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Archive for November, 2016

Happy Birthday to The Book Lounge

Like It MattersIncredible JourneyThe Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesMede-weteTjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesnullThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology: Vol. VI


This Thursday, 1 December, The Book Lounge turns nine years old!

To celebrate, they are giving 10 per cent off everything in store for the day, and free tea and coffee.

From 6 PM there will be drinks and readings from David Cornwell, Bongani Kona, Antjie Krog, Jolyn Phillips and Koleka Putuma.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

Book details

  • How Free is Free? Reflections on Freedom of Creative Expression in Africa
    EAN: 9780992225216
    Read online for free!

Image: Book Lounge on Facebook

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Lessons from a heartbreaking Zulu heritage: Jennifer Platt chats to Nomavenda Mathiane about her book Eyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story

Published in the Sunday Times

Nomavenda Mathiane


Eyes in the NightEyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story
Nomavenda Mathiane (Bookstorm)

Nomavenda Mathiane is one of those people you immediately feel comfortable talking to, but at the same time you want to impress her. Her book Eyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story sticks in your head and plays with your emotions. Mathiane was one helluva journalist who worked on most major South African newspapers. She started off at The World during the uprisings of 1976. Later she worked at Frontline magazine – one of the few black women journalists who wrote about how people really lived in Soweto and other townships.

In her latest book, Mathiane tells the story of her grandmother. It’s a story she didn’t know, one she stumbled upon at her mother’s funeral.

“There was no other time I could have written it,” Mathiane says. “Because I didn’t know about my grandmother’s life. I heard about the story two years before I retired. In retrospect, if I had known the story a long time ago, I wouldn’t have done a proper job. I would’ve been too emotional. I found my voice and now I am able to sit back and look back at my life and their lives.”

It’s the story of how her grandmother, Nombhosho (which means bullet), survived the Anglo-Zulu war as a young girl. “A tale of woe and triumph,” Mathiane writes.

It’s a story of hardship and dispossession that traces the fate of one Zulu family since 1897. Mathiane says the British colonialists were “ruthless” with the Zulus. “The English torched their homes. People had no homes. That narrative [of what] happened to the Zulu people still hasn’t been told properly.”

During the time of the Anglo-Zulu war, after their land was stolen by the Abelumbi (literally “sorcerers”, the term King Shaka used for white people), her grandmother and great-grandmother and their family had to live in a cave. They had only roots and rats to eat.

There’s a heartbreaking moment when Nombhosho’s mother realises her husband is dead. She finds his shield and assegai at the entrance of the cave. That was a sign from his fellow warriors that he had died.

“It was challenging to write,” Mathiane says. “I was an alien coming into Zululand and listening to the stories. We hardly know where my grandmother’s home was. All we know is she lived next to ‘the shadow mountain’.” Mathiane had to question family members and make many visits to KZN to piece together Nombhosho’s life.

The accounts of what Nombhosho was subjected to as a young girl make the reader angry and sad. Her mother is forced to marry a man she doesn’t know and work with him on a farm, “hell on earth”, as Mathiane describes it. The white farmer beats Nombhosho and tries to rape her.

But it’s not all dire. Mathiane tells her own story of discovering the past, and discovering who she really is. There are light moments when she talks about her family and her visits to them. “There we were, young and old females sharing this huge bedroom. We were like high-school girls having a pyjama party.”

Mathiane hopes that Eyes in the Night will inspire readers to examine the past more closely.

“I want my book to make young people question who they are. When we were told about the Zulu wars at school, we were taught superficially about what happened. We never learned about the Zulu warriors.

“My father was Christian, we lived in the townships. My sister [Sis Ahh] was different, she lived with my grandmother. She was in touch with the soil. She was brought up in the Zulu rituals. None of us other six girls performed the rituals. But I’m richer for knowing what happened. I know who I am now, after writing this book.

“There are so many stories still to be told about that era. This book is just a drop in the ocean. We need people to tell and write these stories.”

Follow Jennifer Platt on Twitter @Jenniferdplatt

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Book Bites: 27 November 2016

Published in the Sunday Times

Fifty Shades of FeminismFifty Shades of Feminism
Edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes & Susie Orbach (Virago)
Book buff
The term feminism has never left my mouth; simply because I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandfather did everything for my grandmother, including bringing her breakfast in bed every morning. I always believed it’s logical to do things in a fair and equal way without putting a word to it. And if your thoughts are like mine, I suggest you read this book. It looks at 50 women, exploring what feminism means to them and what still needs to be done – from sexuality and politics to family and fashion. Even readers who have never considered themselves to be feminists might change their minds. – Rea Khoabane @Rea_Khoabane

On BowieOn Bowie
Rob Sheffield (Headline Book Publishing)
Book real
Sheffield is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and a lifelong David Bowie fan. He was up late at night working when he heard the news of the star’s death, and immediately leaned over to press play on his Bowie mixtape. Later that morning, his editor phoned to ask him to keep writing about Bowie for the next month. The result is this hastily written “love letter”, with a breathless quality that seems fitting in the face of genius. Sheffield’s observations are acute and his anecdotes illuminating, and he is able to lay his hand on the perfect lyric to illustrate a point. Bowie’s arcane wisdom is a reassuring presence. – Jennifer Malec @projectjennifer

