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Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

Alan Paton Award shortlist: Stuart Doran talks to us about his book Kingdom, Power, Glory: Mugabe, Zanu and the Quest for Supremacy, 1960-1987

Published in the Sunday Times

Stuart Doran is and independent historian. He completed his secondary education in Zimbabwe and later graduated from the Australian National University with a PhD in history. He has spent the last 15 years researching and writing about Zimbabwe’s early post-independence period, including the Gukurahundi massacres of 1983 and 1984.

You have a PhD in history – what was your area of study for that?

I studied 20th-century political history during my undergraduate days and then wrote a PhD thesis on the Cold War.

What sparked your interest in history?

There were two reasons why I grew to love history. The first was its applied nature. It’s about real people and real events. I found that fascinating. The second reason was that I was blessed to have a number of teachers through high school and university who were passionate about history. Those teachers genuinely loved the subject – and because of that they were better at what they did than most of my other teachers. And their enthusiasm rubbed off on others. I consider myself fortunate. Many students have poor history teachers who quickly kill off the interest of their pupils by giving the impression that history consists of nothing more than memorising a string of boring and irrelevant events. It’s a false view of a historian’s work. Historians are sleuths, investigators, pioneers – people who unearth and explain mysteries. I did much of my schooling in Matabeleland and lived in Bulawayo during the Gukurahundi. I wanted to understand the turmoil of the 1980s.

Can you describe your process of research?

Like any half-decent historian, I try to unearth new source material, while re-examining the primary source material that’s already known. And, of course, I look at what other historians have written. Then there’s the process of analysis – and, finally, the challenge of presenting the results in a way that makes sense to others. One of my mentors, the great historian Hank Nelson, drilled into me the idea that you’re not a historian if you’re writing stuff that can’t be understood by a normal educated person.

Western governments were accused of “not doing enough” to prevent the mass killing of civilians – would you agree?

I don’t subscribe to the view that historians are public intellectuals. What I mean is that we shouldn’t be in the business of making moral or political judgements when we’re writing history. Our job is to find out what happened and why it happened. It’s up to our readers to decide what the moral or political implications are. That’s not to say that historians don’t have personal views on these things. But when we have our hats on as historians, we must try to separate ourselves from such matters. So, to answer your question, I’d point to the reality as it occurred rather than making a theoretical statement about what should have been done. The reality is that western governments made private representations to the Mugabe regime about the massacres, but were not prepared to push their relationship with Zanu-PF to the wire over the issue. Those representations played a part in prompting Mugabe to scale down the intensity of the killings. But he also became convinced that there would be few consequences once he had adopted a lower-intensity approach.

Was there ever a legitimate reason for the existence of the Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland?

Mugabe and his ministers claimed that 5 Brigade was a crack unit that was established to deal with banditry in Matabeleland. But that was propaganda. The brigade was created to smash the support base of Zanu-PF’s main political opposition – and that’s exactly what it did when it was deployed in January 1983.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was Robert Mugabe’s minister of state security during the Gukurahundi – do you believe, as some do, that he was instrumental in the massacres?

Yes. The evidence is clear. He was by no means the only player, but he was one of the most important. His outright denials are, frankly, pretty silly. He needs a new PR team.

Gukurahundi happened more than 30 years ago – do you think Zimbabweans are willing to leave it behind now?

Ordinary Zimbabweans aren’t close to having a choice in the matter. The perpetrators are still in control and any dialogue is severely constrained by that fact.

What was the most disturbing or surprising thing you uncovered in your research?

There were many. The depth of the violence was not surprising – human history everywhere is immersed in blood – but it was disturbing. When former colleagues are prepared to rip each other apart, when men take pleasure in dismembering women and children alive, it’s arresting. These things are not done by monsters, but by people like you and me. It gives you a jolt. What is this beast in the human basement?

What were your biggest challenges in writing the book?

