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Listen to five short stories by Nadine Gordimer (including Loot read by the author) via @openculture:

Archive for the ‘Academic’ Category

Loren Kruger Clarifies Her Stance on Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls at WiSER Seminar

Lauren Beukes

Loren Kruger, who wrote a recent draft paper suggesting Lauren Beukes suppressed all traces of significant sources in The Shining Girls, defended her speculation in a WiSER seminar yesterday.

MoxylandZoo City (SA edition)The Shining GirlsBroken Monsters

Imagining the Edgy CityThe Drama of South Africa

Kruger, who grew up and went to university in South Africa but is now a professor of comparative literature at the University of Chicago in the United States, presented her paper at the University of Witwatersrand yesterday, and fielded some questions about her methods and choice of terminology, which had caused Beukes some consternation:

Kruger – who made it clear that her paper is a work in process – reiterated her belief that Beukes relied on Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, an account of the real life 1890s-era serial killer HH Holmes, to form her character Harper Curtis. It was unclear whether Kruger had seen Beukes’ response on Twitter or her public Facebook page, where the author said: “I’m afraid I specifically avoided HH Holmes so he wouldn’t be an influence and while I own a copy of Devil and the White City, I still haven’t read it.”

“My concern with Beukes is not that she’s using multiple sources,” Kruger said. “I hope I make that clear, I think the pastiche of multiple sources is really what pulp fiction is about. What concerns me is that this [The Devil in the White City] is the key source for the character that Harper Curtis presents himself to be and it’s just striking to me that it doesn’t get a mention. And I wonder what that has to do with the way in which the research was conducted and the way in which the book was marketed.”

The Real vs the Imaginary

Kruger noted that her main criticism of The Shining Girls is the problematic relationship between the real and the imaginary. Kruger believes Beukes sets the novel up as having a solid grounding in the “real” Chicago, which is part of the reason for its success as the fantastic fictional events then become more surprising and powerful. However, she also believes Beukes fails to sustain that authenticity.

“What is interesting about Beukes’ fiction is that on the one hand she wants a certain grounding in urban specifics, but on the other hand moves away from them. What’s interesting to me about speculative fiction, or what [Margaret] Atwood calls social science fiction, is not that it’s simply happening in a galaxy far, far away but that it has some purchase on the way we think now about the world we might inhabit, say, 50 years hence. So it matters, for example, that she gets right where she puts Harper at a particular moment, in which Chicago, or when Chicago. So she’s thinking carefully about both time and place, and perhaps I’m just holding her to the standard that’s implied by the book itself, by its specificity, and by the claims, at least in the American edition, of her sources,” she said.

“Part of my dissatisfaction with The Shining Girls is that she does seem to want not just spacial specificity but temporal specificity. In other words ‘this is Chicago at a particular moment’. If the novel were simply set in some future space it wouldn’t perhaps be important but clearly she does want, and this is perhaps the background in journalism, to be very specific. At certain points, it seems to me, where she’s inviting us to look at the specificity she’s not being specific enough. If you don’t want to invite veracity questions then why be so specific?”

Kruger believes Beukes succesfully negotiated the “slipstream” between reality and the imaginary in both Moxyland and Zoo City, but that in The Shining Girls influences beyond her authorial power muscled in behind the scenes.

“Part of the frisson, part of the thrill of the book, that keeps you going, is the slipstream between plausibility and complete fakery, and it’s that that interests me; it’s a very fine line. It seems to me she pulls it off, that balance of plausibility and fakery, in the first two novels in a way in which she doesn’t in The Shining Girls, and I think part of that has to do with relying on a committee of researchers to a far greater degree than she did in the first two.”