The Monster's DaughterThe Monster’s Daughter
Michelle Pretorius (Melville House)
Book mystery
In her action-packed debut novel, Pretorius creates a skilful narrative involving a determined young sleuth whose work on a contemporary murder case reveals the unedifying history of South Africa and exposes the intrigues of unscrupulous individuals. Transferred to a dorp in the Western Cape, disgraced Constable Alet Berg becomes involved in investigations following a murder on a local farm. She pursues the case despite warnings and threats. The background to the murder extends as far back as 1901, when a medic performs experiments on women in the British concentration camps; and continues through apartheid, its deconstruction and the complexities of the present. A work of powerful imagination and profound insight. – Moira Lovell

What a BoykieWhat a Boykie: The John Berks Story
Robin Binckes (30 Degree South Publishers)
Book thrill
Who would have thought that a stammering young chap with an Afrikaans accent, who left school without passing Standard 8, would become one of the best-known voices on English radio in South Africa? This follow-your-dream tale traces Berks’s antecedents from Lithuania to South Africa, recounting his childhood on the West Rand, his military training, and his determination to become a radio jockey. Sensitive, witty and humorous, it shows Berks’s passion for drawing pictures with words. Berks became notorious for his pranks, for breaking taboos and handling (inciting?) controversy on air. This portrait touches on the challenges of navigating apartheid laws to bring relevant news to listeners. Prankster, raconteur and family man, this memoir reveals multiple facets of a unique personality. – Ayesha Kajee @ayeshakajee

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Genesis of a drummer: Michele Magwood interviews Phil Collins about his memoir Not Dead Yet

Phil Collins’s excesses were mild by rock star standards, but he still feels plenty of guilt, writes Michele Magwood

Not Dead YetNot Dead Yet: The Autobiography
Phil Collins (Century)

“Music made me, but it also unmade me,” writes Phil Collins towards the end of this absorbing autobiography. “I carry guilt over each of my kids, I carry guilt for everything, frankly.”

On the shelf of rock memoirs it’s comparatively mild: there’s none of the anguish and glamour of Eric Clapton or the visceral swagger of Keith Richards. There’s no heroin or groupies or smashed hotel rooms. Only late in the book – and late in his life – does he tip into alcoholism, bored by retirement and depressed by his patchwork family, shuttling between three ex-wives and five children all over the world, trying to be a presence in their lives.

There are blackouts and falls, pancreatitis and smashed teeth, stints in hospitals and rehabs and eventually – and only recently – sobriety.

Most of the book, though, is an entertaining chronicle of the making of a maestro, a musician whose songs have formed the soundtrack to millions of lives. He is one of only three recording artists to have sold more than 100 million albums both as solo artists and as part of a band (the others are Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson). He’s won an Oscar (for the song “You’ll Be In My Heart”, from Tarzan) and a Lieutenant of the Victorian Order medal from Buckingham Palace for his admirable charity work. (He donates all royalties in South Africa to the Topsy Foundation.) He counts rock gods and royalty as his friends.

Collins sounds tired on the phone from London, vague and slightly rambling. Recent photographs of him show him to be frail. His back is, by his account, “completely shot” after 50 years of drumming, his hands have seized up and he’s deaf in one ear.

We talk about the process of songwriting, whether it starts with a melody or a line. “Basically it starts with improvisation on a piano,” he says. “If it’s Disney you have some kind of guideline, but otherwise you can do what you want. I just improvise and play around with it and record everything until it starts to become an idea. It’s fairly haphazard.”

The early chapters cover his love affair with the drums. He was given his first toy set when he was barely three, moving on at age five to a homemade set that consisted of biscuit tins and a triangle. He’d set it up in the corner of the lounge and play along to all the TV shows. “I’ll play to anything, with anyone,” he remembers. “I’m a versatile jobbing drummer.”

It was a comfortable, lower-middle class upbringing in the dull suburb of Hounslow in London. He had a difficult, distant father and a doting mother who ran a children’s theatrical agency. At the age of 13, young Philip was cast as The Artful Dodger in a West End production of Oliver!, attending school by day and performing at night. It ingrained in him a steely work ethic that has remained with him all his life.

“I can count on one hand the number of shows I cancelled,” he writes. “I will do whatever I can to ensure the show goes on – even if that means dodgy doctors, dubious injections, catastrophic deafness and sustaining injuries that will require major, invasive, flesh-ripping, bone-bolting surgery.”

He would have carried on acting were his head not turned by the emerging – and golden – music scene of the ’60s. He hung out in the clubs watching Cream, The Who and Led Zeppelin, often paying his way by sweeping the club floors. He played in a series of dead-end bands himself until answering an ad in Melody Maker for a drummer for a new band. It was the birth of Genesis, and Phil Collins was launched.

Ask him what he is proudest of in his life, aside from his children, and he doesn’t mention his charity work, the platinum records, the deafening applause of heaving mega stadiums. Instead, he remembers playing drums in a temporary band with his friend Eric Clapton. “We called it The Heaven Band because we all just loved every night, going on stage and playing those songs.”

Ultimately, he says, “I’m a musician. I got a chance to play with a few great people and that’s all I wanted to do. To play. Whether I was a pop star or not was irrelevant.”

