Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

Hardly Working will have you wanting to both travel the continent and devour its rich literary wealth, writes Tiah Beautement

Published in the Sunday Times

Hardly WorkingHardly Working: A Travel Memoir of Sorts
Zukiswa Wanner, Black Letter Media, R160

“If the African school my son studied in would not offer Africa to him, we would give him Africa,” writes Zukiswa Wanner in her travel memoir, Hardly Working. So Wanner, her partner Tchassa and son Kwame leave Kenya to travel to various literary events. They work their way through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria, using public transport as much as possible. They sleep rough, join a protest, ride on the back of a lorry, and at one point can’t access cash.

Yet the three remained upbeat. “I admit that there were times I thought ‘this adulting is hard’,” Wanner reflects. Her son brings comic relief to the trip, telling his uncle, “These animals would have looked the same on YouTube,” after being treated to a safari.

Even packing for the journey was tricky. Crammed in the family’s luggage were Wanner’s books. “Getting access to literature from a neighbouring African country tends to be tougher than it is to get books from abroad. I always try to take a suitcase of books across African borders. The security at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport no longer asks me what’s in my suitcase when they do a security scan. ‘Ah, it’s you and your books again’,’ she says.

As readers laugh, cringe, and ponder the tales, they may find their stomachs rumbling at the rich descriptions of food. Wanner is unapologetic about this: “Nigerian food is all the wows.” But hunger is the best spice; in one memorable scene, Wanner watches in awe as her son feasts on ulusu (curried tripe), a dish he would never have eaten at home. She writes: “A meal is as delicious as one’s hunger.”

She wanted to write the book for two reasons: “I hoped to highlight that writing is a real profession, and some of the struggles that come with it. I also hoped to highlight the wonder and beauty that is this continent and its people. I know many people who have been to Phuket or New York, for instance, but have never been to Zimbabwe or Malawi.”

Hang on to your wallets, as this book will have you wanting to both travel the continent and devour its rich literary wealth. @ms_tiahmarie

Book details

» read article

Book Dash is looking for a project manager!

Book Dash gathers volunteer creative professionals to create new, African storybooks that anyone can freely translate and distribute and their looking for a project manager!

Children in South Africa need more books, but they cost too much purchased from publishers. The cheapest books have no publisher – then the only cost is printing. So our participants do the work of publishers in a single day. After that, anyone can get print runs sponsored and put finished books into the hands of children.

We believe every child should own a hundred books by the age of five. In South Africa, that means giving 600 million free books to children who could never afford to buy them. Every day we lose, more children grow up unable to read and write well, and to enjoy the worlds that books open up.

If you’re passionate about encouraging – and ensuring – a love of reading and literature among South African children, look no further – click here to apply!

» read article

Asymptote’s Winter 2018 issue celebrates the journal’s seventh year and 100th language!

Via Asymptote

Asymptote’s Winter 2018 issue celebrates the journal’s 7th year and 100th language! This edition includes a Microfiction Special Feature full of glittering allegory, along with uncompromising fiction confronting today’s grim realities.

Winner of the 2015 London Book Fair’s International Literary Translation Initiative Award, Asymptote is the premier site for world literature in translation. We take our name from the dotted line on a graph that a mathematical function may tend toward, but never reach. Similarly, a translated text may never fully replicate the effect of the original; it is its own creative act.

Our mission is simple: to unlock the literary treasures of the world. (Watch a video introduction of Asymptote here.) To date, our magazine has featured work from 105 countries and 84 languages, all never-before-published poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, and interviews by writers and translators such as J. M. Coetzee, Patrick Modiano, Herta Müller, Can Xue, Junot Díaz, Ismail Kadare, David Mitchell, Anne Carson, Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, Ann Goldstein, and Deborah Smith.

In our five years, we have expanded our offerings to include a daily-updated blog, a fortnightly newsletter, a monthly podcast, and educational guides accompanying each quarterly issue; we’ve also organized more than thirty events on five continents. In 2015, Asymptote became a founding member of The Guardian’s Books Network with “Translation Tuesdays”, a weekly showcase of new literary translations that can be read by the newspaper’s 5 million followers. This means that Asymptote is the only translation-centered journal that can boast of a genuinely international readership – reaching beyond niche communities of literary translators and world literature enthusiasts.

