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Archive for April 20th, 2015

“I Became an African in South Africa” – Read Binyavanga Wainaina’s Heartfelt Response to the Xenophobic Violence

One Day I Will Write About This PlaceHow to Write About AfricaKwani?

Binyavanga Wainaina has responded to the xenophobic violence in South Africa, in which seven people have lost their lives, with a series of touching tweets describing his fond memories of Mzansi in the heady political days of the 1990s.

“I became an African in South Africa,” the Kenyan writer says. “They taught me to understand the possibilities of engaged political action. I was adopted by many.”

He continues: “I was made at home in Umtata, Motherwell, Soweto, Mdantanse, and more. Loved township living.”

Wainaina was born in Nakuru, Kenya, in 1971, and studied commerce at the University of Transkei in South Africa from 1991. He moved to Cape Town in 1996, where he worked as a travel and food writer and professional cook. He completed an MPhil in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2010.

He came out as gay in a “lost chapter” of his memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place, in January last year, and shortly afterwards was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

“So many black South Africans opened doors 4 me, and I was completely stranded and afraid. Never asked for anything in return. For years.

“I have felt alone, really alone, many times. I never felt alone in a black university in South Africa.

“To this day, there is a Xhosa in my heart somewhere deep.”

Read a timeline of Wainaina’s tweets:



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Image: The Guardian

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Rare South African Book up for Charity Auction to Celebrate World Book Day

Antiquarian Auctions, a Cape Town-based international auction platform dedicated to the sale of rare books, maps, and other documents, is celebrating World Book Day (23 April) by auctioning a facsimile copy of Samuel Daniell’s African Scenery and Animals, estimated to be worth $700 (about R8 500).

The auction is running from 16 to 23 April, and the full proceeds will be donated to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), to help it in its attempts to reduce illiteracy in South Sudan.

A facsimile reprint of the large folio of aquatint plates first published in 1804 – 1805.

30 colour plates, half blue leather and marbled boards, a new copy from the publisher’s stock.

With an Introduction and Notes by Dr Frank R. Bradlow. Number 404 of an edition limited to 550 copies signed by Frank Bradlow.

‘Samuel Daniell’s folio album of plates” African Scenery and Animals” was the first of the great colour-plate books produced about Southern Africa. It precedes William Cornwallis Harris’s Portraits of the Game and Wild Animals of Southern Africa the second of these albums – by some thirty years. Daniell’s splendid atlas folio album differs in important respects from nearly all its great successors; the main difference arises from its early date of publication (preceding the first British occupation of the Cape) and it this belongs to an historical era in which the British were not firmly established” and records a different milieu from those that followed.’ From the introduction by Frank Bradlow.

Press release:

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) has recently started a campaign among its international members, to support the UNESCO World Book & Copyright Day on the 23rd April 2015. ILAB is the umbrella organization of the professional rare book trade uniting 22 national associations and around 2000 rare book dealers in 34 countries worldwide.

“This is a day to celebrate books as the embodiment of human creativity and the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding and tolerance.” says Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. The campaign is aimed at raising funds that will be donated to UNESCO. Organised by ILAB, antiquarian booksellers worldwide will organize Pop Up Book Fairs in their home cities and towns on the 23rd of April, often in unusual locations to reach a wider audience. In an official statement ILAB has communicated: “Book collectors start as book readers! If we are concerned about the future of the book and younger generations of collectors, we must start at the very beginning. That’s why ILAB Pop Up Book Fairs on April 23, will be more than just a fair: they will be a venue for raising money to fight illiteracy! UNESCO is the most powerful worldwide partner we could have, and the UNESCO Sahara literacy projects deserve all our support. The money raised on the ILAB Pop Up Book Fairs will be used for a books’ donation in schools and libraries in Sub-Saharan Africa.” is an online auction platform, founded by antiquarian bookseller Paul Mills of Clarke’s Africana & Rare Books, who is a member of the British Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association (ABA) and therefore a member of the international trade association ILAB. is an international auction platform, dedicated to the sale of rare books, maps & prints, documents, letters, ephemera and vintage photography and operates from offices in Cape Town. Paul Mills: “Even though we are an international business, our offices are based in Cape Town, South Africa and we felt that it is particularly important for us to support the campaign. South Africa alone has very high levels of illiteracy with varying statistics. We need to support education and training to fight illiteracy.”

