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Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

Read an excerpt from Donald Molosi’s We Are All Blue – the first print publication of a play from Botswana

Read an excerpt from Donald Molosi’s We Are All Blue – the first print publication of a play from Botswana


This Fiction Friday, read an excerpt from actor and playwright Donald Molosi’s groundbreaking We Are All Blue, the first Botswanan drama to be published in print form.

We Are All Blue is a collection of two plays, “Motswana: Africa, Dream Again” and “Blue, Black and White”, and includes an introduction by Quett Masire, former president of Botswana.

“Blue, Black and White” tells the story of Botswana’s first democratically elected president, Seretse Khama, and his interracial, transformative marriage to Ruth Williams in the 1940s. It is the longest-running one-man show in Botswana’s history and the first-ever Botswana play staged Off-Broadway in New York, for which Molosi won the 2011 United Solo Best Short Solo Award.

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Botswana’s independence, and Khama’s marriage is also the focus of a forthcoming film called A United Kingdom, which will David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King in Selma, and Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike, who starred most recently in Gone Girl. Molosi also has a small role in the film.

Molosi won the 2015 Bessie Head Short Story Award and was longlisted for the 2015 Short Story Day Africa Prize. He was also a facilitator for the 2015 Writivism creative writing workshops.

We Are All Blue was published by The Mantle in January.

“The publishing scene in Botswana favours textbooks, and so it is extremely difficult to publish and sell non-textbook material in Botswana,” Molosi said in an interview with World Literature Today. “What We Are All Blue offers is an opportunity to engage with Botswana of the past, present, and future at the same time.”

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Read an excerpt:

* * * * *
Donald Molosi


Based on the lives of Sir Seretse Khama (1921-1980)
and Lady Ruth Khama (1923-2002),
and the history of a nation.



Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. — Rumi

قوشعم روا قشاع
(“Lover and Beloved” in Urdu)

Present day is July 2002. A multiracial group of students enters and performs a folktale as the villagers of Serowe, perhaps accompanied by live guitar music. The students are also putting together the set and putting on costume as they tell the story.

This folktale is the theme to the class’s commemoration of Sir Seretse Khama Week, especially today (July 1) being Sir Seretse Khama Day. The class is also honoring Sir Seretse’s wife, Lady Ruth, who passed away two months prior to July 1, 2002.

ALL VILLAGERS: We begin this Sir Seretse Khama Week with the folktale that is our theme. The folktale is about a boy who brought his father back from the dead.

VILLAGER 1: It is said that there was once a boy who was living in a land far away from his kgota, his home. His father died while the boy was very young, so he did not know his father.

VILLAGER 2: When the boy was growing up and became aware that he did not have a father, he asked his mother.

ALL VILLAGERS: Mother, where is my father?

VILLAGER 3: And his mother replied—

ALL VILLAGERS: Your father is dead, my son. His name was Ngwedi, which means “the moon.”

VILLAGER 4: His mother had also since died. Hei!

VILLAGER 1: Now that the boy was growing older, he found himself wondering a lot about his father.

VILLAGER 4: People around him were treating the boy badly and beat him for no reason. He wanted his father’s protection.

VILLAGER 3: He wondered and wondered about his father and wanted desperately to see him. He wondered for days and weeks and months.

VILLAGER 2: One day he decided to yoke the donkeys to the wagon and set off for his father’s family dwelling place, his father’s kgota.

VILLAGER 1: Since his father’s name was Ngwedi, the kgota was also called Ngwedi, because he had been its headman when he was alive.

VILLAGER 2: It was evening when the boy left for his father’s kgota and the clouds were gathering over the moon. On the way he met a woman and sang out to her—

ALL VILLAGERS: Take heed, those who delay me! Where is Ngwedi’s kgota? Listen to what I ask, for the clouds are where the moon was. Don’t delay me.

VILLAGER 1: The woman said—

ALL VILLAGERS: Stay on this road, ngwanaka. You will meet some people going there. Ask them.

VILLAGER 3: Stay on this road. You will meet some people going there. Ask them.

VILLAGER 1: The boy continued his journey. On the way he met a man and he sang—

ALL VILLAGERS: Take heed, those who delay me! Where is Ngwedi’s kgota? Listen to what I ask, for the clouds are where the moon was. Don’t delay me.

VILLAGER 2: The old woman pointed to a place and said—

ALL VILLAGERS: That is the kgota you want over there, ngwanaka. Turn off the gravel road, walk a little bit and you will get to it.

VILLAGER 3: That is the kgota you want over there. Turn off the gravel road, walk a little bit and you will get to it.