He’s not dead yet, and he’s not going quietly yet, either. He’s announced a comeback tour of Europe next year. It won’t be him behind the drums, though. That honour will go to his 16-year-old son, Nic, who’s shaping up to be a mean drummer. Bred in the bone, it seems.
Follow Michele Magwood on Twitter @michelemagwood
•Listen to the podcast here:

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“Finding your voice”: Announcing the 2016 Ba re e ne re Literature Festival in Lesotho (9-11 December)

Invitation to the 2016 Ba re e ne re Literature Festival in Lesotho (9 – 11 December)

Alert! The annual Ba re e ne re Literature Festival will take place from Friday, 9 December, to Sunday, 11 December. The theme of this year’s Lesotho-based festival is “Finding your voice” and the proceedings will kick off on Friday evening with a poetry slam event and the launch of the short story anthology Likheleke tsa puo.

This year’s guests include South African wordsmiths Sindiwe Magona, Masande Ntshanga, Ace Moloi and Joe Machina, as well as Efemia Chela, Karina Szczurek and Catherine Shepherd. Lesotho will be well represented by Thato Mochone, Liatile Mohale and Tumelo Moleleki.

The Ba re e ne re Literature Festival was first held in 2011 by the late founder Liepollo Rantekoa. Ba re e ne re is an educational organisation established to enrich the lives of Basotho people through improved literacy and creative platforms for expression. The festival aims to provide literary training for the next generation of writers and leaders, to connect Lesotho’s literary community with the rest of Africa, and to address issues through the use of literature.

The three-day event will close with a writer’s workshop hosted by The Alliance Française of Maseru and Short Story Day Africa.

For more information, visit the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival’s website and Facebook page.

Chasing The Tails of My Father’s CattleTo My Children's ChildrenThe ReactiveThe ReactiveHolding My Breath
Adults OnlyInvisible OthersWaterHer Heart

Press release

As the team behind Ba re e ne re, we’re extremely excited to announce that our annual event the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival will be held from 9 to 11 December, 2016. We have some incredible activities and guests lined up. We’ll be hosting a poetry open mic and Likheleke tsa puo short-story anthology book launch at Rockview in Khubetsoana from 6 to 10 PM on Friday the 9th. On Saturday, 10 December, from 10 AM to 5 PM we’ll have panel discussions, kids’ activities, a craft market with Nala Social Market and the annual Liepollo Rantekoa Keynote given by the renowned author Sindiwe Magona at Maseru Preparatory School. On Sunday, 11 December, at Alliance Française we’ll host a writing workshop facilitated by Cape Town-based collective Short Story Day Africa from 12 to 4 PM. The theme of the 2016 edition of the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival is “Finding your voice”.

2016 Ba re e ne re Literature Festival Guest biographies

International guests

Sindiwe Magona is a writer, poet, dramatist, storyteller, actress and motivational speaker. She has published autobiographical works, novels and several children’s books over the years. We are very excited to hear her address on the importance of finding our voices as writers. Until 1994 she presented UN radio programmes about the UN’s role in ending apartheid. She then worked in the UN’s Public Information Department until 2003.

Masande Ntshanga was the winner of the 2013 PEN International New Voices Award. He graduated with a degree in Film and Media and an Honours degree in English Studies from the University of Cape Town. He received a Fulbright Award and a National Research Foundation Freestanding Masters scholarship. His debut novel, The Reactive, was published in 2014 by Penguin Random House South Africa. After much interest in the United Kingdom, publisher Jacaranda Books have acquired the rights to publish Masande’s acclaimed literary novel in the United Kingdom and across the Commonwealth. An American edition of the novel was published earlier this year, and German translation rights have also been sold.

Ace Moloi graduated from the University of the Free State where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Science. He was the editor of Young Minds Magazine, a founding editor of Student Leverage Magazine, as well as a former IRAWA Post news editor. In 2013 he self-published his first book, In her fall rose a nation, with New Voices Publishing. His second book, Holding My Breath, was published by Blackbird Books, an imprint of Jacana Media in May of 2016. Ace describes the Exclusive Books (Free State) bestselling memoir as a graveside conversation with his mother.

Joe Machina, born Norman Ncube in Bulawayo Zimbabwe, is a freelance journalist, a member of “Johannesburg writers” and a co-founder of Write Africa. Joe left Bulawayo in search of a new life in Johannesburg. When he first arrived in the new city, he worked as a journalist, and his writing appeared in the Mail & Guardian, and an array of other South African publications. Joe’s work is primarily inspired by the immigrant experience: why do people leave their homes in different parts of the world, to go to foreign lands where they were subject to discrimination, xenophobic attacks and even death? Who drives people to make these difficult decisions? Who is responsible for this suffering? His debut novel Victims of greed was published by Bahati Books.

Short Story Day Africa facilitators

Efemia Chela was born in Zambia in 1991, but grew up all over the world. She studied at Rhodes University, South Africa and Institut D’Etudes Politiques in Aix-En-Provence, France. Her first published story, “Chicken” was nominated for The 2014 Caine Prize For African Writing. Efemia’s subsequent stories and poems have been published in places like Brittle Paper, Jalada, Short.Sharp.Stories: Adults Only, Prufrock and PEN Passages: Africa. Efemia is currently a fellow of the inaugural Short Story Day Africa / Worldreader Editing Mentorship Programme and continues to write fiction whenever she can find a moment on the train and a working pen.