Unintended Publishing Conspiracies and “Theft” – But Not Plagiarism

When asked about the insinuation of a “conspiratorial” relationship between author and publisher, Kruger said she would prefer the word “convergence”, and does not see the author as necessarily complicit in the intentions of a large publishing companies: “I don’t think there’s a conspiracy between her and the publishers. What I see is a convergence between her project and the project of multinational multimedia conglomerates to circulate product. Which isn’t to say that individual authors in their orbit are merely cogs in the machine, but the way in which this work is produced does make it difficult to decide, ‘okay, this is the authors work’ or ‘this is the author’s work in collaboration’, sometimes intentional, sometimes beyond the author’s intention. And it’s that that interests me.”

She also clarified her use of the word “theft”, saying she was in fact utilising a term originated by Eric Lott in his Love and Theft, and strongly denied that she was implying Beukes plagiarised in The Shining Girls:

“I should also make it clear when I used the word theft – as opposed to plagiarism, which is not a word I used because I don’t think what’s going on here is plagiarism – there is a very useful book on a completely different subject by Eric Lott called Love and Theft [...] Theft in the production of fiction happens all the time. But I want to see not just more of the love but also a more sustained engagement with the way you’re twisting the sources.”

Beukes, like many of the seminar attendees, got the distinct impression that a form of plagiarism is what Kruger was implying:

Author Interview on the Cards?

One of Beukes’ main complaints in her social media retort was that Kruger had not contacted her to discuss her sources:

Kruger said she had her reasons for doing so, but did not discount a dialogue with Beukes in the future, “if she will talk to me”.

“I didn’t conduct any interviews because I wanted to get a sense of the novels as I read them as other people read them, and the intentions as they are embedded in the text,” Kruger said.

“Having done interviews in the past, with theatre people rather than novelists, they’re a complicated form of fiction and I wanted at least in this initial round, this is far from publication, to work with the text.”

Kruger ended by saying the seminar discussion had been immensely helpful and thanked the participants for their observations.

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Gwen Ansell Reviews Marxisms in the 21st Century by Michelle Williams and Vishwas Satgar

Marxisms in the 21st Century: Crisis, Critique and StruggleVerdict: carrot with some criticism

The aim of this collection is not to define Marxism but, as its title declares, to explore the variety of positions, analyses and debates that have emerged under the banner. That provides a refreshing diversity. All the same, some readers – especially if their only previous encounters with the term are through media calumnies – might hanker after one essay drawing together the unifying threads.

Book Details

  • Marxisms in the 21st Century: Crisis, Critique and Struggle edited by Michelle Williams and Vishwas Satgar
    EAN: 9781868147533
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

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Tributes Pour in for Wole Soyinka in Celebration of His 80th Birthday

Wole Soyinka

Nigerian playwright, novelist and poet Wole Soyinka, the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, turned 80 on Sunday.

AkeHarmattan Haze on an African SpringOf AfricaWole SoyinkaThe InterpretersSelected PoemsYou Must Set Forth at Dawn

Being the first black Nobel laureate, and the first African, the African world considered me personal property. I lost the remaining shreds of my anonymity, even to walk a few yards in London, Paris or Frankfurt without being stopped.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Soyinka explained where his love for literature came from:

“I suspect that I probably come from a long family of ‘word spinners’. I mean that in the sense of an extended family, because ‘family’ as we use it is a very large one. I was constantly surrounded by aunts, uncles, my father’s intellectual companions. All of them were raconteurs of some sort or the other,” he said.

As part of his birthday celebrations, Soyinka personally presented this year’s Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa to fellow Nigerian author Akin Bello recently.

The winner of this years Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa was announced at a grand ceremony at The Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos this past Friday night. His name is Akin Bello and the work that won him the award is the play The Egbon of Lagos beating the two contenders Toyin Abiodun and Othuke Ominibohs. He went home with the prize money of $20,000.

Soyinka, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1986, has always been vocal about political and social injustice, and has been outspoken on Nigeria’s Boko Haram kidnapping crisis this year. However, in an interview with The Guardian in 2011, Soyinka appeared to announce his retirement from political life. In an article for Nigeria’s Premium Times, Tolu Ogunlesi offers his sympathies to the man for the “random act of pre-existential allocation” that twinned him with Nigeria, a country that “delights, more than most, in numbing its people with unoriginal frustration”.