VILLAGER 2: When the boy reached the kgota, he said to the people there—

LEFIKA: I am Morwangwedi, the son of Ngwedi. I want black sheep and white oxen; kill them for me. I am looking for the place where my father was buried.

VILLAGER 4: And so the people of the kgota took him to the kraal and showed him his father’s grave. The boy dug out his father’s bones and fastened them together. When he had done this, he took the meat of the sheep and oxen and put it on the bones. Then the boy began to sing—

LEFIKA: Take heed, those who delay me! Where is Ngwedi’s shirt? Listen to what I ask, for the clouds are where the moon was. Don’t delay me.

(As each item of clothing is mentioned, the villagers pull it out of their baskets and dress Lefika in it. Every time he puts on a new item of cloth- ing he transforms more into Sir Seretse Khama. Lefika is isolated from the rest of the ensemble. Soft, ethereal guitar music plays.)

VILLAGER 3: So the people of the kgota gave him his father’s shirt, and he put it on top of the meat of oxen and sheep, which was fastened to the bones.

VILLAGER 2: Then the boy asked for his father’s trousers in the same way.

VILLAGER 1: And his shoes.

VILLAGER 2: All the time urging them to hurry because the clouds were covering the moon.

VILLAGER 4: When the flesh was clothed, his father came to life! The boy yoked the donkeys, took his father, and set off back to where the boy had been living as an orphan. And when he arrived with his father, the people treated the boy like a king.

ALL VILLAGERS: They did not treat him badly like before, be- cause now he had his father to protect him.

(There is much jubilation and ululation. Lefika, one of the students has been transformed by the costume into Sir Seretse Khama. He poses as a statue of Sir Seretse and then melts out of the pose to deliver the follow- ing version of one of Sir Seretse’s speeches. Ensemble gathers around him and uses their bodies and configuration to establish a radio station studio and a microphone that Sir Seretse is speaking into. No music.)

LEFIKA: (Putting on his glasses.) Bagaetsho, we must write our history books to prove that we did have a past, and that this is  a past that is just as worth writing and learning about as any other. My fellow Batswana, we must excavate our history, dress it up in pride, intelligence, and foresight so that it may indeed come alive in our consciousness today.

(Lights fade and the rest of the speech is done in the fade-out to imply evanescent memory, or a glimpse.)

We must connect the present to the past so that the future may be secured. Because the past can disappear.

» read article

‘A damn fine collection of stories!’ Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips launched at The Book Lounge

Jolyn Phillips

Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips is “something that has not been done before,” said Mervyn Sloman of The Book Lounge, where the book was launched to a full house recently.

Many of the guests had come from Gansbaai by taxi to celebrate Phillips’s success. Tjieng Tjang Tjerries is a remarkable book that reflects something different in the South African literary canon, bringing South African readers a unique new literary flavour.

Meg Vandermerwe and Jolyn PhillipsTjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesSloman said the power of Tjieng Tjang Tjerries went beyond the use of language and Phillips’ representation of the Gansbaai’s fishing community. The author, who is a Mandela Rhodes scholar, was joined in a fascinating conversation with Meg Vandermerwe, who supervised her MA in Creative Writing at the University of the Western Cape.

Vandermerwe spoke about the joy of watching as “the student surpasses the teacher”.

“Many things make this a damn fine collection of short stories!” she said. “In particular, one of the outstanding and original points is Jolyn’s voice. There’s more than just the account of an underrepresented facet of society, there is also polylingualism operating where a fusion of English and Afrikaans occurs. The stories are written in English, but contains a lot of Afrikaans. The voice carries with it the timbre and melody of Afrikaans.”

Jolyn’s mother tongue is Afrikaans, but she wanted in the stories to introduce her home and people’s lives, as captured in the way they speak. The author spoke about how music and translation are vibrant aspects of her life. “Something about the way people speak is more than just the words. I wanted the rhythm to come through. As I wrote, I sounded it out loud, keeping words in that enabled a kind of cultural translation,” she said.

For Phillips, the aim is to carry the culture and feelings of her people into English. She said, “I was trying to translate the people, rather than the language.” She also noted the curious experience of being somebody who appeared in the lives of her characters who came knocking on her door at 2 AM to rouse her to write!

How does Phillips explain memory? She quoted Aristotle, who said, “Memories are the scribe of the soul.”

“My memory was doing the writing for me,” she said. “This book is a collection of my soul, who I am as a human being, and how I connect to the people I come from.

“Landscape and language are the melody of the book, but the characters defined themselves in the stories.”

