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 ‘Biography’ Category

“Hamba kahle, Emma!” Doyenne of South Africa’s trade union movement passes away

Prominent trade union veteran, women’s and human rights activist, and former Restitution of Land Rights Commissioner Emma Mashinini has passed away in her home in Pretoria at midnight last night at the age 87.

Mrs Mashinini is regarded as the doyenne of the trade union movement in South Africa, serving as a shop steward on the National Union of Clothing Workers (NUCW) and a founder of the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) in 1975. She was integrally involved in the establishment of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in 1985.

Mrs Mashinini played several prominent roles in the transition to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s.

Funeral arrangements are being finalised and details will be communicated in due course.

Terry Morris, MD of Picador and Pan Macmillan, paid homage to this remarkable woman:

The feisty and inspirational Emma Mashinini has passed away at age 87. Emma’s memoir, Strikes Have Followed me All my Life was originally published by The Women’s Press UK in 1989 and republished by Picador Africa in South Africa in 2012 with a new foreword by Jay Naidoo.

It was a privilege to publish her book and to have her as an author on our list.

Hamba kahle Emma!

Book details


» read article

Acts of useless beauty: Bron Sibree talks to Tim Winton about his new memoir The Boy Behind The Curtain

Published in the Sunday Times

The Boy Behind the CurtainThe Boy Behind the Curtain
Tim Winton (Picador)
*****

Tim Winton refers to his new memoir, The Boy Behind the Curtain, his 28th book to date, as a midlife “looking over the shoulder”. Yet it’s difficult to conceive of more a revealing work from a novelist so revered by his fellow countrymen, but so renowned for shunning the limelight. It is a companion volume to his 2015 non-fiction meditation on the role of Australian landscape on his own fiction and that of the Australian psyche, Island Home.

Yet, this collection peels back the curtain on his life as a man and a writer in far more revealing ways. It also surprised Winton with what the book unveiled. “What sticks out for me,” he says, referring to a body of work that has earned him two Booker Prize shortlistings, “is just how unlikely it all is, having come from this modest, working-class background where no one had ever finished school”.

He writes of his sadness that members of his family remain illiterate in a chapter in The Boy Behind the Curtain, that also probes his concerns about the growing divide between rich and poor. For this is no conventional memoir, but a series of profoundly personal essays in which the 56-year-old author of such novels as Eyrie, Breath, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and The Riders, attempts to make sense of the world, his childhood and the unconscious patterns of his fiction. “You are drawing on real stuff as a fiction writer whether you know it or not, so it’s me trying to acknowledge and also make plain some of those strands that make up the rope.”

Some of that rope’s most significant strands are those of his childhood. The book takes its cues from its titular chapter in which Winton recalls himself before he found words: a troubled, inarticulate 13-year-old who took to aiming his father’s .22 Lithgow rifle at “innocent passers-by” from behind the curtains of his parent’s bedroom. “When I think of that kid at the window, the boy I once was,” he writes, “I get a lingering chill.”

In another he recalls his fears as a nine-year-old, clinging to the steering wheel in the aftermath of a road accident in which his traffic cop father gave his son a job to do while attending an injured motorcyclist. Winton was an adult before he realised his fears related to an earlier traffic accident: one in which his father had been so badly injured that then six-year-old Winton felt he’d been robbed of the father he knew. “That scene,” he reveals, “has puzzled me all my life. Haunted me, in a way.”

That those childhood events remain so resonant in his life and work also surprised Winton . “To recognise myself as the little boy still clinging to the steering wheel, and also to recognise in this long-ago boy holding the gun behind the curtain, that he’s been and gone in one sense, but he’s still present. The people that you’ve been in your life are still with you. They still inform you and you have to be mindful of them, learn from them and not pretend that they’re not there.”

Then there is his obsession with “useless beauty” as he describes his passion for the natural world. “I realised late in life, just from surfing, that in indulging in all those thousands of mornings and afternoons surfing, I was essentially indulging in acts of useless beauty.”

He writes of his abiding need to tap into the power of the ocean in a dance he calls “the wait and the flow” in this memoir. And to read it is to swim marginally, fleetingly, closer to comprehending the miracle of Winton ’s preternatural ability to harness the power of the natural world to the page. For he writes just like he surfs. “And the feeling is divine.”