Karina Szczurek was born in Jelenia Góra, Poland, and lived in Austria, the United States and Wales, before finding a home in South Africa when she met and married the author André Brink. She was editor in chief of Water: New Short Fiction from Africa (with Nick Mulgrew, 2015) among many others. Her play for young adults A Change of Mind won the MML Literature Award in the Category English Drama in 2012. She writes short stories, book reviews, essays, and poetry. Invisible Others, her first novel, was longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.

Catherine Shepherd started writing as a child but it was only recently through projects like Short Story Day Africa and Writivism Literary Initiative that she got the courage to put her writing out there. Catherine has a degree in journalism from Rhodes University. Catherine is currently a fellow of the inaugural Short Story Day Africa / Worldreader Editing Mentorship Programme and is editing an anthology of young writers under the supervision of Szczurek. Her short stories have appeared in various publications including My Holiday Shorts, My Maths Teacher Hates Me, Imagine Africa 500 and the 2016 Writivism Anthology. She lives in Cape Town, but has plans to build a writer’s retreat in Suurbraak.

Lesotho-based guests

Thato Mochone is an ambassador of World Vision Lesotho, a Kaya FM correspondent, Martin Luther King Fellow, Mandela Washington Fellow, media consultant and blogger. She is an advocate for youth and women empowerment as well as the LGBT community, an activist journalist interested in social justice, a volunteer fundraiser for an orphanage in her hometown and an English and Geography tutor. She is currently the Communication and Foundation Specialist at Vodacom Foundation after over five years working as a radio personality on Ultimate FM.

Liatile Mohale is a Fulbright scholar who graduated in May 2016 with an impressive 4.0 GPA for her Master’s Degree in Theatre Arts, at San Francisco State University. Before then she obtained her BA in Drama and Theatre Arts from the University of the Free State. Besides being an avid storyteller who tackles pressing social issues and Sesotho culture through theatre, she is a theatre teacher at Machabeng college and has sat as a judge on the Vodacom superstar contest.

Tumelo Moleleki started writing when she was still young and in high school as an outlet because the creative writing she did then always felt so stifling. She self-published a book called Her Heart after which she received an offer from an American company called Dorrance Publishing. In 2006 she got the opportunity to work in Belgium where she took French lessons and developed her grammar skills. She is currently working on manuscripts in French and Sesotho.


Ba re e ne re Literature Festival 2016 would not be possible without the generous support of Miles Morland Foundation, Vodacom Foundation, Unesco, Maseru Prep School, Alliance Francaise, MXXL radio, Bahati Books, Short Story Day Africa, Nala Social Market and Rockview.


Ba re e ne re is a registered educational organisation whose mission is to enrich the lives of Basotho people by promoting initiatives that support improved literacy and creative platforms for expression. Through our work, Basotho, and youth in particular, access training and outlets to practice literacy and share the unique stories Lesotho has to offer with local and international audiences.

Our flagship project is the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival, first held in 2011 by our late founder Liepollo Rantekoa. The festival is an annual international literary arts event, which brings writers, readers and leaders together to share ideas and creative works.

The three goals of the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival are focused for high impact. Through our programming, we aim to:

  • Cultivate the next generation of writers and storytellers in Lesotho through literary training and platforms for expression.
  • Connect Lesotho’s literary arts community with creatives in other African countries and beyond for creative exchange and improved publishing opportunities.
  • Instigate the use of literature as a tool to address pressing socio-economic and political issues within Lesotho.

For more information please visit our Facebook, our website, send us an email at or give us a call on 28322405.

Ke tšomo ka mathetho!


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2016 Morland Writing Scholarship shortlist announced

The Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesFeast, Famine and PotluckIncredible JourneyStationsThe Myth of This Is That We're All in This TogetherThe Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories
Mr. and Mrs. DoctorSeason of Crimson BlossomsSaturday's ShadowsReading the Ceiling


Alert! The Miles Morland Foundation has announced the shortlist for the 2016 Morland Writing Scholarships.

There are four South Africans on the shortlist this year: Amy Heydenrych, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Nick Mulgrew and Bryony Rheam.

Of the 22 names, 11 are from Nigeria, four from South Africa, two each from Somalia and Kenya, and one each from Gambia, Ghana, and Zimbabwe.

There are two Caine Prize winners on the list, 2016 winner Lidudumalingani and 2014 winner Okwiri Oduor.

Lidudumalingani was also awarded the 2015 Short.Sharp.Stories Judges’ Choice Runner-Up Award.

Mulgrew is deputy chair of Short Story Day Africa and the man behind uHlanga Press, and has had a productive 2016, publishing both a collection of short stories and a poetry collection.

Bryony Rheam had a short story featured in Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe in 2011, and her debut novel This September Sun was published in 2012.

Other published authors on the list include Julie Iromuanya, whose debut Mr. and Mrs. Doctor has just been longlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Literature; Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, who recently won the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature for his debut, Season of Crimson Blossoms; Ayesha Harruna Attah, author of Saturday’s Shadows, who was also shortlisted last year; and Dayo Forster, whose debut Reading the Ceiling was published in 2008.