Tjieng Tjang TjerriesTjieng Tjang Tjerries


Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from the event:


Facebook album:


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Jacket Notes: Nthikeng Mohlele on the inspiration for his new novel Pleasure – and why he almost abandoned it

Published in the Sunday Times

Nthikeng MohlelePleasurePleasure
Nthikeng Mohlele (Picador)

The genesis of Pleasure was an inability to comprehend disturbing and morally reprehensible acts of brutality. The inspiration was in many ways also a form of paralysis, a personal quest to try to understand and articulate stories that fall between the cracks during historical events and transitions.

The narrative is shaped by both historical and fictional characters, as I found the interplay fascinating. The manuscript presented opportunities to examine universal themes (war, love, desire, dispossession, pleasure co-existing with strife) and how these echo in the personal space.

I also wanted to bring to light that the Holocaust is perhaps the most recorded and analysed of historical mass killings – but it is by no means the only one. There were, in fact, equally tragic conditions of enslavement and mass murder in the Congo Free State and German South-West Africa, for instance.

Seeds of Goebbels’s propaganda during Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich developed in part from racist “science” about the Herero in what is now Namibia. These sentiments would find their way into Mein Kampf and later Hitler’s murderous policies.

But that is hardly inspiration. It’s perhaps more apt to say it was inspiration via belated moral outrage and the contradictions that define historical time.

What went into the writing of the novel? A plethora of emotions: short-lived moments of blissful artistic creation; insight into slippery themes of life and living; and streaks of profound sadness and despair at the capacity of human beings to be brutes. Then there were the in-between moments, those that hovered between bliss and the horrors unearthed by my research – anecdotes, Third Reich letters, ledgers, images and general paraphernalia.

The surprising thing, bordering on shocking, was the realisation of how much pleasures associated with the Original Sin seem to trump other pleasures, and how, despite centuries of scholarship and human evolution, little is understood about why carnal preoccupations seem to dwarf other pleasures. It was also concerning, alarming, but amusing that this writer, 100-odd pages into the manuscript, despite mountains of research and careful planning, threw in the towel (thrice) because the imagined artistic work could not be tamed.

The greatest eye-opener was that although the theme of pleasure inadvertently lends itself to human anatomies and copulation, these were but midway beacons pointing to more profound insights and interpretations of the theme – only worth tackling if explored in their contradictions and varied manifestations.

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‘I’m stubborn; I was destined to be a writer’ – award-winning Nigerian author Chinelo Okparanta chats about her writing

Chinelo OkparantaHappiness, Like WaterUnder the Udala TreesNigerian-American author Chinelo Okparanta is currently in Cape Town for the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

Okparanta is the author of two books: a collection of short stories called Happiness, Like Water, and a novel, Under the Udala Trees, released this year.

Okparanta was shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing, and Happiness, Like Water was shortlisted for the the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature and won the 2014 Lambda Literary Award. She is the winner of an O Henry Prize, was one of Granta’s New Voices for 2012, and was featured on the Guardian’s list of the best African fiction of 2013.

None other than Zakes Mda says: “Under the Udala Trees bowled me over.

Okparanta was born and raised in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and lives in New York. Books LIVE’s Jennifer Malec caught up with her recently ahead of her trip to South Africa.

You can read Malec’s review of the book in full here, and the complete interview in full here:

Books LIVE: First, thank you for an extremely complex novel. It seems to me that, considering the subject matter you deal with, it would have been easier to write black and white, morally unambiguous characters. But this is not the case, and even characters such as Chibundu and Ijeoma’s mother are not “bad” people; it could be argued they suffer as much from the disjunct between society’s expectations and their own actions as Ijeoma does. Did you actively work on creating sympathetic antagonists?

Chinelo Okparanta: First, thank you for reading and engaging so deeply with my work.

To answer your question, it seems to me that the best books are often those in which the dignity of the characters are upheld. Also, those in which the characters are nuanced. I tried to keep this in mind while writing Under the Udala Trees. Chibundu, as you mention, is as much to be pitied as he is to be rebuked. We would have a hard time completely condemning him. He is a hopeful man – simply wants what he wants. Unfortunately, that hopefulness is both his strength and his weakness. How does one balance out hope with unrequited love? Chibundu certainly tries.

I admire the way that the same-sex relationships in the novel are not foregrounded; they are part of a more complex matrix of stories. How far along the publication process were you when same-sex relationships were criminalised in Nigeria in January 2014? Did you alter the book in any way, plot-wise or writing-wise, after that development?

The novel is ultimately just a story about people struggling to live out their lives the best way possible, even in the face of societal pressures, discrimination and in some cases, outright abuse. I completed the novel a month or two before Goodluck Jonathan signed the bill criminalising same-sex relations. With or without the bill, Nigeria is a very homophobic country. With or without the bill, I would have (and had indeed) already written the novel. But I thought it was important to add the author’s note regarding the signing of the bill in order to help readers – especially those who are not familiar with Nigeria – to contextualise the story. Ultimately, though, the novel is a story of individuals living in Nigeria, under a particular system of things. It is only about the bill insofar as the bill affects the day-to-day lives of the nation’s citizens.

