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Shortlists for the 2012/2013 University of Johannesburg Prizes for South African Writing in English

Alert! Imraan Coovadia has been nominated twice for this year’s main University of Johannesburg Prize – for his novel The Institute of Taxi Poetry and for his collection of essays, titled Transformations.

Coovadia’s books will be up against Ken Barris’ Life Underwater for the coveted R65 000 main UJ Prize. The UJ Prizes, in both the “main” and “debut” categories, are given without respect to genre, which makes the double nomination for Coovadia possible.

In the debut category, Steven Boykey Sidley’s Entanglement, Ashraf Kagee’s Khalil’s Journey and Shafinaaz Hassim’s SoPhia will compete for the R25 000 prize.

Both Coovadia and Sidley’s books have also been shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize this year.

Last year, Craig Higginson won the main UJ Prize for The Landscape Painter and Terry Westby-Nunn scooped the UJ Debut Prize for The Sea of Wise Insects.

The winners for 2013 will be announced later this month, with the awards ceremony taking place later in the year.

Press release

Some exciting names are on the shortlist for the UJ Prizes for South African Writing in English. The shortlist has been compiled from approximately 70 submitted works.

The panel of seven adjudicators has agreed on a shortlist of possible winners:


EntanglementKhalil's JourneySoPhia
Entanglement by Steven Boykey Sidley

Khalil’s Journey by Ashraf Kagee

SoPhia by Shafinaaz Hassim

Main Prize

Life UnderwaterThe Institute for Taxi PoetryTransformations

Life Underwater by Ken Barris

The Institute of Taxi Poetry by Imraan Coovadia

Transformations by Imraan Coovadia

The prize winners will be announced in June 2013 and the prizes will be presented at a gala ceremony later in the year.


In 2006, the University of Johannesburg instituted two prizes:

The UJ Prize for the best creative work in English; and

The UJ Prize for the best creative debut work in English.

The value of the prizes is:

The UJ Prize: R65 000

The UJ Debut Prize: R25 000


The UJ Prize is awarded to the writer of the best original creative work in English published in the previous calendar year. The UJ Debut Prize is awarded to the writer of the best original creative debut work in English published in the previous calendar year.

The selection panel

The selection panel comprised the following seven members:

Four members of the Department of English, UJ

Two academics from other universities

One member from the media industry or publishing

For the adjudication of the 2012 prizes the panel was as follows:

Four members from the Department of English at the University of Johannesburg

Karen Scherzinger
Craig MacKenzie
Ronit Frenkel
Jane Starfield

One member of media industry or writer

Chris Thurman (Wits)

Two academics from other institutions:

Betty Govinden (UKZN)
Chris Ouma (UCT)


We decided not to link the prizes to a specific genre. This may make the evaluation more difficult in the sense that, for example, a volume of poetry, a novel and a biographical work must be measured against one another, but the idea was to open the prize to as many forms of creative writing as possible.


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Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    June 4th, 2013 @13:30 #

    I enjoyed both Imraan's books very much, and would count either one a worthy winner of the UJ Prize, but shortlisting the two of them for a single prize - in a shortlist of three - seems absurd.

    Ah well, good luck to the nominees!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sophy</a>
    June 4th, 2013 @14:41 #

    With three nominations in two months, Imraan should soon have enough money to get the Guptas back to Saharanpur.


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