Follow Bron Sibree @Bron Sibree

Book details


» read article

Book Bites: 25 June 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

The Fall of the House of WildeThe Fall of the House of Wilde
Emer O’Sullivan (Bloomsbury)
Book real
****
This biography on one of the 19th century’s most prolific playwright’s family history is an engaging account of a generation’s demise. O’Sullivan covers the Wilde genealogy from 1758 – the year in which Oscar Wilde’s physician father, William, was commemorated with a plaque for his contribution to medicine, archaeology and folkore. We’re also introduced to his brother Willie, and his mother, Jane. O’Sullivan’s account of William’s sexual assault charges, Jane’s anguish following the charges, and the family’s fall into ill-repute is an engrossing, empathetic and eloquent read. The book brims with dates, names, letters and photos, and a comprehensive introduction to Irish history, yet O’Sullivan’s prose never reads as a dull textbook. – Mila de Villiers @mila_se_kind


Marlena

Julie Buntin (Picador)
Book buff
****
“Tell me what you can’t forget, and I’ll tell you who you are” – so begins a tale of teenage friendship and addiction. Cat looks back on her year in Michigan, where as a girl of 15 she meets glamorous and wild Marlena. The story contains echoes of Carolyn Forche’s poem As Children Together and Beatrice Sparks’ Go Ask Alice. But Buntin brings a fresh take on rural America, land of isolation and Trump supporters. This is where prescription drugs and meth have infiltrated the crumbling remains of the white working class. Lonely and floundering, the teens hold each other up and drag each other down. Some, like Cat, do grow up and escape, but the scars and memories will follow them wherever they go. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

The Roanoke Girl
The Roanoke Girls
Amy Engel, Hodder & Stoughton
Book fling
***
After her mother committed suicide when she was 15 years old, Lane Roanoke went to live with her grandparents and cousin Allegra. More than a decade later, and somewhat lost in Los Angeles, Lane gets a call from her grandfather to say Allegra has gone missing. Lane returns to her grandparents but now must face the dark secret that made her leave so many years ago. This novel will have you read until the very end in just one sitting. – Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt
 
Book details


» read article

Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre to again host the Lowveld Book Festival

Due to the success of the inaugural Lowveld Book Festival last year, the festival will once more take place at Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White River, Mpumalanga, from 18 to 20 August 2017.

The Lowveld is not only home to many of South Africa’s literary talents, but is also the setting for a vast array of books and poems.

The response from publishers, authors and visitors was overwhelmingly positive last year, and this year visitors can look forward to a host of interesting authors, including Karina Szcuzurek (The Fifth Mrs Brink), Tony Park, Adam Cruise, Athol Williams, Bridget Hilton-Barber, Elaine Pillay, Tracy Todd, Mercy Dube, Mario Cesare, Jayne Bauling, Derick van der Walt, DJ Sbu and Isabella Morris to name a few, as well as a socio-political discussion, various workshops and poetry readings.

Tony Park
Tony is the author of 13 novels, set in Africa, and six biographies. His 14th novel, The Cull, about an elite anti-poaching squad, is due for release in October 2017.

Adam Cruise
Adam is a conservation and travel writer, who works for a variety of magazines and newspapers. His books include the well-received Louis Botha’s War in 2015 and In the Pursuit of Solitude (2012). Adam has just moved back to South Africa, to Sabie, after spending a few years writing and indulging in the Mediterranean culture on the French Riviera.

Athol Williams
Athol is an award-winning poet and social philosopher. He is the author of Pushing Boulders: Oppressed to Inspired, which tells of his journey from poverty to earning master’s degrees from five of the world’s top universities including Harvard, Oxford and LSE. He is the only person to be awarded the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award twice, was a winner of a poetry prize at Oxford, and was a runner-up for the 2016 SA Literary Award for Poetry. He has published three books of poetry and is the author of the Oaky series of children’s books. He is currently a doctoral candidate Oxford University.

Bridget Hilton-Barber
Bridget’s colourful career in the media spans more than two decades. Former travel correspondent for Radio 702 and former editor of South African Airways’ (SAA) magazine Sawubona, she is best known for her wild and wacky travel writing and books. Her first memoir, Garden of My Ancestors was a bestseller. Now in her ninth book, a political memoir, Bridget takes you on a poignant journey back to her life as a student activist in the final days of apartheid in the mid 80s where she was betrayed by a police spy and ended up in jail.

Elaine Pillay
Elaine has written academic books and short stories. Zwai and the Little Creature is her first children’s book. In March 2017, she represented South Africa in Fiji Islands at the Centennial Celebration of the Abolition of Indentured Labour in Fiji.

Mario Cesare
Mario’s career has taken him from Timbavati and Mala Mala to Olifants River. His memoir – Man-eaters, Mambas and Marula Madness – provides a wealth of lessons on conservation and stories of life in the bush, as it is enjoyed only by those fortunate enough to live on a Big Five reserve.

More recently, Mario wrote The Man with the Black Dog, a touching story of a man and his faithful canine companion. With a naturalist’s eye for detail and the bigger picture of managing a fragile ecosystem through years of drought and plenty, Mario brings a storyteller’s delight – and a dash of Italian passion – to sharing his world.

