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Ken Barris and Steven Boykey Sidley win the 2012/2013 University of Johannesburg Prizes

Ken BarrisSteven Boykey Sidley

Alert! Authors Ken Barris and Steven Boykey Sidley have been announced as the winners of this year’s University of Johannesburg Prizes for Creative Writing.

Life UnderwaterEntanglementBarris wins the main prize, worth R75 000, for his novel Life Underwater, published by Kwela, which is set in Port Elizabeth and “tells the story of of the three Machabeus brothers: Jude, Simon and younger Eli, first as children and teenagers, and then as grown men upon the death of their father.”

Sidley wins the R30 000 debut prize, also for a novel, Entanglement, published by Picador Africa, which centres on “charismatic physicist, Jared Borowitz, [whose] arrogance sets in motion a chain of events that brings menace and violence into [his loved one's] lives over a long night…”

The prizes do not distinguish among the different genres of writing: fiction competes with poetry and non-fiction for the gongs, a fact that led to a rather curious situation when this year’s shortlists were unveiled. Two books by author Imraan Coovadia appeared on the main prize shortlist, one a novel, the other a book of essays. One wonders how he feels about losing twice. (He has won previously, in 2010.) Sidley, meanwhile, has also been shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, whose winner will be announced tomorrow night. Find the full UJ Prize shortlists here.

Here is the press release from the University of Johannesburg, which however doesn’t contain any comment from the judges:

The University of Johannesburg is pleased to announce the winners of its annual literary award:

The main prize of R75 000 is awarded to Ken Barris for Life Underwater.

The debut prize of R30 000 is awarded to Steven Boykey Sidley for Entanglement.

A formal prize-giving ceremony will be held at a function in August 2013.

Background information

The prizes are not linked to a specific genre. This may make the evaluation more challenging 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 is to open the prize to as many forms of creative writing as possible.

Approximately 70 works were submitted this year.

Congratulations to Barris and Sidley!

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