Storytelling plays an important role in the book. Did traditional Nigerian folktales and proverbs play an important role in your life growing up?

Yes, definitely. My mother gathered me and my siblings around her, in the evenings when NEPA (the National Electric and Power Authority) took light, and she told us folktales. Sometimes there was singing and clapping involved. Dinner first, then folktales, then off to bed. This was what we did in place of watching television. Her tales were always peppered with proverbs. Nigerians often speak in proverbs. Sometimes, she read to us from books instead.

You moved to the States as a child, but your writing doesn’t betray that distance. Did your family continue to surround you with Nigerian tradition and language after the move? Do you often spend time in Nigeria?

I moved to the US as a child, but I’m lucky to have a family that upholds traditions (but also one that allows room for change). Sometimes I don’t feel that I ever left Nigeria. And sometimes I do. After the move, we continued to speak Igbo at home, we continued to eat fufu and soup, beans and yam, etc. We continued to sing and dance to Nigerian music, etc. These days I go home as often as I can. In the past year or so, I’ve been back to Nigeria at least three times.

Do you think you would have written the same book if you had stayed in Nigeria? Or how do you think it may have differed?

Would I have written the same book? I don’t know. The “correct” response would be to say, “Probably not.” But who knows. My mother says I began reading and writing at age two. She also says I’m stubborn. Perhaps I began reading and writing so early because I was destined to be a writer, and perhaps given my stubbornness, it’s likely that I would have been stubborn in the issues I chose to write about, regardless of the sociocultural context. Or maybe I’d be married with five kids and no time to write, if I had stayed. It’s hard to know.

This is your first full-length novel. How long did you work on the manuscript for – is this specific book years in the making or are you working on a number of longer projects simultaneously? If the latter, why did you decide to complete this one first?

I began working on the novel at the same time that I was working on my collection of short stories, Happiness, Like Water. The collection was completed first, and during its pre-publication and post-publication period, I had to take time off from working on the novel to focus on the collection’s edits, and then later, on promoting the collection. I went back to the novel in mid 2013 and finished it very early in 2014, maybe a little earlier, I can’t quite remember now. Anyway, the point is that there’s no rationale behind what book came out first, just that it was ready when it was ready.

Was the Biafran War something your parents and grandparents spoke freely about? If not, was it difficult for you to broach the subject, or did you learn more about it from other resources?

My mother spoke freely of it. She lost her father in the war, so my siblings and I grew up always knowing that story. It was a devastating time for her family, and of course, there are always lingering effects to having lived out a war.

But I also had to do my research for the novel. I conducted some interviews, read old newspapers, watched the BBC documentaries on the war, studied old photographs, that sort of thing. One photo was of a man carrying a casket on the back of his bicycle. Only, the casket was too small and the feet of the deceased stuck out from the bottom of the wooden box. When I did my research, there were so many photos of kwashiorkor children, distended bellies and all, photos of the dead and the decapitated, photos of soldiers who are now long gone. But for whatever reason it is the photo of the casket on the bicycle that particularly sticks to me.

Some descriptions in the book are quite poetic. Do these images come to you as you are writing, or do you carry a notebook around to jot down moments of inspiration?

I don’t carry a notebook, but I do carry a smart phone with a “Notes” application. Images generally come to me as I’m writing, but if an idea comes to me when I am not writing, I try and make a mental note of it. If I don’t trust myself to remember, then I might jot myself a note on my phone.

A naming question, just out of interest: The names in the book are meaningful, and quite beautiful to my South African ears. I noticed that like your characters Chibundu and Chidinma, the names of you and your siblings – who you mention in the acknowledgements – also all start with “Chi”; what does that prefix mean?

The essential translation of “Chi” in English is “God.” But specifically it refers to the personal gods that we Igbos traditionally had. “Chukwu” was the supreme God, while each person had his/her own personal god(s). So, the name Chidinma means “God is good.” Chibundu means “God is life.”

It seems to me that Ijeoma does not reject tradition – both societal and biblical – rather she forges a path for herself and proves that you can discard some aspects of tradition without threatening the whole. Do you think such a stance could be a viable option for a Nigerian youth, today or in the future?

Yes, it’s definitely a viable stance. No doubt, tradition has its place. But it is also the nature of tradition to evolve.

Follow Jennifer Malec on Twitter @projectjennifer

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‘He murdered all his brain cells with the papsak’ – Read a story from Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips

‘He murdered all his brain cells with the papsak’ – Read a story from Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips


Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesThis Fiction Friday, read an excerpt from Jolyn Phillips’s new collection of short stories Tjieng Tjang Tjerries.

