The prize is awarded by the English Academy of South Africa for a work of prose, poetry or drama, and is usually awarded annually. Kozain won the 2007 Olive Schreiner Prize for his debut volume, This Carting Life, which was also awarded the 2006 Ingrid Jonker Prize.
Zakes Mda is also a two-time winner of the Olive Schreiner Prize, however he won it in different genres – for his play The Nun’s Romantic Story in 1996 and his novel Ways of Dying in 1997. Kozain is the first to win the prize twice in the same genre.
Kozain told Books LIVE that when he received notification of winning the prize he was sceptical, as it is usually presented to new or emerging talent. However, after both telephoning and emailing the English Academy, he has been assured there is no error.
“I was a bit disbelieving because I thought the award was only for debut books, so I first called [English Academy administrative officer] Annette Meklis to make sure it wasn’t a hoax,” he says. “I then emailed her a few minutes later to make sure there hadn’t been some kind of a mistake, that Groundwork was my second book and that my first book had won the award in 2007, but she assured me that an author can be awarded twice.”
You can read the last poem from Groundwork, “Kingdom of rain II”, on Kozain’s blog: Groundwork, or watch a video of him reading “Grondwerk” below:
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