At the next auction which runs from 16-23rd April, Clarke’s Rare Books & Africana will sell a facsimile copy of S. Daniell’s: African Scenery and Animals, donating the proceeds to UNESCO. This is a facsimile reprint of the large folio of aquatint plates, first published in 1804-1805 with an introduction and notes by Frank Bradlow and signed by him.

Samuel Daniell arrived at the Cape on 9 December 1799. He was appointed by Lieutenant-General Dundas, who became his patron there, and to whom the first volume (part) is dedicated, to act as secretary to a mission to the ‘Booshuanas’. The expedition eventually reached Lataku, at that time the limit of European exploration, and was the source for Daniell of the plates.’ Daniell’s African Scenery and Animals is described as ‘the scarcest and most valuable of the large atlas folios of South African illustrations.’ (Mendelssohn, South African Bibliography)

Description: 30 colour plates, large folio (610 x 460 mm), half blue leather, marbled boards, a fine copy, Facsimile reprint. One of an edition limited to 550 copies, Cape Town, (1804-1805) 1976. Estimate: $700

Please note that only this item will be donated to charity. The auction is not an entire charity auction. is an online auction site dedicated to the sale of rare and out-of print books, maps & prints, documents, letters, ephemera and vintage photography. Dealers and collectors worldwide have been selling and bidding on the site since 2010. Only established booksellers who are members of major national trade associations such as ABA, ABAA, PBFA or SABDA or are of good standing in the trade are permitted to sell on the site.

Auctions are held every five weeks and run on the model of a timed auction for one week. All pricing is done in US$. No buyer’s premium is charged.

Next auction: Auction #42: 16 – 23 April 2015


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’n Ondersoek na Zoo City deur Lauren Beukes: Net nog ’n ontvlugtingsopsie?

Lauren Beukes

‘n Nagraadse student in skeppende skryfkuns aan die Universiteit Stellenbosch, Alettie van Heerden, het onlangs ‘n akademiese artikel op LitNet gepubliseer waarin sy ondersoek instel na Lauren Beukes se immergewilde Zoo City as ‘n voorbeeld van heterotopiese literatuur.

Zoo City (UK edition)Zoo City (SA edition)Zoo City (UK edition)Zoo City (US edition)

Met ‘heterotopiese literatuur’ word verwys na Foucault se konsep van heterotopie – die wyse waarop gedefiniëerde spasies rondom ‘n bepaalde spasie sy sin van identiteit en outonomie kan beïnvloed of selfs bepaal. Van Heerden kyk na Beukes se sukses as ‘n skrywer binne die konteks van haar status as een van Suid-Afrika se literêre rocksterre asook die lof en kritiek op haar werk en ontleed Zoo City as ‘n heterotopiese roman. Sy doen dit alles ten einde uit te vind of Beukes se spesifieke tak van die letterkunde as “net nog ‘n ontvlugtingsopsie” beskryf kan word.

Lees die artikel, maar wees gewaarsku – dit is relatief lywig! Dit is egter die moeite werd indien jy nuuskierig is oor een van die grootste name in die Suid-Afrikaanse boekbedryf:

Lauren Beukes is in 2013 as Suid-Afrika se “hottest current writer in world terms” (De Kock 2013) en een van die jong Suid-Afrikaanse skrywers “wired to a global idiom” (Jamal 2013) beskryf. Die mate waarin Beukes daarin slaag om met ’n internasionale mark in gesprek te tree, is duidelik uit die sukses en positiewe ontvangs van veral haar laaste drie romans: Zoo City (2010), The shining girls (2013) en Broken monsters (2014). Vir eersgenoemde het sy in 2011 die gesogte Arthur C. Clarke-toekenning vir wetenskapfiksie ontvang en gevolglik toenemende aandag in die plaaslike, asook die internasionale, media geniet. The shining girls het op die kortlys vir die Crime Writers’ Association se Goldsboro Gold Dagger verskyn (Van der Leek 2013) en die Universiteit van Johannesburg se letterkundeprys ontvang ( Boonop is die filmregte vir laasgenoemde roman deur MRC en Leonardo DiCaprio se Appian Way bekom (Van der Leek 2013). Soos The shining girls – wat onder andere goeie resensies in The New York Times en The Guardian gekry het (Van der Leek 2013) – het Broken monsters met die aanvang van Beukes se boekbekendstellingstoer in September 2014 in die VSA reeds publisiteit in verskeie bekende Amerikaanse publikasies ontvang (vergelyk skakels beskikbaar by Boonop kon sy dit met ’n twiet van Stephen King (@StephenKing, 7 Augustus 2014) bemark: “Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes: Scary as hell and hypnotic. I couldn’t put it down. Next month. I’d grab it, if I were you.” Aan die einde van die toer het Beukes op Twitter bekendgemaak dat ’n ooreenkoms vir die verfilmingsregte vir Broken monsters in die pyplyn is (