Jayne Bauling
Jayne’s 25th book will be published during 2017 – Game Plan, the third novel in her Soccer Season trilogy for Cover2Cover Books. Her first 17 novels were romances, published by Mills & Boon in the UK, and translated into over 20 languages. In recent years, her focus has been on writing for youth. Her YA novels have been awarded the Macmillan Writers Prize for Africa, the Sanlam Gold Prize for Youth Literature and the Maskew Miller Longman Literature Award. One of them, Dreaming of Light (NB Publishers), was chosen to represent South Africa on the 2014 IBBY Honour List, and was also shortlisted for the Media24 M.E.R Prize for best youth novel. Two of her novels have been DBE-approved as high school set-works. Her short stories for adults and youth have been published in a number of anthologies and literary journals, and two have been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, while she has twice had stories for younger children shortlisted for the Golden Baobab prize. She has won poetry prizes from SAfm Radio and People Opposing Women Abuse. She also writes stories for FunDza Literacy Trust. A former Johannesburger, Bauling now lives in White River, Mpumalanga.

A bumper programme

The organisers’ goal is to reach out to the surrounding rural schools and expose children to the joy of stories and reading; to encourage teenagers to read more, whether electronic or printed books; and to support local writers and illustrators through workshops hosted by published authors.

“We hope to draw visitors and well-known authors from across the country to White River and introduce them to the creative talent resident here, as well as to motivate local authors and artists by uncovering their work and exposing them to a wider world of literature,” explains Louis van der Merwe, Chairman of the Lowveld Book Festival.

A balanced programme is promised, with the inclusion of poetry, folklore, workshops, storytelling and story-time for youngsters, panel discussions, historical Lowveld literature, interviews with authors, YA literature, performing art and a book fair.

South African authors will be selling and autographing their latest publications and authors will be slotted into events to ensure interesting discussions that grapple with the issues confronting South African literature and reading.

The Lowveld Book Festival is a multi-cultural event that will encourage a love of reading and acknowledge the role played by writers and poets in society, and we seek financial partners who embrace this important objective.

The full programme and information about ticket sales will be available from mid-June at www.lowveldbookfestival.co.za. For more information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or email lowveldbookfestival@gmail.com.

The Fifth Mrs Brink

Book details

 
 
 

Louis Botha's War

 
 
 

In the Pursuit of Solitude

 
 
 

Pushing Boulders

 
 
 

Garden of My Ancestors

 
 
 

Man-eaters, Mambas and Marula Madness

 
 
 

Dreaming of Light


» read article

Exclusive Books Homebru 2017 selection announced

Exclusive Books has announced their selection of fiction, non-fiction, cookery and children’s books for their annual Homebru campaign.

This year’s slogan was ‘books by us, written for you’. According to Ben Williams, general manager of Exclusive Books, the nearly fifty titles on the list “represent a highly engaging slice of current South African writing and life.”

With titles as diverse as Fred Strydom’s work of speculative fiction, The Inside-Out Man, Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s political analysis, The Republic of Gupta, and the colourful array of cookery and children’s books, including Khanyisa Malabi’s Legacy of Living and Sparkles of Taste and Carol-Ann Davids’ The Hair Fair, this year’s list certainly is representative of contemporary South African writing.

The titles which appear on the list are:

NON-FICTION

Confluence


Confluence: Beyond the River with Siseko Ntondini

by Piers Cruickshanks
 
 
 
 
 
Bending the RulesBending the Rules: Memoir of a Pioneering Diplomat
by Rafique Gangat
 
 
 
 
 
 
Making Africa WorkMaking Africa Work: A handbook for economic success
by Greg Mills, Jeffrey Herbst, Olusegun Obasanjo & Dickie Davis
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Republic of GuptaThe Republic of Gupta: A Story of State Capture
by Pieter-Louis Myburgh
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dreams, Betrayal and Hope Dreams, Betrayal and Hope
by Mamphela Ramphele
 
 
 
 
 
 
Apartheid Guns and MoneyApartheid, Guns and Money: A tale of profit
by Hennie Van Vuuren
 
 
 
 
 
 
Traces and Tracks: A Thirty-Year Journey with the SanTraces and Tracks: A thirty year journey with the San
by Paul Weinberg
 
 
 
 
 
 
FICTION

Selling Lip ServiceSelling Lip Service
by Tammy Baikie
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hlomu The Wife
Zandile The Resolute
Naledi His Love

by Dudu Busani-Dube
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dancing the Death DrillDancing the Death Drill
by Fred Khumalo
 
 
 
 
 
 
Emperor Shaka the GreatEmperor Shaka The Great (English Edition)
Unodumehlezi Kamenzi (isiZulu Edition)
by Masizi Kunene
 