Phillips hails from Blompark, Gansbaai on the Western Cape coast, and is currently working on a PhD in Language Education at the University of the Western Cape. She was a 2014 Mandela Rhodes Scholar and completed a Masters in Creative Writing at UWC in 2013. Tjieng Tjang Tjerries is her first book.

Modjaji Books founder and publisher Colleen Higgs says of the book: “As you will see by the things that the writers who have read and love her work have said, I’m not the only one who feels thrilled by the voice of this young woman.”

And Higgs is right. Tjieng Tjang Tjerries has collected high praise from literary luminaries such as Antjie Krog, Meg Vandermerwe and Shaun Johnson.

The book is being launched next week Tuesday, 19 April, at The Book Lounge in Cape Town – an event not to be missed!

Meanwhile, read a story from the collection to whet your appetite:

* * * * *

The dog just came here one day. No one knew where he came from and I don’t think anyone was looking for him. The dog looked brandsiek like a pavement special, a mix between a poodle and a husky. Shame, the poor thing was ugly and that was the end of it. I felt so sorry for him, so I let him sleep in my yard. I gave bones and leftovers for the dog to eat, but he stayed thin. Later on, we got used to each other. He never listened to my commands, but he would walk all the way to the stop sign at the end of our street and wait there for me until I returned from the Andries Café in Skool Street. One day I thought, Ag, give the poor thing a name. I started calling him Snuffles then Fluffy, then Ore, but he never responded when I called him those names. Until old Hennie came over one day, for coffee and a few ginger cookies. He actually lived here, in my house, but sometimes he forgot. He didn’t remember who he was or where he came from – it’s the wine that made him like that, so I treated him like he was a long-lost cousin, or someone visiting from a faraway country. Hennie liked that. He changed his role every day.

That day the dog comes up to Hennie and starts sniffing his ankles. Hennie says, ‘Shu, but that is a bloody ugly dog!’

Suddenly the dog sits up, waving his tail excitedly.

‘That’s it!’ I cried, ‘The blerrie dog’s name is Lelik! You know, Hennie, I have been looking for a name for the thing for quite some time now. I think he likes the name Lelik.’

But enough about the dog. Let me tell you more about Old Hennie. He is maar a strange oomie, a wanderer. He has nine fingers and he has an Afrikaans accent that sounds like the skop, skiet and donner American movies we watch every Friday on Etv. Heaven knows where he got it, and I never cared to ask, now that I think about it. Years ago Hennie worked in a butchery, next to Susan’s in town. One evening he had to close the shop and he wanted to steal some meat before he went home, but he was too drunk and ended up cutting off his index finger, shame. I am not even his child, but I look after him because he murdered all his brain cells with the papsak. It was very bad. One evening he came home, I was hanging over the gate watching him come down the road, just like an ouroeke. He stood there with a businessman smile and asked me very politely, ‘Do you know where Josephine Fielies lives?’

I burst out laughing. You see, of course, I am Josephine Fielies and he didn’t even remember it, so soft has his brain got from all the drinking. I laughed until it felt like my stomach muscles were pulling apart. Until I found myself crying. I couldn’t believe that Hennie had just asked me where I, Josephine Fielies, lived. I took him by the arm and invited him in for a cup of coffee, still hot. He drank it like it was cool drink, in one go. It’s as if his body forgot to react to the pain. He had forgotten how to be human. That is what I told myself. Afterwards, he went into the bedroom to rest after his third cup of ‘boeretroos’, as he calls it when he is the rich boer from Baardskeerdersbos. He seemed a bit weak. I knew that soon it would be my responsibility to change his nappies also. His body was getting weaker by the day. That is what I told myself. Sometimes he just sat there like he was dead, his entire body unable to move. He mumbled nonsense things like, ‘Spider webs, spider webs, spider webs’ and went back to looking like a statue.

Once, it was a Monday morning and I was busy making cabbage stew, I didn’t hear him come to the kitchen and he screamed, ‘Spinnerakke!’ The Lord must forgive me for my French, maar ek het my binne in my moer geskrik. All you saw was a wooden spoon and cabbage flying in the air. ‘Hygend! The focking jong.’