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Book Bites: 19 April 2015

The Ladies of the HouseThe Ladies of the House
Molly McGrann (Macmillan)
Book buff
The premise of three elderly people found dead in a house in London might lead you to believe that this is a thriller. Instead McGrann delivers a poignant story about former high-end call girls now living out their days in desperate straits. She traces their lives back to when they were hopeful, ambitious young women who – in the universal way of the world – fall into prostitution just to survive. Vivid in its setting, rich in characterisation, this is a memorable novel from the former editor of The Paris Review.
- Michele Magwood @michelemagwood

Hunger Eats a ManHunger Eats a Man
Nkosinathi Sithole (Penguin)
Book buff
Priest Gumede lives with his family in Ndlalidlindoda, a place of hunger. Struggling to feed his family, he is haunted by his conscience – which makes taking certain jobs hard – and his son, who questions everything, including his faith. While Ndlalidlindoda is riddled with poverty not far away is Canaan, a place where the rich live and thrive. The division is vividly written, and through his characters’ helplessness, Sithole finely delineates the double standards of politicians, who sweet-talk the poor into giving away their rights.
- Kholofelo Maenetsha @KMaenetsha

Jani ConfidentialJani Confidential
Jani Allan (Jacana)
Book buff
Overwritten, dripping with dropped names and as full of holes as Eugene Terreblanche’s green underpants, Jani Allan’s memoir is utterly unputdownable. The alleged Terreblanche affair? Not my fault, Jani claims, and nothing happened anyway. She may be born-again, but she has some decidedly un-Christian comments about the people and city, Johannesburg, that raised her so high, then dropped her. But the odd whiney note can be forgiven in a book that is an unmitigated guilty pleasure.
- Aubrey Paton

Because The NightBecause the Night
Stacy Hardy (Pocko)
Book buff
This series of short fiction pieces focuses on sex as need, as escape, release, role-play and rebellion. The protagonists are rarely named, lending the collection a voyeuristic quality. There is little tenderness in these tales, yet the reading is compelling. “You learn to live in the cracks, on the perimeter, with the need,” writes Hardy. Each piece, the settings of which are uniquely South African, is punctuated by the evocative photography of Mario Pischedda. This sexy, literary read is for those who like it dark and raw.
- Joanne Hichens @JoanneHichens

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Joan Hambidge resenseer Nuwe stories 3 saamgestel deur Suzette Kotzé-Myburgh en Leti Kleyn

Nuwe stories 3Uitspraak: wortel

Die bloemlesing is tegnies goed versorg en die twee samestellers het uitstekende werk verrig.

Die boek is veral vir jong lesers aan te beveel. Vir kortverhaalkanoniseerders is dit ’n belangrike baken. Vir hierdie leser is dit altyd belangrik om tred te hou met die binnelewe van jong mense en dit wat hulle aanspreek. Die verskillende verhale, soos dit in ’n versamelbundel die geval is, speel dan ook op mekaar in en amplifiseer temas.

In elk van hierdie bydraes is daar genoegsame belofte van talent. Hopelik bly hulle nie net “nuwe stemme” nie, maar word hulle gerekende stemme.