Miles Morland says: “The standard of the shortlist is always high but this year we had an even greater depth of talent than before, making the choosing of a shortlist particularly difficult.

“We had over 500 entries, up from 385 last year and they came from 37 countries, compared with 27 last year. We have two Caine Prize winners on it, and a number of writers who have received global recognition. We are pleased also to have writers early in their career who show terrific promise.

“We have been blown away by the talent, imagination, energy, and humour that characterises African writing. Our only disappointment is that, although we had a number of non-fiction submissions, only one made it to the short list. We are actively trying to encourage non-fiction, Africans telling Africa’s story.”

This year’s judging panel is Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (Zimbabwe, chair), Femi Terry (Sierra Leone) and Muthoni Garland (Kenya). The judges will meet on 12 December to select the five 2016 scholars. The winners’ names will be announced shortly afterwards.

The scholars each receive £18,000 (about R310,000), paid over the course of a year, to allow them to take time off to write the book they have proposed.

2016 Morland Writing Scholarships shortlist

Abdul Adan – Somalia
Jekwu Anyaegbuna – Nigeria
Ayesha Harruna Attah – Ghana
Rotimi Babatunde – Nigeria
Dayo Forster – Gambia
Amy Heydenrych – South Africa
Abubakar Ibrahim – Nigeria
Nneoma Ike-Njoku – Nigeria
Julie Iromuanya – Nigeria
Hamse Ismail – Somalia
William Ifeanyi Moore – Nigeria
Lidudumalingani Mqombothi – South Africa
Nick Mulgrew – South Africa
Otosirieze Obi-Young – Nigeria
Okwiri Oduor – Kenya
Adeola Oeyemi – Nigeria
Olawale Olayemi – Nigeria
Troy Onyango – Kenya
Mary Ononokpono – Nigeria
Koye Oyedeji – Nigeria
Bryony Rheam – South Africa
Sandisile Tshuma – Zimbabwe

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The extraordinary incident of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s BBC Newsnight interview

Half of a Yellow SunWe Should All Be FeministsAmericanahPurple HibiscusAmericanahThe Thing Around Your Neck


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says she felt “upset” and “ambushed” by her recent interview on BBC Newsnight.

The interview, which took place just after the United States election, made international headlines, as Adichie was horribly mismatched with Donald Trump supporter R Emmett Tyrrell, and made some strong remarks about the president-elect, racism and privilege.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Adichie reveals that she was given no indication that she would be pitted against a Trump supporter.

In a comment on the post, BBC Newsnight give a half-hearted apology, saying they are “terribly sorry” Adichie “felt ambushed by the encounter”, claiming that it was “an honest mistake” and expressing the hope that the author will return for a one-on-one interview “some time”.

The programme’s intentions with the match-up were made clear, however, by the simple fact that they couched the title of their initial YouTube video of the encounter in antagonistic terms: “Is Donald Trump racist? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie v R Emmett Tyrrell”. As Adichie says, “It is about entertainment.”

(This is not Adichie’s first unfortunate run-in with the British press. In February 2015 The Guardian erroneously published a very personal piece by Adichie on depression, and had to “apologise unreservedly” for the error.)

Tyrrell, who is editor in chief of the American Spectator, was equally perturbed by the encounter, and wrote a piece for The Washington Times that is nothing short of bizarre. In it, he refers to Adichie and Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis as “two apparently intelligent English-speaking women” – being sure to emphasise their gender – speaking “incomprehensible” “gibberish”. “They showed no sign of drunkenness or of drug abuse so I left the studio perplexed,” he writes.

He refers to Adichie by her first name throughout the article and calls her a “so-called novelist”, “a Nigerian lady of supposedly great gifts”.

“I had never heard of her, and for decades I have kept an eye on the intellectual vistas as editor in chief of The American Spectator,” he trumpets, before switching to misplaced wry amusement and 1920s flapper slang:

“Why on earth she was appearing before a British audience to discuss an American election I have no idea. If the BBC wanted to explore creative writing I suppose she was their gal, but then what was I doing there?”

Tyrrell writes that he even contacted his very good friend and distinguished historian Andrew Roberts, who hadn’t heard of her either.

It is a mystery why Tyrrell did not simply type Adichie’s name into Google. If he had done so, he could have read about her academic and literary background, he would have seen a (very long) list of awards, and would have learnt that she has been based in the United States for 20 years. Further Googling would have revealed that earlier this year Adichie wrote a short story about Donald and Melania Trump for The New York Times Book Review (clearly not enough of an intellectual vista for Tyrrell).

Repeating what was his biggest gaffe in the Newsnight interview, he again refers to Adichie as “highly emotional”, and paraphrases two of the farcically illogical points he made that day as if they prove that he won the debate.

He tops it all off with a gloriously ironic reference to Adichie’s “invincible ignorance”.

Tyrrell hits so many stereotypical notes one would be forgiven for suspecting that he was a very good actor hired to play the part of Fuddy Duddy number one.

Adichie, meanwhile, showing the same composure and eloquence she did in the Newsnight interview, has written a response on Facebook criticising the BBC’s handling of the interview, reiterating her statements about Donald Trump and racism, and specifically taking issue with Tyrell’s problematic use of the word “emotional”:

He didn’t say my name. Perhaps he didn’t know it because he had not paid attention when we were introduced. Mine is not an easy name for languid American tongues anyway. But that word ‘emotional.’ No. Just no.

