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The Twenty in 20 Longlist: the Best Short Stories of South Africa’s Democracy

20 Years of Democracy

 

Alert! Today, Books LIVE unveils the longlist for the Twenty in 20 project, a Twenty Years of Freedom initiative whose aim is to identify the best South African short stories published in English during the past two decades of democracy.

The project, launched in May, began with a call to the public to submit short stories for consideration. Over 200 submissions were received; it was then up to Books LIVE and Short Story Day Africa – under the auspices of the Department of Arts and Culture and the Twenty in 20 judges’ chair – to review the submissions, read the stories, and undertake the difficult task of producing a fifty-story longlist for the full panel of judges to consider.

After an intense “power read” of the submissions this week, and an equally consuming email discussion and debate, our eyes may collectively feel like achey prunes, but we’ve also great cause to celebrate, for the calibre of the stories submitted was extremely high. As the Short Story Day team of Rachel Zadok and Tiah Beautement, who threw themselves into the task, can attest, the health of South African letters in its short form is very vigorous indeed.

Today, 21 June, is the shortest day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere, and is of course Short Story Day Africa, making for a highly appropriate occasion to announce the Twenty in 20 longlist.

Without further ado, then, here is the longlist (alphabetical by author’s surname; and note you can scroll within the document – also available here – to see the complete list details):

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The stories represent a range of styles and artistic intentions, with the years in the new millennium taking the lion’s share (eight stories are from 1994-1999; the balance from 2000-2014) – a reflection both of the growth of South Africa’s publishing industry since democracy dawned, and of the resurgence of the short story in recent years.

A handful of writers have more than one story on the longlist, a testament to their commitment to and achievement within the form, while several others might be described as “debut” authors, having published for the first time only recently.

As with every literary list, the Twenty in 20 longlist is bound to attract comment – which we welcome. There’s no doubt at Books LIVE and Short Story Day Africa that each of the fifty stories on this list stands as an accomplished work; on the other hand it grieved us greatly to leave other stories that we loved off it.

(Please send in any technical comments and corrections you might have, in terms of spelling, dates, publication, etc., to twenty@bookslive.co.za.)

It’s now time to hand over to Mandla Langa (chair), Karabo Kgoleng, Mtutuzeli Matshoba and Fiona Snyckers – the Twenty in 20 judging panel – to pick the best twenty English stories of South Africa’s democracy. It won’t be easy – we wish them luck!

Project Process and Timeline

Here are the remaining key dates of the Twenty in 20 short story project:

June and July: The project judges receive the longlist and read and deliberate over the stories. (Note: judges will also receive a list of all the submissions, and may call stories from this list for further consideration.)

Monday 21 July: The top 20 short stories are announced on Books LIVE, with support from Short Story Day Africa.

September: The Twenty in 20 compilation of short stories is launched as a new compilation at National Book Week.

Project Partners

Department of Arts and CultureBooks LIVESSDALogo

 

The Department of Arts and Culture was established to support, develop and protect the arts, culture and heritage of South Africa. It is a key driver of the South Africa government’s Twenty Years of Freedom programme of activities.

Books LIVE was founded in 2006 and has grown into South Africa’s top web portal for local book and publishing news. It is part of the Times Media LIVE group of websites, which comprise a division of Times Media (Pty) Ltd.

Short Story Day Africa is a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing together writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, teachers and school children to write, read, workshop and discuss stories – and foster the love of reading and writing African fiction. Its debut publication of short stories, Feast, Famine or Potluck saw two stories shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Literature.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://rachelzadok.bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rachel Zadok</a>
    Rachel Zadok
    June 21st, 2014 @11:56 #
     
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    Congratulations long listed writers. It was a truly difficult task. There were so many fantastic stories, the long list reflects the high calibre of short story writing in South Africa. I don't envy the judges their task of narrowing it down to twenty.

    Well done to Ben for pulling this project together – I have to admit you deserved the cake.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    June 21st, 2014 @12:45 #
     
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    Wasn't the Ndebele published in the 1980s? - I seem to remember it in a TriQuarterly, as well as another place....

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    June 21st, 2014 @13:35 #
     
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    i.e. TriQuarterly 69, 1987.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    June 21st, 2014 @15:07 #
     
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    Thanks for picking that up, Kelwyn. The earliest record we could find for that story was 1996. We will replace it with the first alternate.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    June 21st, 2014 @17:04 #
     
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    (...which was Andrew Salomon's A Visit to Dr Mamba, and which now reflects.)

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  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    June 21st, 2014 @19:55 #
     
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    Oh, that's exciting! Wonderful list of authors and stories, can't help loving Dr Mamba though...

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  • Maire
    Maire
    July 9th, 2014 @12:13 #
     
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    Not long to go now ...

    Monday 21 July: The top 20 short stories are announced on Books LIVE, with support from Short Story Day Africa ...

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