Old Hennie and Lelik became best friends. Wherever Hennie was, so was Lelik. Old Hennie couldn’t walk so fast anymore, that is why Lelik walked behind him, and if you dared to touch Hennie, Lelik would vreet your ankles. It was like the dog was protecting the old man. So at least I didn’t worry too much, Lelik was there to look after Hennie if he got himself into any trouble. So it was strange when one day Lelik came home by himself without Hennie. But I just thought to myself, maybe it is because old Hennie is walking slower, or visiting a neighbour. After a few hours and still no Hennie, I went to check whether Hennie was sitting at the edge of the street sign, the one made from concrete. It was his usual spot to smoke his pipe. But Hennie was nowhere to be seen. I became worried when the street lights began to lighten up the street. Darkness was coming and still no Hennie. I then walked over to his son’s house, and we drove to the police because that son of Hennie’s has a car now. That house used to be Hennie’s. But the son had made it his and didn’t worry about his father who was too sick to know home from the street. The police officer stood behind the counter and told us to come back in 72 hours, only then can they declare him as missing. I swear it was the longest 72 hours of my life. After 72 hours we went back. Still no Hennie. The policeman made us fill in a form. He asked if we had any photos. I only had one, of when we were younger, before Hennie’s brain went deurmekaar. When he still worked at the factory. It doesn’t look much like him now, but I still gave it to the policeman.

People started looking, the dogs and the inspectors were looking, and the local newspaper asked the community to be on the lookout. Months later his face was even on the TV. Everyone searched, except for Lelik.

Meanwhile, Hennie’s eldest son took over the house and shamelessly put his two brothers out. Maybe it served them right for not taking care of their father properly. The eldest couldn’t wait to turn the house into a hotel, for him and his family. Ticket, his younger brother, lives with me in the old caravan in the back yard. Skerul, the second eldest, sleeps with his meide; he has one in almost every part of Gansbaai. How the eldest got the house is a mystery. When I asked the brothers how they got put out, they just say, ‘We don’t want to talk about it now.’ I didn’t ask further because I take pride in keeping my nose out of other people’s business. To think the eldest brother didn’t give me a blue cent, not a blooming tiekie for looking after his father. But the Lord will provide, it is no use complaining, He will provide. And Lelik, he is still living here with me, barely leaving the yard.

I cannot believe it has been eight years since Hennie went missing. I for one still believe to this day that Hennie is alive. One of these good days he will return from his long trip and visit. I wonder what he will be this time. Probably a Frenchman or an Ingels Jintelmin. I will invite him in for coffee like before and we will eat lamingtons and oliebolle – those are his favourite. At the moment, Lelik is my only hope. I know Lelik knows where his friend is. The only problem is I talk and Lelik barks.

* * * * *

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Fans and friends raise R1.1-million for Binyavanga Wainaina’s medical treatment

Binyavanga Wainaina
One Day I Will Write About This PlaceKwani?How to Write About Africa

Kwani Trust has thanked all those who contributed to the fund set up for Binyavanga Wainaina’s medical treatment last year.

The beloved Kenyan author suffered a stroke at the end of October, and needed to travel to India for treatment.

Through the fundraising drive, $73,346 (about R1,1-million) was raised via direct contributions, online and mobile donations.

Wainaina’s rehabilitation is going well, and the underlying circumstances that led to his stroke are being monitored and treated.

The Kwani Trust board of Trustees, Binyavanga Wainaina and the larger Kwani Trust family offer their “utmost gratitude” to those who contributed to the fund: “Individuals, organisations and other associations from the writing and other communities banded together to make his access to medical care possible at a very difficult time.”

Read more from Kwani:

Press release:

In late November 2015, Medical fund accounts were established by Kwani Trust’s board of trustees for donations towards Binyavanga Wainaina’s medical care following a stroke in October 2015. The generous donations made by over 700 of you enabled Binyavanga’s medical transfer to the BGS Hospital in Bangalore, India, on 28th November 2015. We thank you once again for the assistance and the immediate response to our appeal on his behalf.

At BGS Global Hospital, Binyavanga underwent the necessary medical tests and procedures including physical and speech therapy until late January 2016. He returned to Nairobi on 26th January and in early March, was admitted to Aga Khan Hospital for 5 days. While he no longer needs round-the-clock medical supervision, he is currently on routine consultation with doctors as part of the recommendations from his doctors in India. This is to treat the underlying circumstances that led to his stroke.

His rehabilitation is ongoing with physical and speech therapy as part of the course in months to come and in general, he is responding well to this. He will be travelling to Germany shortly, where he plans to spend a year in Berlin at a writing residency secured before his stroke. While in Berlin, he will continue with treatment (including surgery), and further therapy.

We thank your overwhelmingly kind response to our appeal for his medical fund. In total, KES 7,334,600 / $73,346 was raised via direct contributions, online and mobile donations. To date, medical expenses and related costs (including air travel and local insurance) have totaled KES 4,977,300 / $49,773 and the medical fund now has a balance of KES 2,357,300 / $23,573. This amount is still administered by Kwani Trust and is solely for any related further medical costs. Should you have any questions related to the finances of the medical fund, kindly do not hesitate to get in touch with the contacts listed below.