 
 
 
 
 
Being KariBeing Kari
by Qarnita Loxton
 
 
 
 
 
 
Recognition
Recognition: An Anthology of South African Short Stories

edited by David Medalie
 
 
 
 
 
 
Web
Web

by Naomi Meyer
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Last StopThe Last Stop
by Thabiso Mofokeng
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Third Reel
The Third Reel

Die Derde Spoel
by S J Naudé
 
 
 
 
 
 
If I Stay Right Here
If I Stay Right Here
by Chwayita Ngamlana
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ayixoxeki NakuxoxekaAyixoxeki Nakuxoxeka
by Mbongeni Cyprian Nzimande
 
 
 
 
 
 
Akulahlwa Mbeleko NgakufelwaAkulahlwa Mbeleko Ngakufelwa
by Zukiswa Pakama
 
 
 
 
 
 
Delilah Now TrendingDelilah Now Trending
by Pamela Power
 
 
 
 
 
 
Die BergengelDie Bergengel
by Carina Stander
 
 
 
 
 
 
As in die Mond
As in die mond

by Nicole Jaekel Strauss
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Inside-Out Man
The Inside-Out Man

by Fred Strydom
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alles het niet kom wod

Alles het niet kom wôd

by Nathan Trantraal
 
 
 
 
 
 
BIOGRAPHIES

Last Night at the BasslineLast Night at the Bassline
by David Coplan and Oscar Gutierrez
 
 
 
 
 
 
Equal, but Different
Equal But Different
by Judy Dlamini
 
 
 
 
 
 
No Longer Whispering to Power
No Longer Whispering to Power: The Story of Thuli Madonsela
by Thandeka Gqubule
 
 
 
 
 
 
Being Chris Hani's Daughter Being Chris Hani’s Daughter
by Lindiwe Hani
 
 
 
 
 
 
God praat Afrikaans
God praat Afrikaans

by HemelBesem
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lied vir SarahSong for Sarah: Lessons from my Mother
Lied vir Sarah: Lesse van My Moeder

by Jonathan Jansen
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fatima MeerFatima Meer: Memories of Love & Struggle
by Fatima Meer
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Man Who Founded the ANCThe Man Who Founded The ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka Isaka Seme
by Bongani Ngqulunga
 
 
 
 
 
 
Billionaires Under Construction

Billionaires Under Construction

by DJ Sbu
 
 
 
 
 
 
CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
 

The Elders at the DoorThe Elders at the Door (Afrikaans, English, isiZhosa, isiZulu)
by Maryanne Bester, illustrated by Shayla Bester
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Hair FairThe Hair Fair
by Carol-Ann Davids
 
 
 
 
 
 
#LoveReading
#LoveReading: short stories, poems, blogs and more
compiled by Rosamund Haden & Dorothy Dyer
 
 
 
 
 
 
Beyond the River
Beyond the River

by Mohale Mashigo
 
 
 
 
 
 
How Many Ways Can You Say Hello? How Many Ways Can You Say Hello
by Refiloe Moahloli, illustrated by Anja Stoeckigt
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dromers
Dromers

by Fanie Viljoen
 
 
 
 
 
 

COOKERY

 

HomegrownHomegrown
by Bertus Basson
 
 
 
 
 
 
Legacy of Living and Sparkles of TasteLegacy of Living & Sparkles of Taste
by Khanyisa Malabi
 
 
 
 
 
 
Johanne 14
Johanne 14: Real South African Food

by Hope Malau
 
 
 
 
 

Book details

  • Making Africa Work: A Handbook for Economic Success by Greg Mills, Jeffrey Herbst, Olusegun Obasanjo, Dickie Davis
    EAN: 9780624080275
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

Jonathan Jansen and his sister Naomi Jansen pay tribute to their mother in Song for Sarah: Lessons from my Mother. Read the extract.

Published in the Sunday Times

In this extract, Jonathan Jansen pays tribute to the mother whose sacrifices helped him and their siblings achieve success despite the odds

Song for SarahSong for Sarah: Lessons from my Mother by Jonathan Jansen with Naomi Jansen (Bookstorm). Also available in Afrikaans as Lied vir Sarah: Lesse van my Ma

“When you thought about it, everything seemed to work against the Cape Flats mother, from family dislocation to financial hardship, to absentee fathers, to the relentless pressure of gangs and drugs. As an energetic teenager involved in church youth leadership in the southern areas, this single question would haunt me during the obligatory huisbesoek (house visits): how on earth do these mothers do it?