Climbing a mountain that seemed to have no end. I bit off a lot to chew. I tried to tell myself that this was finite; that it would come to an end. Yet I wasn’t sure when that would happen and there were many times when it didn’t seem worth it. You’ve got to keep on plodding, even when the oxygen runs out. Another challenge was the lack of financial support. Many donors, institutions and individuals wring their hands over issues like the Gukurahundi, but few put money and mouth together. It means that a lot of vital research never happens. And if you’re foolhardy enough to forge ahead, most of the time you’re on your own.

It is a monumental book – do you feel there is any more to be revealed in Zimbabwean history?

I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are relatively few historians looking at modern Zimbabwean or Southern African history. The more the better. There can never be too many.

Book details

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Exclusive Books releases its 2018 Pan-African Writing Catalogue

To mark Africa Month, Exclusive Books has released the 2018 edition of its highly-acclaimed Pan-African Writing Catalogue – the only bookseller’s catalogue of its kind, worldwide.

The number of titles featured has increased, from 250 in the inaugural 2017 edition to almost 400 this year, and the bookseller has committed to keeping all titles permanently in stock, as far as possible.

The 62-page glossy catalogue is available for free to all customers, who may pick up copies at any Exclusive Books store.

As with the first edition of the catalogue, readers will find a wealth of writers in its pages – poets, polemicists, novelists, biographers and historians – whose collective voice from Africa, the UK, US, Caribbean and other parts of the diaspora makes plain the power of Black literature in our world.

“Our 2018 catalogue builds on the success of last year’s debut list of books, which drew an extraordinarily positive response from our customers,” said Ben Williams, GM: Marketing for Exclusive Books.

In developing the catalogue, Exclusive Books worked alongside publishers to bring certain titles back into print and has invested heavily in stockholding to ensure the titles are readily available for purchase in-store or online via the Exclusive Books website.

“While no catalogue can be comprehensive, and every curation is necessarily imperfect, we feel that this new list represents a significant step forward. We strive to improve and increase our selection each year,” Williams said.

Look out for the Exclusive Books 2018 Pan-African Writing Catalogue, in stores now. All books featured in the catalogue earn Fanatics members double points throughout May.

For more information, please contact the Exclusive Books Marketing Manager, Leigh Jackman, at

View the titles in the 2018 Exclusive Books Pan African Writing Catalogue here:

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“I wanted to create a love story that was real, true to life, flawed and challenging.” Amanda Prowse on writing Anna: One Love, Two Stories

Published in the Sunday Times

Anna: One Love Two Stories
Amanda Prowse, Head of Zeus, R255

I loved writing the book Anna, I found her a likable, relatable character and it felt like a joy to spend each day with her. I had decided to base some of her struggles and hardships on my own childhood and I think one thing that surprised me was how much I was affected by this.

Anna got under my skin, stayed with me and I found myself concerned for her. People who have read Anna have said she stays with them too and that they feel great warmth and affection for her, so I suppose though it was emotionally challenging, it helped add depth to her character on the page.

One thing I love most about this book is how much Anna’s life feels true and though some moments are quite harrowing, these are quickly followed by others which will make you laugh out loud and, for me, this is life – I think if you can learn to laugh through the bad times it somehow gives you strength to keep going. Anna’s is a love story and when she falls in love with Theo, she finds fulfilment.

We know all the things that Anna has lived through [having spent most of her life in a care home, wanting love] and we know what has shaped her. But, just as in real life, we do not know what things have shaped the person fall in love with and this is certainly the case with Theo.

We will them to work as a couple, cheering them on from the rooftops and praying that the two young people, despite being from such different backgrounds, can find a way to overcome all their demons and make this relationship work.

I wanted to create a love story that was real, true to life, flawed and challenging but also with the fairy-tale elements that make a romance like Anna’s so magical. I hope I have achieved this. Anna is without doubt one of the characters who will forever live in my heart and mind.

When writing the book, I based the character of Theo’s mother on a friend of my mother’s and I cannot tell you how funny it was when she made a particular point of mentioning to me how much she disliked the character! I guess it’s true what they say; we really don’t know how others see us. This is certainly the case with Anna, who sees herself as an ordinary girl but I think you will agree after having read the books that she is really quite extraordinary.