On behalf of the board of Trustees, Binyavanga Wainaina and the larger Kwani Trust family, please accept our utmost gratitude for your support over the last few months. Individuals, organisations and other associations from the writing and other communities banded together to make his access to medical care possible at a very difficult time. Many thanks to Nairobi’s The Nest who raised funds with a special event on their premises, Phoebe Boswell for coordinating London efforts, Lola Shoneyin and friends in Lagos who oversaw fundraising in Nigeria with #Naija4Binyavanga, Accra’s Fokn Bois for their #Love4Binya concert in Nairobi, the community of friends who formed core support groups, and so many others for your financial and other support.

Many thanks to Achal Prabhala who so selflessly stepped in to oversee all Bangalore matters, and to Isaac Otidi Amuke who travelled to India to assist Binyavanga during his recuperation. Dr Sonigra and Dr Oluoch Olunya – please accept our gratitude for all your assistance.

With many thanks, to so many of you, for your kind donations.

Special thanks to the following individuals for your fundraising and other core support:

Binyavanga Wainaina Medical Fund Committee
Isaac Otidi Amuke
Sheba Hirst
Billy Kahora
Parselelo Kantai
June Arunga Kimani
Dr. Martin Kimani
Angela Wachuka
James Wainaina
June Wainaina
Melissa Wainaina

Friends of Binyavanga
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ike Anya
Phoebe Boswell
Jim Chuchu
George Gachara
Judy Kibinge
Wanja Maguongo
Juliet Mehretu
Wangechi Mutu
Aslak Myhre
Neo Musangi
Dr Njoki Ngumi
Dr Oluoch Olunya
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
Achal Prabhala
Lola Shoneyin

For further Information/queries, please contact:

Angela Wachuka
Executive Director

Billy Kahora
Managing Editor | +254 711 467 072


* * * * *

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The 2016 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize longlist

Published in the Sunday Times

The 2016 Sunday Times Literary Awards longlists

Alert! The longlist for the 2016 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize has been announced.

This is the 16th edition of the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, but the second year to bear the name of Barry Ronge, the newspaper’s long-time arts commentator who was one of the founders of the literary awards.

The prize criteria stipulate that the winner should be “a novel of rare imagination and style, evocative, textured and a tale so compelling as to become an enduring landmark of contemporary fiction”.

This year’s Barry Ronge Fiction Prize judging panel is Rustum Kozain (chair), Angela Makholwa-Moabelo and Stephen Johnson.

Chairperson Rustum Kozain’s remarks on the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize longlist:

It is not without some trepidation that I look at the longlist for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize this year. The selection appears as challenging as last year.

There are books by old hands and first books, and a varied range in terms of themes and stylistic approaches. Some are set in the past, while some engage with the past through characters’ memories. Memory, it seems, remains a popular substrate on which to build fictions – or it may be that the mechanics of biography and autobiography fuels much fictionalisation. But there are also books set in a more contemporary space and others in an apocalyptic future. Some engage with contemporary political issues, from internet-enabled stalking to stories of and from underrepresented rural perspectives. There are stories set in South Africa and set elsewhere, as well as jet-setting stories. There are generally realist stories and there are science fiction or speculative fiction stories. Tender, lyrical narratives wistful and romantic, and narratives that come at you with the full blast of the digital-information age. There is seriousness and humour, light humour and black humour.

South African writers are writing. It is a daunting field – the process is going to be intense.

Last year’s Alan Paton Award winner was Jacob Dlamini for his book Askari: A Story of Collaboration and Betrayal in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle (Jacana Media). Damon Galgut was awarded the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize for his novel, Arctic Summer (Umuzi).

The shortlists will be announced on Saturday, May 14 at the Franschhoek Literary Festival. The winners of the 2016 Alan Paton Award and Barry Ronge Fiction Prize will each receive R100 000.