Normally I would not think of ‘emotional’ as belittling. Emotion is a luminous, human quality. I am often emotional – gratefully so. But in this context it was coded language with a long history.

To say that I responded ‘emotionally’ to the election was to say that I had not engaged my intellect. ‘Emotional’ is a word that has been used to dismiss many necessary conversations especially about gender or race. ‘Emotional’ is a way of discounting what you have said without engaging with it.


Read the full piece, as shared on Adichie’s Facebook page:


By Chimamanda Adichie

Two weeks ago, BBC Newsnight contacted my manager to ask for an interview with me. I would be interviewed by the presenter, they said, and would broadly be asked about the election. I said yes.

When I arrived at their studio in Washington DC, the show’s producer casually said, “You’ll be on a panel with a Trump Supporter. A magazine editor who has supported Donald Trump from the beginning.”

“What?” I said. At no time had I been told that there would be anyone else in the interview, never mind being pitted against a Trump Supporter.

I felt upset and ambushed.

I wanted to walk away, but decided not to. I was already there. And I did want to talk about the election, which I had experienced in a deeply personal way. I was still stunned and angry and sad. I still woke up feeling heavy. Not only because I am an enthusiastic supporter of Hillary Clinton, but also because, with Donald Trump’s win, America just didn’t feel like America anymore. The country that grew from an idea of freedom was now to be governed by an authoritarian demagogue.

“I’m sorry you didn’t know it was a panel,” The producer said. “There must have been some mistake somewhere when your manager spoke to the people in London.”

Some mistake somewhere. My manager had simply not been told.

“We want to have balance,” he said.

But sneakily pitting me against a Trump Supporter was not about balance – we could have easily been interviewed separately.
It is a deliberately adversarial strategy that news organizations use in the pursuit of what is often called ‘good television.’
It is about entertainment.

I told the producer that my condition was that I not be asked to respond directly to anything the Trump Supporter had to say.
We could both air our opinions without being egged on to ‘fight it out.’

The Trump Supporter arrived. A well dressed, well groomed elderly man. The producer greeted him, gushed a little. He introduced me to the Trump Supporter. “She will be on the panel with you,” he said.

The Trump Supporter barely glanced at me.

The producer wanted us to shake hands, and he gestured to complete the introduction. We shook hands.

“How are you?” I said. Something about the tilt of the Trump Supporter’s head made me think that perhaps he had hearing problems – and suddenly his standoffishness was forgivable.

I felt a kind of compassion, while also thinking: why would this man, editor of a conservative magazine, be willing to put America in the hands of a stubbornly uninformed demagogue who does not even believe in classic conservative principles?
We got on air. We were seated uncomfortably close. The studio itself was strange, a flimsy tent on top of a building that overlooks the White House. A strong wind rattled the awning.

The interview began. I was determined to speak honestly, and not be distracted by the Trump Supporter, and be done with it and go home and never again allow myself to be ambushed in a television interview.

Until the Trump Supporter said that word ‘emotionally.’

“I do not respond emotionally like this lady,” he said.

I thought: o ginidi na-eme nwoke a? [“Just what is wrong with this man?” - hat-tip to Brittle Paper for the translation]

He didn’t say my name. Perhaps he didn’t know it because he had not paid attention when we were introduced. Mine is not an easy name for languid American tongues anyway. But that word ‘emotional.’ No. Just no.

Normally I would not think of ‘emotional’ as belittling. Emotion is a luminous, human quality. I am often emotional – gratefully so. But in this context it was coded language with a long history.

To say that I responded ‘emotionally’ to the election was to say that I had not engaged my intellect. ‘Emotional’ is a word that has been used to dismiss many necessary conversations especially about gender or race. ‘Emotional’ is a way of discounting what you have said without engaging with it.

No way was I going to ignore that. Which, predictably, led to an interview in which I found myself, rather than talking about misogyny and populism, responding to a man who claimed that an anti-NAFTA, China-bashing, America-First Donald Trump would be an ‘internationalist’ rather than an ‘isolationist.’

Who presumed that he, a white man, could decide what was racist and what was not. And who insisted that Donald Trump is not a racist, even though the evidence is glaring, even though the House Majority Leader of Donald Trump’s own Republican party condemned Donald Trump’s racism.

So much for responding ‘emotionally’ to the election.

I left that interview still feeling upset. But it made me better see why America no longer feels like America.

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Margaret von Klemperer reviews The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson

Originally published in The Witness

The Child GardenThe Child Garden has been published with puffs from the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Ann Cleeves – all prominent and excellent members of the school of Scottish noir. Maybe they are pleased to welcome another practitioner into their midst, even though Catriona McPherson currently lives in California.

Her novel starts well, with a short, creepy scene of an incident in a remote wood in 1985. Fast forward to the present, and Gloria, the divorced mother of a terminally ill teenager is living in a run-down farmhouse, close to the woods which surround a larger, old house, now a care home where her son lives, but once and briefly a dubious school called Eden, which offered a remarkably alternative education. It was a short lived venture, because after one pupil died, parents, however hippyish, inevitably removed their children.