Book details



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When she was a teenager, the Afrikaans poet Sheila Cussons tried her hand at an English fairytale – and the results are breathtaking

Trevor in the Land of FantasySheila Cussons gave her son, Jaume Saladrigas Cussons, a gift – a manuscript she had kept to herself for decades. Her son fulfilled her wish and in due course Imbali Academic published his mother’s imaginative and inspiring story.

“As adults we often lose sight of the fantasy world that exists in our imaginations,” says Ute Spath, Director of Sales and Marketing at Imbali Academic Publishers. “We are privileged to make this creative piece available. Cussons seamlessly incorporated old-world charm into a whimsical dreamland, and the result is Trevor in the Land of Fantasy.”

During an interview Cussons confirmed: “When I was about 14 I wrote an English story for my little brother, who was two at the time. I named it Trevor in the Land of Fantasy and I also illustrated it. I recall writing it in a hammock between two trees in our garden”.

Offering the perfect escape, the book will appeal to children and adults alike, and was re-lived by Cussons on many occasions as she read it to her brother, and then to her sons later in life.

Having moved to Spain she enjoyed sharing this secret story with her family. In later life Cussons moved back to South Africa and lived, for the last part of her life, at Nazareth House in Cape Town.

“While most of Cussons’ work was published between the 1970s and 1990s, this rare youth work held a very special place in her heart. Set in her home country, South Africa, the book instantly transports readers to a fantasy world. The imaginary piece will serve an important purpose in her memory, as all sales proceeds will be donated to Nazareth House,” concludes Spath.

Book details

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SA illustrator wins international literary award

Via Golden Baobab: Accra, Ghana (9 May 2018)

Toby Newsome, a renowned Cape Town based artist has won the internationally coveted Children’s Africana Book Award (CABA) for his illustrations in the children’s book, Grandma’s List. The book was written by Ghanaian author, Portia Dery, who who jointly won the CABA with Toby Newsome.

Toby Newsome, the acclaimed illustrator of Grandma’s List.

The Children’s Africana Book Award is an annual prize presented to authors and illustrators of the best children’s and young adult books on Africa published or republished in the U.S.A. The awards were created by Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) and its sponsors includes the African Studies departments of universities Harvard, Howard and Yale among others. Past winning illustrators of CABA include South Africa’s Niki Daly.

One of Newsome’s stunning illustrations.

Grandma’s List is a brilliant and colorful story about an 8-year old girl, Fatima, who wants to save the day by helping her grandmother complete her list of errands. The problem is, Fatima loses the list and she has to recall from memory what was written on it. The rest of story then takes the reader on a funny and heartwarming adventure with Fatima and her family.

Grandma’s List, published by African Bureau Stories, won the 2018 CABA Young Children’s category along with two other books from international publishers, Candlewick Press and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This is the second international children’s book award that Grandma’s List has won. It previously won the prestigious Golden Baobab Prize for The Best Picture Book manuscript in Africa in 2014.

The new children’s publishing house, African Bureau Stories, has made an impressive move in publishing a truly Pan-African book like Grandma’s List, which is a powerful literary partnership between Ghana and South Africa. The publishing house’s aim is to produce world class and contemporary African stories for children. In addition to Grandma’s List, African Bureau Stories has produced three other children’s books which according to the publisher, Deborah Ahenkorah, are “super cool books that will delight children all over the world.”

Anastasia Shown, a CABA Reviewer from the University of Pennsylvania says:

Grandma’s List is an excellent read aloud book for school or storytime. The illustrations show a neighborhood in Ghana that is very typical of many African towns with shops, gardens, small livestock, and many people outside working and playing…One of the best features of the book is the characters of many ages. There are kids playing, vendors selling, teens on their phones, grownups working, and elders relaxing. They wear African prints and western styled clothes…The book can generate lots of great open ended questions.”


With illustrations like these it’s no wonder Newsome was the recipient of this coveted award!