Always interested in facilitating encounters between languages, Asymptote presents work in translation alongside the original texts, as well as audio recordings of those original texts whenever possible. Each issue is illustrated by a guest artist and includes Writers on Writers essays introducing overlooked voices that deserve to be better-known in the English speaking world, as well as a wildcard Special Feature that spotlights literature from certain regions or cutting-edge genres such as Multilingual Writing and Experimental Translation. To catalyze the transmission of literature even further, Asymptote also commissions translations of texts into languages other than English, thereby engaging other linguistic communities and disrupting the English-centered flow of information. All the work we publish is then disseminated for free via eight social media platforms in three languages, through a dedicated social media team as well as our ever-expanding network of editors-at-large in six continents.

George Bernard Shaw famously said, “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange those ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” It is in this spirit of sharing ideas that Asymptote invites readers to explore work from across the globe.

Incorporated neither in America nor in Europe, unaffiliated with any university or government body, Asymptote does not qualify for many grants that other like institutions receive. If you enjoy our magazine, help us continue our mission by becoming a sustaining member at just $10 a month. In return for pledging at least a year’s support, you’ll receive an Asymptote Moleskine notebook!

» read article

“It’s a spectacular feeling!” Acclaimed author Katherine Rundell on winning the Costa Children’s Book Award for The Explorer

By Mila de Villiers

Katherine Rundell has been announced as the winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2017!

Originally established as The Whitbread Book of the Year, the Costa Book Awards honour some of the most outstanding books of the year written by authors based in the UK or Ireland.

Rundell, the niece of the late Tim Couzens, was recently awarded this prestigious award for her riveting adventure story, The Explorer, published by Bloomsbury.

Here she discusses her lauded book, recounts swimming with pink river dolphins, and offers us a sneak peek of her forthcoming titles…

What does it feel like to be the recipient of an award which has been awarded (please excuse my redundancy!) to the likes of Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman, JK Rowling, Chris Riddell, and Frances Hardinge?

It’s a spectacular feeling! To have won the award that was given to so many of my heroes is staggering enough – but, most wonderful of all, the publicity that comes with it means that the book might make its way into more children’s hands – which is the thing that every writer longs for.

Were you expecting this response at all?

Not at all! The shortlist was formidable – three writers whose work I love, all of whom are very different – so to have won was a real shock. A very happy one!

Could you tell our readers a bit more about The Explorer? What inspired you to write it? Can we expect something similar from you in the future?

The Explorer is about four children, whose plane crash lands in the Amazon rainforest and find themselves surviving alone, making cocoa grub pancakes. They find a map, which leads them down the river on a raft, to a ruined city. They discover there’s an explorer living there, and that he has a secret.

I went to the Amazon myself a few years ago, and swam with the wild pink river dolphins, and it remains the most beautiful place I have ever seen – I wanted to offer children that landscape, and that excitement.

The next book will be very different, but will, like The Explorer, have adventure at its heart – and, for the next book, a bit of crime, as well.

The Explorer

Book details

» read article

Enter the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing

Entries for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing are now open!

A cash prize of £10,000 is up for grabs for the winning author and a travel award for each of the short-listed candidates (up to five in all). The shortlisted candidates will also receive a Prize of £500. The winner is also invited to go to three literature festivals in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.

Published authors who wish to add ‘Caine Prize contributor’ to their CVs have until 31 January 2018 to submit their entry via their publishers.

Take note – unpublished work, as well as children’s books, factual writing, plays, biographies and works shorter than 3000 words will not be considered.

The Caine Prize for African Writing aims to bring African stories and writers to a global audience via the art of short story writing.

Click here for the complete guideline.

» read article

“Obviously no one but a fool writes fiction for money” – a Q&A with Trade Secrets contributor, Darrel Bristow-Bovey

Darrel Bristow-Bovey is a screenwriter and columnist who lives in Sea Point. He was won the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize and a Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature, as well several South African Film and Television Awards, and was a finalist for the Caine Prize for African Writing. His most recent book is One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo, a memoir about growing up and falling in love and trying to swim from one continent to another.