However, it seems that the former pupils, now in their forties, are dying off at quite a rate. Suicide is the favoured verdict, and so far, no-one seems to have joined the dots that show how connected they are. Then, one dark and stormy night, Stig, an old friend of Gloria’s and a former Eden pupil, turns up at her door. He is afraid that he is being stalked by another of his former classmates … who then turns up dead in the care home grounds in a way that is designed to implicate him. Her mad fantasy, or a chance for someone to kill two birds with one stone? Gloria and Stig begin to investigate.

McPherson creates plenty of red herrings – a few too many, perhaps – and a web of intrigue and connection. But I began to have an inkling of where we were going a little too soon, and the whole thing was a little too convoluted to be entirely believable. It is an enjoyable enough read to while away a wet afternoon, but for those who want their entertainment noir, this one is a little palid.

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‘On noses you could call it a draw. On hair she won comprehensively.’ – Read an excerpt from Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

On noses you could call it a draw. On hair she won comprehensively. – Read an excerpt from Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

This Fiction Friday, dip into the latest Zadie Smith novel, Swing Time.

Swing Time is Smith’s fifth novel, after White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty and NW.

Swing TimeWhite TeethThe Autograph ManOn BeautyNW


Swing Time moves from North West London to West Africa, telling the story of “a close but complicated childhood friendship” between two girls, “that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either”.

Tracey and the narrator meet at a dance class in the early 1980s, and are drawn inescapably together because of the colour of their skin. They come from similar backgrounds, with a number of vitally important differences.

Read the excerpt, taken from the beginning of the book:


If all the Saturdays of 1982 can be thought of as one day, I met Tracey at ten a.m. on that Saturday, walking through the sandy gravel of a churchyard, each holding our mother’s hand. There were many other girls present but for obvious reasons we noticed each other, the similarities and the differences, as girls will. Our shade of brown was exactly the same – ​as if one piece of tan material had been cut to make us both – ​and our freckles gathered in the same areas, we were of the same height. But my face was ponderous and melancholy, with a long, serious nose, and my eyes turned down, as did my mouth. Tracey’s face was perky and round, she looked like a darker Shirley Temple, except her nose was as problematic as mine, I could see that much at once, a ridiculous nose – ​it went straight up in the air like a little piglet. Cute, but also obscene: her nostrils were on permanent display. On noses you could call it a draw. On hair she won comprehensively. She had spiral curls, they reached to her backside and were gathered into two long plaits, glossy with some kind of oil, tied at their ends with satin yellow bows. Satin yellow bows were a phenomenon unknown to my mother. She pulled my great frizz back in a single cloud, tied with a black band. My mother was a feminist. She wore her hair in a ­half-­inch Afro, her skull was perfectly shaped, she never wore ­make‑­up and dressed us both as plainly as possible. Hair is not essential when you look like Nefertiti. She’d no need of ­make‑­up or products or jewelry or expensive clothes, and in this way her financial circumstances, her politics and her aesthetic were all perfectly – conveniently – ​matched. Accessories only cramped her style, including, or so I felt at the time, the ­horse-­faced ­seven-­year-­old by her side. Looking across at Tracey I diagnosed the opposite problem: her mother was white, obese, afflicted with acne. She wore her thin blond hair pulled back very tightly in what I knew my mother would call a “Kilburn facelift.” But Tracey’s personal glamour was the solution: she was her own mother’s most striking accessory. The family look, though not to my mother’s taste, I found captivating: logos, tin bangles and hoops, diamanté everything, expensive trainers of the kind my mother refused to recognize as a reality in the world – “Those aren’t shoes.” Despite appearances, though, there was not much to choose between our two families. We were both from the estates, neither of us received benefits. (A matter of pride for my mother, an outrage to Tracey’s: she had tried many times – ​and failed – ​to “get on the disability.”) In my mother’s view it was exactly these superficial similarities that lent so much weight to questions of taste. She dressed for a future not yet with us but which she expected to arrive. That’s what her plain white linen trousers were for, her ­blue-­and-­white-striped “Breton” ­T‑­shirt, her frayed espadrilles, her severe and beautiful African head – ​everything so plain, so understated, completely out of step with the spirit of the time, and with the place. One day we would “get out of here,” she would complete her studies, become truly radical chic, perhaps even spoken of in the same breath as Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem … ­Straw-­soled shoes were all a part of this bold vision, they pointed subtly at the higher concepts. I was an accessory only in the sense that in my very plainness I signified admirable maternal restraint, it being considered bad taste – ​in the circles to which my mother aspired – ​to dress your daughter like a little whore. But Tracey was unashamedly her mother’s aspiration and avatar, her only joy, in those thrilling yellow bows, a ­frou-­frou skirt of many ruffles and a crop top revealing inches of childish ­nut-­brown belly, and as we pressed up against the pair of them in this ­bottleneck of mothers and daughters entering the church I watched with interest as Tracey’s mother pushed the girl in front of herself – ​and in front of us – ​using her own body as a means of obstruction, the flesh on her arms swinging as she beat us back, until she arrived in Miss Isabel’s dance class, a look of great pride and anxiety on her face, ready to place her precious cargo into the temporary care of others. My mother’s attitude, by contrast, was one of weary, ­semi-­ironic servitude, she thought the dance class ridiculous, she had better things to do, and after a few further Saturdays – ​in which she sat slumped in one of the plastic chairs that lined the ­left-­hand wall, hardly able to contain her contempt for the whole exercise – ​a change was made and my father took over. I waited for Tracey’s father to take over, but he never did. It turned out – ​as my mother had guessed at once – ​that there was no “Tracey’s father,” at least not in the conventional, married sense. This, too, was an example of bad taste.