Book details

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Jim Crace’s brilliant The Melody explores loss, ageing, greed and gentrification, writes Paige Nick

Published in the Sunday Times

The Melody *****
Jim Crace, Picador, R285

After his Booker-nominated Harvest (2013), Jim Crace was never going to write another novel – until three things happened. The first was at a literary festival in India, in a luxury hotel where high walls and security kept the world out, except at night when animals and humans fed loudly from the bins next door.

The second was a year later, in Malta, when Crace stayed on a promenade built for sun seekers in the 1800s. But now the buildings cast it into shade, except where an early Victorian house, badly in need of repair, had survived. Just one storey high, the sun got through and locals gathered in that little moving square of sunshine. This conflict between the built and natural world lives in all Crace’s work.

So Crace collapsed India into Malta and Malta into the Mediterranean as The Melody started to form in his head.

The third thing happened years ago while writing a short story for The Devil’s Larder (2001). In story No 60, a character named Tambar appears in just one sentence. Crace liked that the musician’s name sounded like “tambourine”, but later came to dislike it. So before the American edition came out he renamed him Alfred Busi.

And so Busi is The Melody’s lead; a famous singer coming to terms with retirement and his wife’s death. One night a lonely Busi is attacked by what could either be a wild animal or a feral child stealing food from his pantry. The attack spins the town folk into panic and Busi’s nephew, a developer, uses the crisis to further his own agenda as they wage war on whatever or whoever is living in the forest. The novel explores loss, ageing, greed and gentrification, as well as the refugee crisis and xenophobia.

Crace is the master of allegorical novels, set in no particular time or place. What The Melody lacks in fast-paced plot it makes up for with Crace’s superb lyrical style. And though the reader may not be able to pinpoint when this brilliant book is set, that doesn’t make it less of a novel for our times. @paigen

Book details

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Book Bites: 15 April

Published in the Sunday Notes

The Swimming Lesson and Other Stories
Kobus Moolman, UKZN Press, R160

Like his poems, Kobus Moolman’s short stories examine life through what can be described as a philosophical lens. The story “Like Father, Like Son” explores the impressions of religion – its restrictions on desire and language, its racial stratification, and its love, presaging violent discipline in obedience to God, nation and family. Though distinctly South African and context-specific, there is something general about contemporary society. At the same time, “The Rubbish Collectors” is a small story about who cleans up after whom. Whether it’s Maggie who smells of cigars, not perfume, or Jesus waking you up in the night because he has something on his mind, it’s the oracy of these narratives that will keep you turning the pages. Chantelle Gray van Heerden @CGrayvH

The Wicked Cometh
Laura Carlin, Hodder & Stoughton, R275

“Danger is never overcome without danger,” is how Hester White has survived in the Victorian-era slums since the death of her parents. But fortunes appear to change when a carriage accident sweeps her into the arms of the wealthy Brock family, under the tutoring care of Rebekah. Yet the aristocratic world is not as far away from the slums as it first appears, tugging the women down into the depths of mystery and murder. A sensuous Gothic tale that is slow to begin, picking up as the plot thickens and twists. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Force of Nature
Jane Harper, Little Brown, R275

Beware the office team-building experience, especially when they take you out to the wild. In Australia. This is the second outing of Harper’s detective Aaron Falk and this time he investigates the disappearance of Alice Russell, who vanishes one night after her team of female co-workers lose their way in the forests near Melbourne. Alice is a police informer, forced into getting files on the nefarious dealings of her firm. Falk needs to find out if any of her colleagues or bosses know what she was doing. Harper won plenty of awards for The Dry, and the pace, setting and constructed character building of this follow-up will most probably garner more accolades. Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Book details

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Enter the 2018 South African Literary Awards

Writers and publishers, the South African Literary Awards (SALA), presented by The wRite Association wants YOU to submit your book for consideration of an award in the following categories:

SALA awards the following literary categories which are also open to all South African writers; First-time Published Author Award, K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award, Poetry Award, Nadine Gordimer Short story Award, Creative Non-fiction Literary Award, Literary Translators Award, Literary Journalism Award, Posthumous Literary Award, Lifetime Achievement Literary Award, Novel Award and Children’s Literature Award.