Consider Mrs Volmink from Belgravia Estate in Athlone who put four boys and two girls through tertiary qualifications. One son leads a university, another is a medical school dean, and the other a prominent public sector lawyer; in their number you would also find a distinguished teacher and one who made his career in the training and development of civil servants. The eldest daughter died after a car crash because the whites-only ambulance would take only her pale friend. For long periods of time Johanna Volmink raised the children alone. Hardship was ever present in her home and yet not a single child fits the stereotype represented in comedy routines or violent novels or the evening news. When it came to human decency, academic achievement and community service, Mrs Volmink achieved much more in her home than any of the white families I knew in the well-to-do suburbs of Upper Claremont and Wynberg Proper.

As I pondered that haunting “how” question about these mothers over the years I realised that the answer was in front of me, all around me, even gave birth to me. That Cape Flats mother was Sarah Susan Johnson, married Jansen. Suddenly it all made sense. How they dealt with their pasts. How they organised their homes. How they raised their children. How they made sense of politics. How they managed affection. How they drew on their faith. How they communicated core values. How they thought about education. How they led with their lives.

The products of their labour were no accident, as the poet Shirmoney Rhode would tell Litnet of the grandmother who raised her at Nomme 20 Delphi Straat (the 2016 book title) in Elsies River:

Ek is ’n produk van haar 3am prayers

En harde werk of course

(I am a product of her 3am prayers

And hard work of course)

The Cape Flats mother was not faultless. Who is? To the children growing up, the mother was seen as being too harsh at times but was always deeply respected. This praise song is not, however, about the failings of our mothers but about the fact that they succeeded at all. None of the children was perfect. Whose are? To the mother the child was never one to be abandoned in the wrong but to be picked up again and again, and nudged towards what was right. And they did this work of correction day after day, for weeks followed by months, and year after year, sometimes even into adulthood and marriage.

The matriarchal figure hovered over that child for life. Many stories have been told on the Flats of a small-bodied mother reaching out to deliver retribution to the tall, well-built son who stands there quietly as he takes the timid smack to the face or the ineffectual punch to the body. She had earned the right to reprimand her grown child. This story of the Cape Flats mother, and of many mothers across the length and breadth of South Africa, will be told in this book.

Being the eldest in the family, my siblings suspected that I was favoured by my parents. Of course I felt differently because of the constant pressure from my mother to “set the example” as the eldest. “Firstborn”, my sister would nevertheless tease me, and that will be my third-person voice in the main text. For a reality check, I asked this sister of mine to add in her own reflections on our mother as the only girl smack bang in the middle of two older and two younger boys.

Naomi Jansen has the knack of saying and seeing things as they really are. One day that sting in her commentary really got to me as a boy so I chased her along the very short route from the kitchen to her bedroom. By dint of practice she managed to dash into the room, close the door and secure the latch bolt lock in one and the same swift action but it was too late. I ran right through the flimsy green planks of that wooden door. The personal shock probably saved my sister from further repercussions although I never could raise a hand against any of the siblings.

Her sharper eye and tongue therefore qualify Naomi to give another view of our mother. My sister’s voice appears in italics as “Naomi remembers”. In appropriate places she shares her own experiences and insights into our remarkable mother. Sometimes Naomi’s recollection or interpretation of events is different from mine, and that is fine. It is what gives this work of memory an added and special value.

“While you are under this roof,” my mother would often chide, “you will do as I say.” Under this roof is both a telling metaphor about us and the interwoven tiles above us. Sarah knew that she had little direct control over what happened in the harsh outside world. We would all grow up one day and make our own decisions as working adults and parents of children. There was little our mother could change about that. But while under her roof, the rules applied. That was where she had authority over the five children and, as will be explained, also over her husband. There was not much overhead roof to speak of in the small council house, but anyone who stayed in that confined space, including a string of relatives, would abide by Sarah’s rules.

It was under Sarah’s roof that I learnt how to live and where she would teach us how to die. Under that roof I learnt the value of selfless giving and the importance of personal discipline. Sarah did not only tell, she showed. And nothing impressed more heavily on the children’s consciousness than what my mother taught us about the ethics of work. She laboured day and night, literally, as a shift nurse. “Nobody ever died of hard work,” she would say all the time and you knew that offering a medical science rebuttal might lead to a premature meeting with your Maker.

Mrs Sedras, Mrs Volmink and Mrs Jansen are not alone. There are thousands of mothers spread across the Cape Flats and throughout South Africa who deserve recognition for their heroic efforts in raising families under difficult conditions. On one hand, this book could be read as an attempt at recovery of “the other mothers” whose stories have been buried by unrelenting stereotypes of women from the flatland areas of the Cape. On the other hand, such heroic mothers are found in every community where ordinary people struggle to make impossible ends meet. This work of recovery is offered, therefore, as a song of gratitude for all mothers.