I want to describe the church now, and Miss Isabel. An unpretentious ­nineteenth-­century building with large sandy stones on the façade, not unlike the cheap cladding you saw in the nastier houses – ​though it couldn’t have been that – ​and a satisfying, pointy steeple atop a plain, ­barn-­like interior. It was called St. Christopher’s. It looked just like the church we made with our fingers when we sang:

I want to describe the church now, and Miss Isabel. An unpretentious ­nineteenth-­century building with large sandy stones on the façade, not unlike the cheap cladding you saw in the nastier houses – ​though it couldn’t have been that – ​and a satisfying, pointy steeple atop a plain, ­barn-­like interior. It was called St. Christopher’s. It looked just like the church we made with our fingers when we sang:

Here is the church

Here is the steeple

Open the doors

There’s all the people.

The stained glass told the story of St. Christopher carrying the baby Jesus on his shoulders across a river. It was poorly done: the saint looked mutilated, ­one-­armed. The original windows had blown out during the war. Opposite St. Christopher’s stood a ­high-­rise estate of poor reputation, and this was where Tracey lived. (Mine was nicer, ­low-­rise, in the next street.) Built in the sixties, it replaced a row of Victorian houses lost in the same bombing that had damaged the church, but here ended the relationship between the two buildings. The church, unable to tempt residents across the road for God, had made a pragmatic decision to diversify into other areas: a toddlers’ playgroup, ESL, driver training. These were popular, and ­well established, but ­Saturday-­morning dance classes were a new addition and no one knew quite what to make of them. The class itself cost two pounds fifty, but a maternal rumor went round concerning the going rate for ballet shoes, one woman had heard three pounds, another seven, ­so‑­and‑­so swore the only place you could get them was Freed, in Covent Garden, where they’d take ten quid off you as soon as look at you – ​and then what about “tap” and what about “modern?” Could ballet shoes be worn for modern? What was modern? There was no one you could ask, no one who’d already done it, you were stuck. It was a rare mother whose curiosity extended to calling the number written on the ­homemade flyers ­stapled to the local trees. Many girls who might have made fine dancers never made it across that road, for fear of a ­homemade flyer.

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Happy 10th birthday, Kalk Bay Books!


Kalk Bay Books is 10 years old this month, and have a number of exciting events lined up to celebrate.

What a decade it has been – we’ve learnt a lot, laughed a lot, and cried a bit too. We’ve told stories, listened to stories, made music, made mistakes, made cake. We’ve had some tough luck including fire, flood and roadworks, but mostly we’ve had extraordinarily good luck, including Barbara Kingsolver herself right here in the shop, with the backdrop of a gorgeous full moon over the bay. She said, “How lucky you are to be here”. We agree.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to you, our customers, for keeping us in business so that we can keep on being this lucky.


The Imperfect Life of TS Eliot
I grow old … I grow old …

An evening in celebration of the life and works of TS Eliot, with Finuala Dowling, John Maytham and Lyndall Gordon.

Finuala and John’s dramatic evenings have been a constant source of delight through the years and we’re very much looking forward to this one.

We were proud to launch Gordon’s book, The Imperfect Life of TS Eliot, in 2012. Lyndall is a contributor to Faber’s brand new literary website, a wonderful resource for all things Eliot.

There will be a lucky draw at 6.50. Thanks to Fran from Pan Macmillan, and to Jaco from Jonathan Ball. And to dear Leopard’s Leap, we love you.

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nullThroughout the day on Friday, 2 December we will be giving away all sorts of surprises. This is made possible by incredibly generous donations from businesses in Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek and Muizenberg; and our publishers.

From 1 to 4 PM:

Paul from Slow Life Records will be in residence with his turntables, playing favourites and taking requests.

And then at 5.30 PM we bring you:

The First Famous Kalk Bay Books Arts and Culture Quiz!

Well it isn’t famous yet. But it will be. So brush up on your Art, Film, Book and Music knowledge. Be among the lucky few to secure a table at the first edition of what we hope will become a regular festive battle of will and wit.

Entrance is R60 per person and includes two bottles of wine and a plate of snacks per team. We will seat nine teams, with a maximum of six people per team.

Booking is essential. This will fill up fast, so get your team together, give it a name, and book asap! Please RSVP to Mary-Ann at, with the word “QUIZ” in the subject line.

Please be here at 5.30 PM for a prompt start at 6 PM, to end at 8 PM. There will be a lucky draw during the break, and prizes for 1st and 2nd teams at the end.

Teamless? Never fear. There will be a team called The Loose Canons, made up of the first six brave people to reply with the subject line “QUIZ Loose Canon”.

Event Details

  • Date: Friday, 2 November 2016
  • Time: 1 PM to 4 PM and the quiz at 5.30 PM
  • Venue: Kalk Bay Books
    124 Main Rd
    Kalk Bay
    Cape Town | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Karena du Plessis
  • RSVP:, with the word “QUIZ” in the subject line

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