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Alta Cloete resenseer Gelyke kans deur Santie van der Merwe

Gelyke kansUitspraak: wortel

Een van die lekkertes van die verhaal is dat almal wie se lewens intens hierdeur geraak word, se ervaring op geloofwaardige wyse aangespreek word. Die ontroue eggenoot, die paartjie se kinders sowel as die meisie by wie hy betrokke raak, word genuanseerd geteken. Niemand is volmaak reg of volkome verkeerd nie. Elkeen reageer volgens sy of haar persoonlikheid.


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Recipients of National Orders for Literature Announced but Ceremony Postponed Because of Xenophobic Violence

Children of ParadiseMihloti ya tinganaDr Cassius Lubisi, Chancellor of National Orders, has announced that Orders of Ikhamanga are to be bestowed on Themba Patrick Magaisa and posthumously on Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane.

The honours were to be awarded on Freedom Day, Monday, 27 April 2015. However, the Presidency has released a statement announcing that the ceremony will be postponed “as the country is mourning the deaths of seven people that were killed during violent attacks on foreign nationals last week”.

The Freedom Day anniversary will however still be marked on 27 April at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The National Orders are South Africa’s highest honour for eminent citizens and foreign nationals, and are awarded in recognition of a contribution to democracy and improving the lives of South Africans.

Magaisa and Mzamane will be given the Order of Ikhamanga, which recognises excellence in arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport. Previous recipients of the award for literature include Mandla Langa, Sindiwe Magona and Zakes Mda, whose order was bestowed last year.

The order is being bestowed in Bronze on Magaisa, who is the author of a number of Xitsonga books including Mihloti ya tingana. Magaisa won South African Literary Awards (SALAs) in 2012 and 2014.

Themba Patrick Magaisa: For his outstanding contribution to the development of indigenous literature in South Africa. His literary work has enriched the primary and secondary education curricula in our country.

Mzamane, who passed away in 2014, will posthumously be awarded the order in Silver. He is the author of a number of novels, including Children of Paradise, and was described by Nelson Mandela as a “visionary leader and one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals”.

Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the development of African literature and the upliftment of African languages on the global stage.

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Don’t Miss Achille Mbembe’s Lecture “Decolonizing the University Now” at Wits University

On the PostcolonyAchille Mbembe, celebrated political philosopher and author of On the Postcolony, will be presenting a public lecture hosted by WiSER.

The title of Mbembe’s lecture is “Decolonizing the University Now: Five New Directions”. It will be given at 6 PM on Wednesday, 22 April, at the WiSER Seminar Room at Wits University.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 22 April 2015
  • Time: 6 PM
  • Venue: WiSER Seminar Room
    6th Floor, Richard Ward Building
    Wits University
    1 Jan Smuts Avenue
    Braamfontein | Map
  • Refreshments: Drinks will be served

Book Details

  • On the Postcolony by Achille Mbembe
    EAN: 9781868146918

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A Jaunty Mashup of Fable, Satire and History: Steven Sidley Reviews Christopher Hope’s Jimfish

By Steven Sidley for the Sunday Times

Christopher Hope (Penguin)

Many of Christopher Hope’s novels – novels that have helped him amass a treasure chest of awards and accolades over a 45-year writing career – have foraged in the fertile terrains of apartheid South Africa. His latest, Jimfish, spreads its wings a little further, while still using South Africa as its home and muse.

The book starts in 1984: clearly not an accidental date. It is a glorious miscellany and jaunty mashup of fable, satire, history lesson, magical realism and the psychology of absolute power, meandering bemusedly among the grinning architects of genocides, wars, failed states and human misery in Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. The lighthearted and non-literary style is clearly intentional, it contrasts loudly and effectively with the author’s rage that bubbles deep below the surface of the book.

The setup of the novel bursts out of its second paragraph. A boy with no obvious history or racial classification appears mysteriously on the harbour wall of a small coastal town in the Eastern Cape. He is wide-eyed and trusting, is taken in by the kind skipper of a local trawler, and is given the pejorative name “Jimfish”. His mentor is washed overboard soon afterwards, and our bewildered young innocent is physically swept up by the dizzying tides of 10 years of history at its darkest – whisked to Mugabe’s Matabeleland, Uganda, Chernobyl, Moscow, Romania, Zaire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, the Comoros and finally back to South Africa. Along the way, Jimfish briefly and naively befriends purveyors of genocides and merchants of death and casual warmongers, murderers and torturers of all stripes. He listens wide-eyed to their justifications and cheery descriptions of mayhem and carnage (witnessing some at close and graphic quarters).