Or to borrow from Diana Ferrus in A poem for Sarah Baartman:

I have come to take you home

Where I will sing for you

For you have brought me peace

The floppy brown purse
Nothing would test Sarah’s resilience more sorely than when the children went to university. Apartheid created universities for people they labelled by both race and ethnicity. Since Firstborn was deemed coloured, his destination was the University of the Western Cape in Bellville; the University of Cape Town was so much closer but they could not have him. The young student was also proud enough not to plead for a government concession (the permit, they called it) to attend a white university and specify a course not offered at UWC to justify studies in nearby Rondebosch.

The long journey from Retreat in the southern suburbs to Bellville in the northern areas took forever. And it was costly. One Monday morning Firstborn desperately needed money to take the taxi, train and bus to get to university. Hiking, as he normally did when there was no money, might get him to campus too late for a scheduled chemistry test. So he slunk into the bedroom where Sarah was in a deep sleep after working the hospital night shift. “Does Mummy have any money?” he whispered and instantly woke her up.

Sarah knew that she did not have a cent but nevertheless reached for her flat brown purse, opened it up and pretended to search for coins among the scribbled papers inside. There was nothing and the tears started welling up in her eyes. That day Firstborn decided to drop out of university and look for a job; the pain on Sarah’s face was simply unbearable.

Of course that was the last thing Sarah wanted and so one day she arranged with an uncle to collect Firstborn and drive him to Bellville while persuading him all along the way not to give up. If Sarah had not made that arrangement Firstborn would still be drifting between Anchor Yeast where he started in a laboratory with far too few skills and helping a brother from the church sell his fish on Prince George Drive, the M5 which linked the white suburbs to the north with the whites-only Muizenberg beach on the False Bay coastline. Where Sarah found the money none of the children ever knew, but from that day there were always a few coins in her purse “just in case” Firstborn needed them. But he never asked again.

Book details


» read article

10 books to read this Freedom Day

23 years ago, on the 27th of April 1994, South Africa celebrated its first non-racial democratic election, with Nelson Mandela inaugurated as the first black president of South Africa on Tuesday 10 May at the Union Building in Pretoria.

We recommend the following books, both works of fiction and non-fiction, as an introduction to South Africa’s apartheid history and the country’s transition to democracy:

Freedom in Our LifetimeFreedom in our Lifetime
Anton Lembede, edited by Robert R Edgar and Luyanda ka Msumza

When a group of young political activists met in 1944 to launch the African National Congress Youth League, it included the nucleus of a remarkable generation of leaders who forged the struggle for freedom and equality in South Africa for the next half century: Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Ellen Kuzwayo and AP Mda. It was Anton Lembede, however, whom they chose as their first president.

Lembede, who had just begun practicing law in Johannesburg, was known for his sharp intellect, fiery personality, and unwavering commitment to the struggle at hand.

His untimely death in 1947 at the age of 33 sent a wave of grief through the Congress Youth, who had looked to him for moral as well as political leadership. With the publication of Freedom in our Lifetime, we acknowledge Lembede’s early contribution to the freedom movement, in particular his passionate and eloquent articulation of the African-centered philosophy he called “Africanism”.
 
 

Long Walk to FreedomLong Walk to Freedom
Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.

Long Walk to Freedom is his moving and exhilarating autobiography. Here for the first time, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela tells the extraordinary story of his life–an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph.
 
 
Country of My Skull
Antjie Krog

Ever since Nelson Mandela dramatically walked out of prison in 1990 after twenty-seven years behind bars, South Africa has been undergoing a radical transformation. In one of the most miraculous events of the century, the oppressive system of apartheid was dismantled. Repressive laws mandating separation of the races were thrown out. The country, which had been carved into a crazy quilt that reserved the most prosperous areas for whites and the most desolate and backward for blacks, was reunited. The dreaded and dangerous security force, which for years had systematically tortured, spied upon, and harassed people of color and their white supporters, was dismantled. But how could this country–one of spectacular beauty and promise–come to terms with its ugly past? How could its people, whom the oppressive white government had pitted against one another, live side by side as friends and neighbors?

To begin the healing process, Nelson Mandela created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by the renowned cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Established in 1995, the commission faced the awesome task of hearing the testimony of the victims of apartheid as well as the oppressors. Amnesty was granted to those who offered a full confession of any crimes associated with apartheid. Since the commission began its work, it has been the central player in a drama that has riveted the country. In this book, Antjie Krog, a South African journalist and poet who has covered the work of the commission, recounts the drama, the horrors, the wrenching personal stories of the victims and their families. Through the testimonies of victims of abuse and violence, from the appearance of Winnie Mandela to former South African president P. W. Botha’s extraordinary courthouse press conference, this award-winning poet leads us on an amazing journey. Country of My Skull captures the complexity of the Truth Commission’s work. The narrative is often traumatic, vivid, and provocative. Krog’s powerful prose lures the reader actively and inventively through a mosaic of insights, impressions, and secret themes. This compelling tale is Antjie Krog’s profound literary account of the mending of a country that was in colossal need of change.
 