Joanne Hichens, curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories Award, recently interviewed Darrel who’s currently in southern Spain. In between sips of rioja, Darrel shared his disdain for authors having to explain their stories, why melancholy and poignancy are naturally funny things, and a short, sharp (sorry…) writing trade secret.

Darrel Bristow-Bowey, author of the Trade Secrets story ‘An Act of God’

In your story, ‘An Act Of God’, journalist Andrew misses a working lunch with the lead of a touring Irish dance troupe; he loses his job and begins to write obituaries. Is this tongue in cheek? Has he been diminished by writing the lives of ordinary dead people, in contrast to exploring the lives of celebrities?

No, not tongue-in-cheek at all. I also don’t think he’s diminished, although it might appear that way to the world, and even at first to him. I think he finds far greater dignity and creative purpose and fulfillment in writing the stories of ordinary people. Ordinary lives are rich and full and fascinating, and contain far more than the thinly presented lives of celebrities. The most interesting things don’t happen in public – they happen unseen in the lives of those going about their days around us. I also think he found his real material, and his real voice, writing about ordinary people and giving them the dignity and consideration that we all deserve, no matter who we are and what we have or have not done.

Your protagonist, Sarah, meets Andrew who happens also to be disabled, at an Italian class and so begins their affair… until Bella Lennon appears, a movie star of note! Andrew’s career again picks up, and he miraculously begins to walk again. Is there deeper meaning here?

No, I don’t think so.

Short and sweet! Let’s skip to the last line of the story, which ends with the words ‘…this is what it looks like and this is what it feels like…’ Is this a means to reinforce the ‘flow’ of life? To show an acceptance of what ‘is’?

I don’t know that I specifically wanted to show anything. I just wanted to tell a story about two people and a portion of their lives.

I often advocate, to newer writers, that a short story should stick to a time-frame, but yours transgresses this boundary as Sarah and Andrew, as time goes by, are married and divorced… the story spans time and place. What are your thoughts on this?

A time-frame is just the length of time something takes, isn’t it? Are you saying that time should pass at the same rate from the beginning of the story to the end? I can see no compelling reason why that should be the case. I think whatever a story needs in order to be told is precisely what it should have.

The story is coloured by a certain poignancy, melancholy even, a self-deprecating humour. Is writing humour a natural instinct for you?

I think poignancy and melancholy are naturally funny things, and vice versa. I think writing that is without humour, and without a degree of self-awareness, tends to be pompous and dull and life-denying. I am painfully aware that these answers fall into that category.

“Ordinary lives are rich and full and fascinating.” Bristow-Bovey on the significance of obituaries.


Surely some readers are interested in the writer behind the story? Why would you think the answers dull and life-denying?

By that, I mean that I am aware that I am not answering with any great verve or sense of humour, and I think the upshot of that is that the answers feel dull to me, and I find dullness to be a little life-denying. Why am I answering without any verve or sense of humour? I’m not sure – partially because I am writing this from southern Spain, in between other commitments, especially a commitment to a fine bottle of rioja in the small bar opposite the bullring in Ronda. Partially because I have a horror of sounding self-important or self-indulgent, and so as a counter-measure I am perhaps tending towards the non-committal.

Is it your opinion that stories be left to speak for themselves? (That bottle of rioja, by the way, sounds delightful!)

Look, obviously the purpose of these interviews is to publicise the book, so I totally get the point of them, and as far as that goes I think they’re a good thing. I also think the questions you’ve posed to people have been good and thoughtful. I am all in favour of the questions; it’s the answers I think we can all live without. I don’t think any story was ever improved by having its author explain it. In these our times, I see authors (or aspiring authors, more precisely) endlessly talking about their writing or themselves writing or their relationship to the writing life on social media, and I think it’s a little pitiful and doesn’t do their work or them any favours.

As a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, what does fiction offer you that non-fiction might not?