Ogunlesi quotes Soyinka’s interview with The Guardian:

“I’m getting a little bit bored with this Sisyphean struggle. I’m not exhausted; I can drop down dead tomorrow, that’s irrelevant, I want be around to witness the event. At the moment I do not feel I’m devoid of energy; [or that] my energy is diminished, whether mentally or physically. No. But something in me is getting very weary. And that is the burden of repetition; that it is possible in my own state for someone to sit down and try and turn a town house meeting into his own thuggish platform. It’s over fifty years now, I’ve been marching, I know the number of times I’ve been tear-gassed and of course gone through trials, a prisoner without trials, and so on and so forth. I don’t mind any of that. Mandela spent one entire generation of his life in jail; so I don’t grudge any of that. But if I feel inside me that I’m getting bored on a subject or theme or endeavour I become less creative and I don’t want that to happen to me.”

Tributes to the great man flooded in on Twitter:

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Image courtesy of Victor Dlamini

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JM Coetzee, Ivan Vladislavic and NoViolet Bulawayo Read at the Worlds Literature Festival

JM Coetzee, Xiaolu Guo, Julia Franck and Ivan Vladislavić

JM Coetzee, Ivan Vladislavić, NoViolet Bulawayo, CJ Driver and Isobel Dixon recently took part in the in the 10th annual Worlds Literature Festival, organised by Writers’ Centre Norwich.

nullThe Childhood of JesusJM Coetzee: Two ScreenplaysDouble NegativeWe Need New NamesShades of DarknessThe Tempest Prognosticator

Bulawayo read from her Etisalat Prize-winning novel We Need New Names, while Coetzee read a short story identified by festival-goers on Twitter as “Nicht Verloren” (probably his much-talked-about 2009 story “Nietverloren” from Ten Years of the Caine Prize for African Writing). Vladislavić read a short excerpt from Double Negative, which was recently re-released in the United Kingdom along with The Restless Supermarket.

Rowan Whiteside of Writers’ Centre Norwich reports that Vladislavić’s reading had the audience enraptured:

The highlight of the week, however, was seeing Ivan read from Double Negative to a packed audience. It was probably one of the best readings I’ve ever heard from an author (and I’ve been to a lot of literary events). Ivan read alongside Nobel Laureate JM Coetzee and began by saying what an inspiration Coetzee was to him, and how honoured he was to read alongside such an iconic writer.

There was a pindrop silence as Ivan read. The words seemed to sluice the audience from Norwich to South Africa, 200-odd people transported from a dark theatre to a sun-baked land, rich with possibility. The power of Ivan’s writing seeped into the room and created a world filled with bright imagery and ordinary tragedy.

Flickr gallery

Isobel Dixon and Ivan VladislavićJM Coetzee

* * * * *

Writers’ Centre Norwich tweeted from the event using the hashtag #worlds14:

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David Attwell to Deliver Public UCT Lecture on “Autobiography Into Fiction: JM Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K

JM Coetzee: South Africa and the Politics of Writing (Perspectives on South Africa)Life and Times of Michael KUniversity of Cape Town Summer School Extension presents a public lecture by Professor David Attwell entitled Autobiography into Fiction: JM Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K.

The lecture will be held on Wednesday 9 July from 6 PM to 7 PM and will cost R75 or R37 for staff and students or R19 (reduced).

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 9 July 2014
  • Time: 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
  • Venue: University of Cape Town
    Lecture Theatre 3
    Kramer Building
    Middle Campus
    Cape Town | Map
  • Cost: R75, R37 (staff and students); R19 (reduced)
  • RSVP:, 021 650 2888

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South Africa’s Iconic Stories: Exclusive Books Reveal Homebru Selection for 2014

Alert! Exclusive Books has announced the annual Homebru list, celebrating the best of South African fiction and non-fiction.