The venal characters he meets along the way are cheery folk, happy in their work, comfortable in their moral certainties even amid the horrors they perpetrate. This creates a terrible cognitive dissonance, not only for Jimfish, but for the reader too – a neat trick given the simplicity of the writing. It is uncomfortably compelling to read an impish telling of Hannah Arendt’s ‘banality of evil’, even more so as told though the eyes of a Gump-like naïf in simple language even a child could understand.

Jimfish is a successfully camouflaged polemic of moral outrage, couched softly but firmly in the language of quiet but appalled witness.

Follow Steven on Twitter @stevensidley

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Image: Jerry Bauer

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A Deft Double Agent: Bron Sibree Speaks to Parker Bilal AKA Jamal Mahjoub About His Novel The Burning Gates

By Bron Sibree for the Sunday Times

The Burning GatesThe Burning Gates
Parker Bilal (Bloomsbury)

Four years and four novels into his double life as a writer of both literary and crime fiction, Jamal Mahjoub, otherwise known as Parker Bilal, has no regrets. Indeed, the Anglo-Sudanese author of such lauded and perceptive literary works as Travelling with Djinns, The Drift Latitudes and Nubian Indigo, admits he enjoys his double life so much: “I don’t think I’ll give it up.” In the guise of Parker Bilal, meanwhile, he has just released the fourth in his lavishly acclaimed Inspector Makana series, The Burning Gates, and says writing under different guises, “gives me a kind of separation wall in my head where I can see ideas on both sides of what is quite a blurred literary divide”.

Mahjoub feels that he is still discovering new elements in the character of Makana, one of the most enigmatic and beguiling protagonists to enter the crime genre in recent times. Indeed, he doesn’t yet know his first name. Makana is an expatriate Sudanese who, having fled Sudan’s hardline Islamist military regime during the ’90s, now makes a haphazard living in Cairo as a private detective. “That’s what makes it interesting for me. There has to be an unknown element that I discover along the way. That’s the stuff that gets your heart beating.”

Another subject that gets Mahjoub’s heart beating is heritage and its wilful destruction – a subject that underwrites The Burning Gates. This high-octane, adroitly layered mystery sees Makana thrust into the dark, murky world of stolen artworks and war crimes when an Egyptian art dealer asks him to locate a fugitive Iraqi general and a stolen painting on behalf of an American collector. Set in 2004, it’s anchored in the events of 2003, says Mahjoub, “when American troops arrived in Baghdad and secured the Ministry of Petroleum while ignoring the museums and libraries”.

“I think 2003 was really a point at which things were triggered that we are still seeing the consequences of. What we are witnessing now happening with ISIS is part of the sort of mathematical progression that come from that moment.”

For Mahjoub, who maintains that “the literary novel is no longer a cental pivot around which our cultural awareness turns,” it all began with Cairo, the city to which, like his fictional protagonist, he and his parents fled to from Sudan, in the wake of the 1989 military coup. What began as a burning desire to write a large epic novel about Cairo, his home for a decade, merged with his long-time love affair with crime fiction. “The scale and historical age of the city, the contrasts between the haves and have-nots; these two worlds going side by side and this sense of injustice of many aspects of life there made me feel that there had to be some real, deep-seated message in all of this. That there was something worth trying to understand about it, and that seemed to me well-suited to the crime novel. There has always been a moral, driving conscience in crime fiction and I think that crime fiction is addressing an urgency that people feel is missing in literary fiction.”

Mahjoub hasn’t lost faith in literary fiction. But he believes people look to the crime genre in particular “for assurance of some kind, for putting the world to rights; things they don’t believe they’ll find in literary fiction”. And in writing his Makana books, he concedes that he too, is driven by a compulsion to counter prevailing misconceptions about the world Makana inhabits. “It’s not that I feel I have an axe to grind, it’s more that I feel there’s a hell of a lot there that’s not coming to light, that people cannot see.

“In that sense it’s not so much about putting things right, it’s about straightening the picture in the frame.”

Follow Bron on Twitter @BronSibree

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Image: Aisha Seeberg

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