I write non-fiction for money. (Well, to be honest, I don’t actually write non-fiction, I write opinion pieces and personal columns, which isn’t fiction, but it also isn’t quite the medium implied by ‘non-fiction’.) Obviously no one but a fool writes fiction for money, and the act and process of doing something not for money, not because you have to, is freeing. It frees you from calculation and from the demands and constraints of professional work. When you’re writing fiction you can write whatever you want, and take as long as you like, and end it however you want, and there is no pressure from anyone else or yourself to do otherwise, or to account for it or justify it. Fiction gives me freedom, which is sometimes joyful and sometimes obviously not, but is something that I need.

Please share a writing Trade Secret…

Do some every day.

Follow Darrel on twitter at @dbbovey

Trade Secrets

Book details

» read article

A Q&A with Mishka Hoosen, winner of the 2017 Short.Sharp.Stories Award’s ‘Best Story’

Mishka Hoosen was born in Johannesburg. She graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy and later from Rhodes University with an MA in Creative Writing. Her debut novel, Call it a difficult night, was published by Deep South Books in 2016.

Mishka Hoosen‘s ‘Wedding Henna’, which won the R20 000 prize for BEST STORY, is a powerful exploration of the erotic taboo behind the hijab. Hoosen’s tender and sensual writing explores the delicate process of painting lacy floral patterns, in henna, on the bride’s hands on the morning of her wedding. Behind this technical artistry, the author weaves another, more haunting tale, as she explores the past relationship between her protagonist, Aisha, and the bride to be. Mishka and Joanne Hichens, curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories Award, recently discussed her winning entry:

Congratulations on winning this year’s Short.Sharp.Stories Award for BEST STORY. What does this ‘win’ mean to you?

It’s incredibly difficult to explain really, and deeply, deeply moving and humbling. It’s difficult, when it’s a story that is, for me at least, centered in so much pain, so much internal and external struggle, and so many unresolved things. This contest means so much in terms of setting the tone of the literary landscape in this country, the conversations we’re having, the stories we’re bringing to light. I’m utterly humbled and awed to be counted among the writers included in this anthology, who are producing such startling, necessary, brilliant work. I’m just deeply grateful, to everyone who enjoyed the story, to the judges, the organizers who have done such exemplary work, and to my husband, who is my biggest supporter and helped give me the space and love to tell this story.

I think one of the biggest and most powerful things about this whole experience is the passion and attention of the Short.Sharp.Stories team who by doing this, are making space for voices and stories that are so often erased, vilified, ignored, to be heard. In recent years, I’ve been trying with all my heart to follow Toni Morrison’s advice, to write the stories I want to read, and more than that, to write the stories I need to hear, the stories younger me needed like air, but didn’t get to hear. If there’s solace that comes from this story, for one person, if there’s a hand reaching in the dark, or a little more empathy and kindness kindled in the world because of it, that’s everything, that’s enough.

“…love demands truth from us, the fullness of truth, and the fullness of acknowledgement, of honoring it.”

‘Wedding Henna’ reads in one sense like a coming of age story, as Aisha reconnects with her school friend and the memories are ignited, of being school children together, as Zahra takes this next step into marriage. Would you agree with this?

Yes, I definitely think so. It’s meant as a kind of laying to rest, a necessary addressing and honoring of something before the next stage of life can begin.

The story has such an authentic right to it, one wonders about the inspiration and how close is the story to your own experience?

My story is inspired by some of the people, places, and things I have loved, and what love does. I’m not sure how else to put it. There are aspects of people I’ve known and loved in here, and things that belong entirely to the story. Above all it’s the experience of love I wanted to capture, love that is beset on all sides, love that sears, and is forced to transcend so much in order to remain whole. There’s a great deal of my feelings about love and the sacred in here. About how love lifts us out of ourselves, brings us closer to the sacred, the transcendent. And when you’re dealing with such ignorance and harm and prejudice, the only solace, often, is in the sacred. I wanted to capture that feeling I’ve experienced, and I think many others have. I think art comes from compulsion, and our experiences are what compel us.

Love is not always easy… your protagonist, Aisha, has to subjugate her love for her schoolfriend Zahra… it seems as if instinctively she knows she must do this, yet she tells her aunt. The aunt in turn is revolted by the disclosure: ‘I told her, Auntie Sohair, I love somebody. I’m in love with somebody. With a girl….’ Wasn’t this a big risk for Aisha to take? Why did she do it?