There are 48 books on the list, including the shortlists for this year’s Sunday Times Alan Paton Award and Fiction Prize, the winners of which were announced last Saturday.

Fiction highlights on the list include Lauren Beukes‘ latest offering, Broken Monsters, Sarah Lotz‘ thriller The Three and Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer.

Non-fiction fans are also spoilt for choice, with titles including Lost and Found in Johannesburg by Mark Gevisser, Gareth van Onselen’s Clever Blacks, Jesus and Nkandla: The Real Jacob Zuma in His Own Words, Tony Leon’s Opposite Mandela, Justice: A Personal Account by Edwin Cameron and Zelda la Grange’s explosive memoir Good Morning, Mr Mandela, which is already taking the country by storm.

Here’s the complete 2014 Exclusive Books Homebru list. Get reading!

How to Fix South Africa's SchoolsRetreatThe Story of Anna P, as Told by HerselfDoing Life with MandelaSouth African BattlesWhat's Gone Wrong?On Route in SA

Op Pad in Suid-AfrikaLost and Found in JohannesburgThe ThreeDear BulletOpposite MandelaClever Blacks, Jesus and NkandlaJustice

Oliver Tambo SpeaksKrokodil aan my skouer21st Century MegatrendsDubbelspelUntitledLondon – Cape Town – JoburgThe Ties That Bind

Verdeelde landA Time Traveller's Guide to Our Next Ten YearsWinterkos in ProvenceWinter Food in ProvenceVyf-en-veertig skemeraandsange uit die eenbeendanser se werkruimteI'm Not Your Weekend Special

IncognitoThe Crazy Life of Larry JoeUnbelievable!Good Morning, Mr MandelaGoeiemore, Mnr. MandelaBo-Kaap Kitchen100 Good Ideas

Arctic SummerDark WindowsCall It Like It IsBroken Monsters

The Sunday Times Alan Paton Award Shortlist

A Rumour of SpringThe Concentration Camps of the Anglo-Boer WarMy Second InitiationPortrait of a Slave SocietyRichard Rive

The Sunday Times Fiction Prize Shortlist

The Spiral House PenumbraWolf, WolfThe Shining GirlsFalse River

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Sunday Times Alan Paton Award In Context: Q&A on Karel Schoeman’s Portrait of a Slave Society: The Cape of Good Hope 1717 – 1795

Portrait of a Slave SocietyBy Michele Magwood for The Sunday Times

Portrait of a Slave Society: The Cape of Good Hope 1717 – 1795, by Karel Schoeman, was recently shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. Editor Danél Hanekom discusses the book:

In what way do you think the book is “an illumination of truthfulness”?

In his preface Schoeman explains that this book is not the history of slavery at the Cape, but “a description of the world of slaves in which the slaves lived, worked and died”. The focus is on the fact that slaves were people living in a dynamic and complex society who had little control over the course their lives took.

The book is a sequel to Early Slavery at the Cape of Good Hope. What was Schoeman’s aim in writing these books?

Both books were intended for non-specialist and non-South African readers, in other words for the general reader. Schoeman wants to remind us that although the early Cape may have been another country, its inhabitants thought and acted in ways which made good sense to them, and it is the task of the historian to make that understandable to the modern reader.

Did Schoeman bring a fiction writer’s eye to bear on the dense historical fact?

One of South Africa’s leading novelists, Schoeman has the talent for telling stories and making the individual slaves come alive as real “characters” with personalities. He captures mood and character, time and place based on detailed research.

What is the legacy of slavery in South Africa and how does it play out in our contemporary society?

Schoeman searches for the slave as a human being in the history. He explains that the study of early slavery at the Cape is still relevant, because, “Rather than an institution limited to the coastal Cape periphery, slavery spread throughout South Africa, was adapted to fluctuating human and physical environments and deeply affected the human landscape.”

Do you think this is the definitive book on the subject? Can there ever be a “definitive” historical study?