 
I Write What I Like
Steve Biko

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Like all of Steve Biko’s writings, those words testify to the passion, courage, and keen insight that made him one of the most powerful figures in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. They also reflect his conviction that black people in South Africa could not be liberated until they united to break their chains of servitude, a key tenet of the Black Consciousness movement that he helped found.

I Write What I Like contains a selection of Biko’s writings from 1969, when he became the president of the South African Students’ Organization, to 1972, when he was prohibited from publishing. The collection also includes a preface by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; an introduction by Malusi and Thoko Mpumlwana, who were both involved with Biko in the Black Consciousness movement; a memoir of Biko by Father Aelred Stubbs, his longtime pastor and friend; and a new foreword by Professor Lewis Gordon.

Biko’s writings will inspire and educate anyone concerned with issues of racism, postcolonialism, and black nationalism.
 
 
A Passion for Freedom
Mamphela Ramphele

The richly anecdotal story of an extraordinary life – when baby Mamphela was born to teacher parents in the rural village of Kranspoort few would have predicted that she would become not only a medical doctor, but an international leader and the founder of not one but two new political movements. As a young woman, Mamphela was instrumental in creating the ideology of Black Consciousness with her partner, Steve Biko. As an accomplished and well-off businesswoman who had reached the pinnacle of success, this year she felt compelled to start Agang SA, to provide South African voters with an alternative to the inept and increasingly corrupt ANC.

In this very readable autobiography, Mamphela Ramphele vividly describes her rural childhood, her extended family, her first loves and losses – after the death of her firstborn, she nearly lost her and Steve’s baby after his death by torture – and her subsequent successes in both politics and business.

 
 
Cry, the Beloved CountryCry, the Beloved Country
Alan Paton

Cry, the Beloved Country is one of the most famous and important novels in South Africa’s history, was an immediate worldwide bestseller in 1948. Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty.

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.”

The eminent literary critic Lewis Gannett wrote, “We have had many novels from statesmen and reformers, almost all bad; many novels from poets, almost all thin. In Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country the statesman, the poet and the novelist meet in a unique harmony.”

Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.
 
 
July's PeopleJuly’s People
Nadine Gordimer

For years, it has been what is called a ‘deteriorating situation’. Now all over South Africa the cities are battlegrounds. The members of the Smales family – liberal whites – are rescued from the terror by their servant, July, who leads them to refuge in his native village.

What happens to the Smaleses and to July – the shifts in character and relationships – gives us an unforgettable look into the terrifying, tacit understandings and misunderstandings between blacks and whites.
 
 
 
 
 

Tomorrow is Another Country
Tomorrow is Another Country
Allister Sparks

The companion to Allister Sparks’s award-winning The Mind of South Africa, this book is an extraordinary account from South Africa’s premier journalist of the negotiating process that led to majority rule.

Tomorrow is Another Country retells the story of the behind-the-scenes collaborations that started with a meeting between Kobie Coetsee, then minister of justice, and Nelson Mandela in 1985. By 1986, negotiations involved senior government officials, intelligence agents, and the African National Congress. For the next four years, they assembled in places such as a gamepark lodge, the Palace Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, a fishing hideaway, and even in a hospital room.

All the while, De Klerk’s campaign assured white constituents nothing would change. Sparks shows how the key players, who began with little reason to trust one another, developed friendships which would later play a crucial role in South Africa’s struggle to end apartheid.
 

The Smell of Apples
The Smell of Apples
Mark Behr

Set in the bitter twilight of apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s, The Smell of Apples is a haunting story narrated by eleven-year-old Marnus Erasmus, who records the social turmoil and racial oppression that are destroying his own land.

Using his family as a microcosm of the corroding society at large, Marnus tells a troubling tale of a childhood corrupted, of unexpected sexual defilements, and of an innocence gone astray.
 
 
 
 
 

Kaffir Boy
Kaffir Boy
Mark Mathabane

Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa’s most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is a triumph of the human spirit over hatred and unspeakable degradation. For Mark Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered “Kaffir” from the rat-infested alleys of Alexandra was supposed to do — he escaped to tell about it.

Book details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


» read article

Amabookabooka releases unaired episode to coincide with 109th anniversary of the birth of Bram Fischer

Amabookabooka, the quirky podcast devoted to interviewing local authors about their work, recently released a special edition episode.