It was a terrifying, horrible risk, yes. But I find, for better or worse, that love demands truth from us, the fullness of truth, and the fullness of acknowledgement, of honoring it. And also, what we love, and who we love, is so often a part of ourselves, a part of what makes us ourselves, and we want to share ourselves with the people we love, with our family and friends, especially. I think that if we have to keep that part of ourselves in the dark, out of sight, then we’re not wholly ourselves with the people we have to keep that from.

I think Aisha would feel that her love of her aunt demands that she be wholly herself with her, around her, and so she can’t deny or hide her love of Zahra. She wants to celebrate it, and share it, because what feeling human being wouldn’t want to do that? If she had been in love with a boy she could have confided in her aunt, she could have sought her advice, it could have been something that brought them together, and if one day she wanted to get married to him, it would have been a source of joy, of closeness, between them. It is inhumane to deny her that, and I think on some level she knows that.

Aisha is one of the most sincere characters I’ve ever written, honestly, and she’s sincere to the point of naivety, in a way. But she’s a Muslim, and we’re taught to speak truth no matter what, even unto our own parents, not to be underhanded, to be sincere in our intentions and our actions, and so if she believes in that, then she will be truthful and forthright. She will speak the truth even if it harms her. She will honor the goodness she finds in her life sincerely and in the open, if she can. It’s perplexing to me why we say one thing and do another, particularly in religion. I wanted Aisha to be a stand against that, this virulent hypocrisy that so many people enact, and most especially when they use religion to justify their own hate, their own dismissal and arrogance and lack of empathy.

Not only are questions of love and sexual identity placed in the spot light, but very gently, and subtly, questions of God are raised too, as Aisha comments: ‘What we were brought up with was so finite… God confined to black and white lines…’ Can you comment on this?

There’s almost too much I have to say about this, and I don’t think I can do my feelings justice. I think I poured a lot of my feelings about it into the story, to be completely honest, and so that will have to say the bulk of how I feel, and even that doesn’t do it very well, in my opinion. I have a reverence and love of the sacred, of God, of faith, that goes beyond anything I could say. It is my driving force and my deepest love and the impetus behind everything I attempt. I have also had the most sacred and sincere and noble parts of myself attacked, and harmed, horrifically, by people who claim the same, and who use religion as their justification for a kind of unkindness, a lack of empathy, of mercy, of love, a virulent and cruel hatred, a cruel dismissiveness and mockery, towards people based on their gender or sexual identity. I find it completely antithetical to what I believe God is – which is all-encompassing, all-understanding, most merciful, most gracious and beneficent and kind. I still struggle with that, with what to do with that.

The themes I address in the story are definitely shaped by and influenced by my own Muslim background, people I’ve known, things I’ve witnessed, and so on.

And so the story unfolds as Aisha tenderly executes the wedding patterns on Zahra’s hands. Apart from being an excellent fictional device to carry the story along, what is the particular significance of the ritual?

It’s generally a celebratory kind of act, and often that’s when a lot of laughter and secrets and advice will be shared. There’s a big aspect of womanhood and camaraderie to it, at least in my experience attending Mehndi nights and doing Mehndi patterns for brides and so on. But there’s also a profound and gentle intimacy to it that is very poignant when there’s erotic love between the two people involved.

In this story, I was actually inspired by a painting called The meeting on the turret stairs by Frederic William Burton, which captures this utterly poignant moment between two lovers whose relationship is forbidden. It’s a perfect depiction of so much of the medieval ideas surrounding courtly love – silence and restraint, sincerity and reverence and longing. The woman turns away while her lover is only able to kiss her sleeve in passing. It’s so charged with erotic tension but executed with such restraint that the moment is held taut, and it’s that aspect, the restraint of ritual and etiquette, the longing and erotic charge of touch, of the hand brushed in passing, that inspired me.

How did you research the ‘trade’ of painting Mehndi?

I’m actually a practitioner myself. I’ve done henna and Mehndi painting since I was twelve.

To get to the style, the writing has a lyrical quality which makes for fluid reading. Are you aware of ‘rhythm’ as you write? Or is the writing style determined by the character?