This book is a worthy and commanding addition to other studies. It challenges others to look at the available sources from a fresh angle. Schoeman narrates the facts without entering into a debate with other historians or authors who have written about this already, and leaves a wealth of information and aspects to be interpreted and argued by others in future.

Schoeman is one of South Africa’s most prolific and distinguished authors, with numerous awards across the fields of fiction, history and biography. What books are forthcoming from him?

Among other items, he has completed Bailie’s Party: The Old World, 1757‒1819, based on the original research of MD Nash, to be published in 2016 by Protea Boekhuis. In 1820 John Bailie, a member of an Anglo-Irish landowning family, led a large party of British immigrants to South Africa as part the 1820 Settlers. This book attempts to trace the European background of both Bailie and the members of the settler groups, and to understand the cultural heritage they brought with them to South Africa.

Follow Michele on Twitter @michelemagwood – the hashtag is #STBooks

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Jonathan R Beloff Reviews Africa’s Urban Revolution edited by Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse

Africa's Urban RevolutionVerdict: carrot

Africa’s diversity is not only confined to the jungles, savannas and desert that ecologically occupy the continent. It encompasses the complexities of a continent that is slowly developing to become the next economic centre of the global economy. Unfortunately, most people know Africa based on its current conflicts, food scarcity and underdevelopment.

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Hannah Gibson Reviews Africa’s Urban Revolution by Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse

Africa's Urban RevolutionVerdict: carrot

Africa’s Urban Revolution is both an ambitious title and an ambitious endeavour. Contained within just over 300 pages is a detailed account of the revolution – or revolutions – that are taking place across the continent. Rather than being political in nature, the titular revolution refers to an “urban transition” characterised by the dynamism of the continent’s cities.

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Beantwoord dié belangrike vraag: Waar staan die Afrikaanse letterkunde 20 jaar ná demokrasie?

KlimtolLitNet het pas ‘n uitnodiging aan liefhebbers van Afrikaanse letterkunde gerig waarin hulle lesers vra om die volgende kwellende vraag te beantwoord: Waar staan die Afrikaanse letterkunde 20 jaar ná demokrasie?

“LitNet en sy afdeling vir akademiese skryfwerk, LitNet Akademies, neem met ‘n aanlyn kongres poolshoogte* van die stand van Afrikaanse skryfwerk, met die hulp van skrywers, uitgewers, letterkundiges, boekjoernaliste en lesers,” skryf Etienne van Heerden, LitNet se uitvoerende redakteur en outeur van gewilde titels soos Klimtol en Toorberg, in sy uitnodigingsbrief.

Die term “poolshoogte” word verklaar as die ware noorde of suide. Dié kongres gaan dus probeer bepaal waar die Afrikaanse letterkunde homself bevind. Gesprekspunte sluit in:

  • Vernuwing: Nuwe tegnieke, vernuwing, genrevernuwing – of die gebrek daaraan
  • Die rol van skrywers in sosiale verband
  • Die produksie- en leesproses
  • Die akademie, insluitend interessante nuwe navorsing of navorsingsgebiede
  • Eksterne verhoudings tot Afrikaanse letterkunde
  • Teleurstellings en blymoedighede

Die seminaar beloof om uiters insiggewend te wees. Vir meer inligting volg die skakel hieronder:

Waar staan die Afrikaanse letterkunde 20 jaar ná demokrasie?

LitNet en sy afdeling vir akademiese skryfwerk, LitNet Akademies, neem met ‘n aanlyn kongres poolshoogte* van die stand van Afrikaanse skryfwerk, met die hulp van skrywers, uitgewers, letterkundiges, boekjoernaliste en lesers.

Hoe lyk skrywers van verskillende generasies se wêrelde? Waaroor skryf hulle? Wat lees hulle en waar? Waarheen dink hulle moet die Afrikaanse letterkunde gaan – wat ontbreek en wat moet verken word?

Drie ouderdomsgroepe word onder die loep geneem: onder 35, onder 50 en bo 50.


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