This episode is from a previous podcast series produced by the Amabookabooka-duo, Jonathan Ancer and Dan Dewes, called Extraordinary Lives and has been released to coincide with the 109th anniversary of the birth of Bram Fischer – described by Ancer and Dewes as the South African prime minister we should have had.

Lord Joel Joffe, a human rights lawyer, who was on the legal team that defended the Rivonia Trialists in 1964 talks about Bram, whom he describes as his hero.

Fischer’s daughter, Ilse Wilson, also joins in the conversation revealing a different side to the Scarlet Pimpernel – that of Bram the father.

Listen to the podcast here.
 
 

Bram Fischer

Book details

 

The Bram Fischer Waltz

 
 
 
 

Fischer's Choice


» read article

Shortlist for Short Sharp Stories Awards announced

The shortlist for the Short.Sharp.Stories Awards has been announced.

The Short.Sharp.Stories Awards is an annual short story competition made possible by the National Arts Festival.

This year’s theme is “Trade Secrets.”

The judges have focused in the main on how successfully the story speaks to the brief, and have chosen stories which showcase a range of South African ‘voices’.

Congratulations to the following writers whose stories will be included in Trade Secrets and who are on the short list for this year’s awards.

2017 Short Sharp Stories Awards shortlist:

Olufemi Agunbiade
Darrel Bristow-Bovey
Jumani Clarke
Linda Daniels
Frieda-Marie De Jager
Ntsika Gogwana
Amy Heydenrych
Mishka Hoosen
Bobby Jordan
Sean Mayne
Mapule Mohulatsi
Kamil Naicker
Sally Partridge
Pravasan Pillay
Megan Ross
Andrew Salomon
Stephen Symons
Philisiwe Twijnstra
Philip Vermaas
Michael Yee

Trade Secrets will be published in June/July.

One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo

Book details

 

Call it a Difficult Night

 
 
 

Sharp Edges

 
 
 

Tokoloshe Song

 
 
 

Questions for the Sea

 


» read article

2017 Alan Paton non-fiction longlist

Published in the Sunday Times


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Announcing the longlists for the most prestigious annual literary awards, the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction, in association with Porcupine Ridge. The shortlists will be announced in May.

This is the 28th year the Alan Paton Award will be bestowed on a book that presents “the illumination of truthfulness, especially those forms of it that are new, delicate, unfashionable and fly in the face of power”, and that demonstrates “compassion, elegance of writing, and intellectual and moral integrity”.

This year’s Alan Paton Award judging panel is Pippa Green (chair), Tinyiko Maluleke and Johann Kriegler.

2017 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award Judges

Pippa Green (chair) Green is communications and media manager of the Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth. Head of the journalism programme at the University of Pretoria from 2009 to 2014, she was educated at the University of Cape Town and Columbia University in New York City, where she earned an MSc in journalism. She is the author of Choice, not Fate: The Life and Times of Trevor Manuel (2008). Green is a recipient of many awards such as the Nieman Fellowship.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tinyiko Maluleke Maluleke serves as adviser to the principal and vice-chancellor at the University of Pretoria, and is an extraordinary professor at the University of South Africa. He has been a visiting professor at various universities, including Hamburg University in Germany and Duke University in the US. He is an elected member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, a columnist for the Mail & Guardian and Sunday Independent newspapers, and reviews books for the Sunday Times.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Johann Kriegler After 25 years at the bar and 20 on the bench, when Kriegler’s term as a Constitutional Court judge ended he looked forward to sitting on the stoep and catching up on all the books he’d missed out on. It didn’t work out like that. Having chaired the Independent Electoral Commission for the 1994 elections, he has been engaged by the African Union, the UN and a variety of NGOs in a range of electoral and judicial activities across the world. At home, arbitrations, advocacy training and his activities in human-rights and rule-of-law organisations occupy much of his time.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chairperson Pippa Green’s remarks on the Alan Paton Award longlist:

There are 27 books on the longlist. This is more than usual but reflects the excellence and originality of many of the non-fiction books published in 2016. They include a number of memoirs, biographies and autobiographies, which tell the stories of intimate family relationships against a backdrop of the huge historical forces that have swept the last century. There are books about and by key public figures; there are those that focus on fascinating people who are not well known, such as stowaways, gangsters, police officers, miners, transgender people, and foot soldiers. There are important topics covered too: the history of the independent trade union movement, of science, of African languages, as well as key moments of disjuncture in our current society. The books raise critical questions about our past, present and future. Together they tell a story of our fractured and bound humanity, not only in South Africa but around the world and through time. — Pippa Green

Last year’s Alan Paton Award winner was Pumla Dineo Gqola for her book Rape: A South African Nightmare, published by MF Books Joburg. The winners of the 2017 Alan Paton Award and Barry Ronge Fiction Prize will each receive R100 000.

Read:


» read article