I’m not sure, I think it depends. I think often, when you get into the kind of ‘flow’ of writing, when you’re receptive and open and things are moving and happening, it kind of happens organically, and when you tap into a character’s voice, it takes on a life of its own.

What writing Trade Secret would you like to share?

There’s not much of a secret except to remember that it’s work. And as Khalil Gibran said, and my dearest mentors always reminded me, ‘Work is love made visible’. You must honor the work. Keep showing up. Keep paying attention. Keep your love as sincere as you can.

Click here to visit Mishka’s author’s page.

Trade Secrets

Book details

» read article

2017 Brittle Paper Literary Awards winners announced

The winners of the 2017 Brittle Papers Literary Awards has been announced! The awards recognise the “finest, original pieces of literature by Africans available online for free.”

As per the announcement:

We announced it to mark our seventh anniversary. Its five categories—Fiction ($200), Poetry ($200), Creative Nonfiction/Memoir ($200), Essays/Think Pieces ($200), and the Anniversary Award ($300) for writing published by us—reflect our efforts to capture the range and variations of literary dialogue on the continent. Across these five categories, 48 pieces of writing, each beautifully crafted and thought-provoking, were shortlisted based on their quality, significance and impact.


Read: The Brittle Paper Award for Essays/Think Pieces: Meet the Nominees

From a class of essays and think pieces that situate the African writer’s work within global conversations, we chose Sisonke Msimang’s brilliant commentary on black women as figures of intellectual power, “All Your Faves Are Problematic: A Brief History of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Stanning and #BlackGirlMagic.”

Msimang explores, with the eye of the scholar and pop culture critic, the forces that have contributed to Chimamanda Adichie’s dominance in the global imagination. The piece may be about Adichie in subject, but it is also driven by larger questions about how we produce knowledge in the age of social media. Drawing from a wide array of discursive fields – literature, feminism, politics, and fashio – Msimang offers a hard and searing look at how questions of race intersect with global intellectual iconography and social media culture.

“All Your Faves Are Problematic” is published by Africa is a Country, a remarkable intellectual project that has contributed immensely to changing the rules, practices, and conventions on how we produce knowledge about the continent.


Read: The Brittle Paper Award for Fiction: Meet the Nominees

From a box of ten short stories that range from the startling to the tragic, we chose Megan Ross’s aching romance, “Farang.” A study of intimacy and companionship set in Thailand and South Africa, a reflection on love and language, on foreknowledge and inevitability, “Farang” is wrought in visual prose so lyrical and controlled it moves like a spring. In “Farang,” we witness a dialogue among subject, style, and aesthetic experimentation, but one that is accessible in its complexity.

It is time, also, to salute the unrivaled work that Short Story Day Africa Prize is doing for short fiction on the continent. The prize’s top three entries for 2016, from the collective’s most recent anthology, Migrations, all made our shortlist. The collective has left its mark on the 2010s literary scene, and we are all the better for it.


Read: The Brittle Paper Award for Poetry: Meet the Nominees

From a pool of ten poems that range from stylistic daringness to psychological acuity, we chose J.K. Anowe’s thematically deviant, Self-centric “Credo to Leave.” An interrogation of psychological make-up, delivered in a voice grounded in vulnerability and deep existential pain, “Credo to Leave” is an entry point to an emerging sub-tradition in the poetry of Nigeria’s new generation. It is a sub-tradition preoccupied with the visceral, personal, and psychological—internal void, suicidal tendencies, masturbation, sex—with digging into the Self. Pegged in the psyche, its introspection—the focus on speaking into oneself rather than speaking out to the world—is an outlet for a confessional generation not afraid to voice its internal struggles and flaws, to make art of it. Given the emotional and psychological state of its voice, the wording of “Credo to Leave,” the abrupt clarity of it, demonstrates psychological acuity, clinical depression unadorned. “Credo to Leave” is a revolt.

“Credo to Leave” is published by Expound, a magazine that is often a conduit for the development of new talent, but J.K. Anowe’s emergence began from Praxis magazine’s poetry chapbook series. We recognize and applaud here the priceless work that homegrown platforms put in to usher in new voices, particularly as these platforms are themselves run by new voices.


