiction-Prize-2012

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 7th, 2012 @14:04 #
     
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    Interesting. The M-Net jury rejected TBS because they ruled it to be a translation. Guess I'll just have to wait for the Nobel committee to rock up. Promise not to hold my breath.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    May 7th, 2012 @14:10 #
     
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    I see translated books are eligible. We'll have to ask Richard for his pass, then.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    May 7th, 2012 @14:11 #
     
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    Marlene van Niekerk's Agaat won, in translation, a few years back. Van Niekerk and Michiel Heyns shared the prize.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 7th, 2012 @14:18 #
     
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    I renounced my SA citizenship in the early 80's before I left, but 6FM made the ST longlist back in 2008, so let's not leap to any conclusions. I certainly don't want to let sour grapes spoil the dish I'm currently concocting.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    May 7th, 2012 @14:22 #
     
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    Aha! The verraaier pariah! (They probably hadn't checked into your dossier back then.) Though it may not be of any comfort to you, Richard, I for one am pleased if there's a logical reason, because any other apart from ineligibility would be illogical, captain.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    May 7th, 2012 @14:43 #
     
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    Nice cross-thread ref, Louis :)

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  • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    Henrietta
    May 7th, 2012 @15:07 #
     
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    Also sorry and surprised not to see TBS listed, Richard. But we'll be seeing you at FLF?

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    May 7th, 2012 @15:27 #
     
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    Aha - the question of who or what is authentically 'South African' raises its head again. Amazing; it's in many ways a silly, self-serving question; but attempts to dismiss ending up being superficial and equally silly; and it keeps on coming back....

    "If there is a biological connection it is through the soil of our country: the dust underfoot, rich with life, and the dirt of decay that sticks to us all." - 'Absolution'

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 7th, 2012 @15:41 #
     
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    Thanks for the warm words of support, everyone. Very much looking forward to seeing some of you at FLF.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 7th, 2012 @16:30 #
     
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    Wait, wait, publishers are allowed to submit only four novels? That's one hell of a Solomon's choice to foist on publishers or imprints that focus on quality fiction -- disproportionately affects Jacana, Umuzi, Kwela and possibly also Penguin, which is helluva unfair. Plus I see the judges did have a "discretion" clause, which should have been invoked. Richard, it's lovely that yr grapes aren't sour, but I am very cross about this. And not just because I edited yr gorgeous book.

    Have been chewing on this all day because Jamala Safari's 1st novel is eligible for next year. But Jamala is, in terms of international law, technically a stateless citizen. Will he be disqualified because he's a refugee, and if so, how unfair! It's like Kelwyn says, these questions seem silly, but they're actually about who belongs and who doesn't, and there are few more NB questions to ask.

    Then there are the books themselves: the reason I thought Cartwright shouldn't have won IMHO all those years ago (fair play to the man himself, a darn good writer) was because the book had zero SA resonance. (Once again, IMHO.) The Big Stick is not only a brilliant book, it sheds light on a critical and ignored narrative from SA's past.

    Then Kid Moses raises even thornier questions: the American author who lives in Cape Town/Arusha wrote it as an attempt to give expression to the stories of the street kids he came to know in Tanzania, and his efforts to introduce them to the bush that was their national and cultural heritage, but from which they were completely divorced, and which they saw as "belonging" to wealthy tourist outsiders. It's an NB story, an African story, with huge resonance for S. Africa (also beautifully written), and it's a lot more "deserving" than a few of the titles I can see on the list. Ah, all these shades of grey.

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  • <a href="http://cynthiajele.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Nozizwe Cynthia</a>
    Nozizwe Cynthia
    May 7th, 2012 @16:33 #
     
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    Well done everyone, great list. Glad to see books I've read on the list, but I notice that I have quite a bit of reading to do.

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  • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    Henrietta
    May 7th, 2012 @18:53 #
     
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    How long has Jamala Safari been in the country, Helen? According to the rules Sophy posted earlier, someone who "has been resident in South Africa for more than three years" is ok. (Which then makes me think: what about someone who lived, say, their first 20 years in the country, then left and gave up citizenship ...)

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 7th, 2012 @22:03 #
     
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    HRI, Jamala might squeeze under the wire, must find out. But then yr second point is valid -- whose three years of residence counts and whose doesn't, and why? Also, given our history, shouldn't there be a distinction between leaving the country for career/family/whatever reasons, and going into exile? See, it gets more and more complicated. But the "only four books" criteria has got to go.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    May 7th, 2012 @23:08 #
     
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    An ST source told me today that Richard's novel is considered to have been published in SA in Jan 2012 - so it's eligible for next year's prize.

    Helen, I'm in favour of the four-book limit. There are 39 books on this year's longlist, which is already faintly ludicrous.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 7th, 2012 @23:34 #
     
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    Much mollified. I first typed "Moffilied", which would no doubt amuse Richard. Ben-E, I stand by my "why should a literary imprint have to pick only four", but I do agree that 39 books is silly. *whispers* Bambi Kellerman? Really?

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 8th, 2012 @08:09 #
     
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    Good to hear, Ben. I'll have written two new novels by then. One in Dutch and one in English. Possibly on very similar topics.

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  • <a href="http://imago.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sophy</a>
    Sophy
    May 8th, 2012 @09:47 #
     
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    Helen, if the "four books rule" went would publishers not then submit all the books they have published in the past year for the ST awards (it would make sense for them to do so)? And there are a lot of 'em. Logistically, the limit on submissions is essential. The judges cannot possibly read that many books and read them critically. While I understand that some publishers, like Jacana as you rightly mention, focus more on literary fiction and therefore the kind of books that should make the ST fiction longlist, it hardly seems fair for the other publishers (small publishers, in particular) to suffer as a result of the fact that some publishers are allowed more submissions than others.

    On a different note - anyone remember the panel at the FLF last year that discussed the arbitrariness of literary awards? Here are some tweets from the session - http://book.co.za/n6M9 - Justin Cartwright was quick to assure us, having been on the Booker Prize judging panel, that "prizes are absolutely arbitrary" and Imraan Coovadia noted that we should always treat lit awards "with mistrust". I'm sure that the ST judges do their best to assess each book individually and that there is a certain amount of leeway with regards to who qualifies and who doesn't but the whole set-up is essentially, much like citizenship, a random one.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 8th, 2012 @16:52 #
     
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    Agree re arbitrariness (although it doesn't apply when I agree with the judges heh heh), still disagree on capping submissions precisely because this unfairly restricts small publishers that focus on literary fiction. Although I do agree that there has to be some sort of filtering at the beginning of the process, having seen judges for other competitions ploughing through books that should never have been submitted in the first place. And the big publishers should show some sense -- PD Uys is a national treasure, but who submitted the Bambi Kellerman, for Pete's sake?

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