For more information and to download entry forms visit or

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Yewande Omotoso shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2018!

The shortlist for the International Dublin Literary Award 2018 has been announced and it boasts a South African title!

Congratulations to Yewande Omotoso, whose novel The Woman Next Door (Chatto & Windus) was selected as one of the 10 shortlisted titles. This isn’t the first time that Yewande’s literary ingenuity has been recognised – The Woman Next Door was also shortlisted for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize 2017.

This prestigious award is cited as “the world’s most valuable annual literary prize for a single work of fiction published in English”. Books are nominated for the award by public libraries throughout the world; the South African titles were nominated by Cape Town Library and Information Services. Local authors Mohale Mashigo (The Yearning) and Nthikeng Mohlele (Pleasure) appeared on the longlist.

The winner will be announced on the 13th of June and will receive €100,000.

Good luck, Yewande! :)

Book details

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Wenners van die 2018 UJ-pryse bekend!

Die wenners van die gesogte UJ-pryse vir letterkunde is onlangs bekendgemaak.

Dié pryse woord jaarliks in twee kategorieë toegeken vir uitsonderlike Afrikaanse boeke wat in die vorige kalenderjaar gepubliseer is. Genre word nie in ag geneem nie met die beoordeling van die boeke nie.

Prysgeld vir die UJ-debuutprys beloop R30 000 terwyl die wenner van die UJ-prys met R75 000 beloon word.

Die wenners!

Jolyn Phillips. (©Naomi Bruwer)

Die wenner van die UJ-debuutprys is Jolyn Phillips vir haar digbundel Radbraak.

Radbraak is Jolyn, kortverhaalskrywer van Tjieng tjang tjerries, se digdebuut in Afrikaans.

In dié digbundel verbrokkel sy taal, draai sy rug op haar vel-taal, pleeg sy ‘radbraak’ op haar eie taal. Dit is die enigste medium wat sy het, maar sy breek dit, sy vernuwe dit, sy ‘ont’taal dit.

Phillips is ’n nuwe stem in Afrikaans – by tye liries maar deurgaans skreiend en ook uitdagend.

Volgens bekroonde digter Petra Müller is Radbraak ’n ‘klein aardbewing van ’n bundel’.

Ook uit Müller se keurverslag:’Hierdie skrywer het die engel in die klip beet.’

Jolyn Phillips, 27, is gebore en getoë in Blompark, Gansbaai. Haar debuutkortverhaalbundel, Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories, verskyn in 2016. Sy is tans besig om met haar doktorale tesis aan die Universiteit van Weskaapland (UWK). Sy beskryf haarself as ’n woordswerwer maar werk ook deeltyds as ’n dosent en sangeres.

SJ Naudé. ©Liné Enslin.

Die wenner van die UJ-prys is SJ Naudé vir sy roman Die derde spoel.

Etienne is twee-en-twintig en studeer filmkuns in London nadat hy uit Suid- Afrika gevlug het om diensplig te vermy. Dit is 1986, die tyd van Thatcher, optogte teen apartheid, en Vigs, maar ook van eksperimentele kuns, postpunk en die Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Etienne raak verlief op ’n Duitse kunstenaar in hierdie skadustad waar mense in bouvallige kunstenaarskommunes woon.

In Londen kom Etienne af op die eerste van drie filmspoele wat tydens die dertigerjare in Duitsland verfilm is. Etienne begin na die verlore spoele soek, ’n soektog wat ’n obsessie word wanneer sy geliefde vermis raak in Berlyn. Terwyl Etienne die gevaarlike ruimtes weerskante van die Muur navigeer, begin die verhaal van ’n groepie Joodse filmmakers in Nazi-Duitsland vorm aanneem.

Etienne word egter teruggeruk na die hede en na Suid-Afrika, maar sy soektog na die vermiste film duur voort.

Argitektuur, kinematografie, seks, musiek, siekte, verlies en liefde deurweek SJ Naudé se kosmopolitaanse en roerende Die derde spoel, waarmee hy nuwe grond vir die roman in Afrikaans breek.


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