Read: The Brittle Paper Award for Creative Nonfiction/Memoir: Meet the Nominees

From a collection of eight creative nonfiction pieces that range from the explosive to the breathtakingly innovative, we chose Hawa Jande Golakai’s witty rebuttal to stereotypes, “Fugee.” An affecting interrogation of the Ebola crisis in Liberia, as well as of identity and the life of an artist-cum-clinical scientist, “Fugee” is delivered in a beguiling blend of humorous, quotable, often-lyrical sentences. Golakai documents one of the most precarious moments for the African continent with the seriousness it deserves but also the private, subjective dimension it requires. The essay is the perfect modulation of distance and nearness, pain and humor, social commentary and the confessional. In many ways, “Fugee” exemplifies, in the deftness of its composition and the humaneness of its delivery, Ellah Allfrey’s notion of a “specifically African genre of creative nonfiction.”

Golakai’s piece is available to read for free on, but it was originally published in Safe House, a groundbreaking nonfiction collection edited by Ellah Allfrey.


Read: The Brittle Paper Anniversary Award: Meet the Nominees

From a mix of twelve conversation-driving fiction, poetry and nonfiction published on our site, we chose Chibuihe Obi’s brave, impactful “We’re Queer, We’re Here.” A query into the paucity of Nigerian literature about queerness and an expatiation of the immediate violence that so empowers homophobia, Obi’s work is all the more important given the unfortunate circumstance of his kidnapping – which only strengthens his work’s premise. Published, in a weird coincidence, on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the essay racked up 2,000 views in its first week, and more than 6,000 views in its first five weeks and, five months later, is inching towards 8,000 views, at a rate that might move it into our top-20 most-viewed posts within months.

Congratulations to Sisonke Msimang, Megan Ross, J.K. Anowe, Hawa Jande Golakai and Chibuihe Obi.

» read article

2017 Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro

The prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to the renowned British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.

Ishiguro has received widespread acclaim for his novels Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day and The Buried Giant.

Read Michele Magwood’s interview with Ishiguro on the Buried Giant here and listen to her 2015 interview with Ishiguro here:

» read article

Book Bites: 1 October 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

King Kong  King Kong: Our Knot of Time and Music
Pat Williams, Portobello Books
Award-winning author Pat Williams documents the jazz opera King Kong. The musical is centred on heavyweight ’50s boxing champion Ezekiel Dlamini. Hailed as the unbeatable champ of those days, Dlamini was said to be dangerous, as William writes: “He would fight someone in the ring and then invite them to come outside and fight again on the street.” Fame turned to infamy when he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing his girlfriend. He later committed suicide, drowning himself in the prison dam. According to Williams it was thanks to King Kong that jazz legends like Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela found fame, and it was where Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu met and fell in love. Williams also describes the impact the opera had on her and on the show’s original cast. – Khanyi Ndabeni

The MayflyThe Mayfly
James Hazel, Bonnier Zaffre
A paint-by-numbers thriller that starts off with too much exposition but relaxes into a character-driven narrative. Protagonist Charlie Priest is large, handsome and clever, with more than the required number of flaws. Once a detective inspector, Priest left the police to start a legal firm for a handful of high-end corporate clients in London. As a result he is loathed by most of his former colleagues, one of whom happens to be his ex-wife. He suffers from bouts of dissociative disorder during which he cannot communicate, although it’s hard to see how his appalling social skills could get any worse. And then there’s his brother, a convicted serial killer with whom Priest plays Holmes-and-Watson observation games during visits to the psychiatric prison ward. Sue de Groot @deGrootS1

A Jihad for LoveA Jihad For Love
Mohamed El Bachiri with David Van Reybrouck, Head of Zeus
“Life no longer tastes the same to me, but the setting sun is still glorious,” writes Bachiri after his wife, Loubna Lafquiri, was murdered on 22 March 2016 in a terrorist bombing in Brussels. Bachiri’s raw grief seeps through the pages of this tiny book that is part poetry, part memoir, and part tribute. This varied collection comes together as an overall plea to the world to cease reacting with hate and to fight for love. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Book details

» read article