The Barry Ronge Fiction Prize longlist

Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria MysteryRecipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew
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The Shouting in the DarkThe Shouting in the Dark by Elleke Boehmer
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Boy on the WireBoy on the Wire by Alastair Bruce
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Sweet MedicineSweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi
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What About MeeraWhat About Meera by ZP Dala
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The FetchThe Fetch by Finuala Dowling
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Glowfly DanceGlowfly Dance by Jade Gibson
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The Dream HouseThe Dream House by Craig Higginson
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The Space Between the Space BetweenThe Space Between the Space Between by John Hunt
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The Seed ThiefThe Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange
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Day FourDay Four by Sarah Lotz
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Chasing The Tails of My Father’s CattleChasing The Tails of My Father’s Cattle by Sindiwe Magona
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Dub StepsDub Steps by Andrew Miller
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Notes From the Lost Property DepartmentNotes From the Lost Property Department by Bridget Pitt
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The Magistrate of GowerThe Magistrate of Gower by Claire Robertson
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Green LionGreen Lion by Henrietta Rose-Innes
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What Will People SayWhat Will People Say by Rehana Rossouw
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Hour of DarknessHour of Darkness by Michéle Rowe
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A Slim, Green SilenceA Slim, Green Silence by Beverly Rycroft
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Hunger Eats a ManHunger Eats a Man by Nkosinathi Sithole
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Now Following YouNow Following You by Fiona Snyckers
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The RaftThe Raft by Fred Strydom
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Piggy Boy's BluesPiggy Boy’s Blues by Nakhane Toure
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WastedWasted by Mark Winkler
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It Might Get LoudIt Might Get Loud by Ingrid Winterbach, edited by Michiel Heyns
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36 musicians and artists collaborate on an Ingrid Jonker tribute album – join the crowdfunding campaign



36 artists have contributed to an album of music celebrating legendary poet Ingrid Jonker.

The compilation Die Kind is Nog Jonger (The Child Is Still Younger) is scheduled for release in early May, spearheaded by Jonker’s daughter Simone and her husband Ernesto Garcia Marques as part of the 50-year commemoration of the poet’s death in 1965, when she committing suicide by drowning.

The selected musicians hail from all over the world, including South Africa, the UK, USA and Germany, and cover a range of genres, from rock, pop, acoustic and metal, to folk, electronic and spoken word.

Flame in the SnowVlam in die sneeu

You can become a part of the project via its IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, and earn perks such as:

  • instant downloads
  • pre-releases and double disc CDs
  • personalised postcards from Ingrid Jonker’s daughter Simone
  • personalised thank you listing in the CD sleeve and online
  • limited edition T-shirts
  • Copies of Flame in the Snow/Vlam in die Sneeu (new Umuzi publication of love letters between Ingrid Jonker and fellow acclaimed writer André Brink – pictured above)
  • executive producer credit
  • limited edition vinyl LP version (featuring a dozen selected tracks)
  • original artwork from acclaimed artist Vernon Swart (whose ocean scene is used as the album cover)


Hear samples of all 3-dozen amazing tracks:

YouTube Preview Image

Die Kind Is Nog Jonger will be released by Sound Action and Flamedrop Productions.

The artists include: Anton Goosen, Jennifer Ferguson, Kalahari Surfers, Falling Mirror, Inge Beckmann, Terminatryx, Ingrid Jonger and Tim Parr, Ernestine Deane, Stefan Strydom & Gert Vlok Nel, Abraham van GeenBybel, Rambling Bones, Andrew Kay, Zaria, mike dickman, Tonia Möller, Wilde Junge (Wild Youth), André Van Rensburg, The SlashDogs, The Sighs of Monsters, Die Naaimasjiene, Tribe After Tribe’s Robbie Rob, Jim Neversink, Beeskraal Revival, Daniel Eeuwrick, Somerfaan, Anne Van Schothorst, Ivan Kadey, Radio Rats, Die Kruis, Eckard Potgieter, Victor S Wolf, Juliana Venter, Dirk Ace, The CapTn (featuring Julie Hartley), Mavis Vermaak, The McClones.

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New books by 2 South African authors published by Ankara Press, the feminist romance imprint of Cassava Republic Press

New books by 2 South African authors published by Ankara Press, the feminist romance imprint of Cassava Republic Press


The latest releases from Ankara Press – the feminist African romance imprint of Cassava Republic Press – are novels by South African authors Aziza Eden Walker and Amina Thula.

The new books are Walker’s The Seeing Place, the story of an up-and-coming actor who falls for his casting director, and Love Next Door, the second novel by Thula, whose first book, Elevator Kiss, was an extremely popular release for Ankara.

“It’s exciting to be part of a new era in romance literature,” Thula says in an interview with Juwairiyya Asmal-Lee of Cassava. “It also feels empowering that now, we Africans are dictating the way the world should see us.

“I feel Africa is finally part of the global sphere and not some external third world continent.”

Walker says she is “honoured and delighted” to join the imprint: “As a South African woman with a local voice, stepping onto a broader platform, this means a lot to me.”

About Ankara Press

Ankara Press is a new imprint bringing African romance fiction into the bedrooms, offices and hearts of women the world over. Our mission is to publish a new kind of romance, in which the thrill of fantasy is alive but realised in a healthier and more grounded way. Our stories feature young, self-assured and independent women who work, play and, of course, fall madly in love in vibrant African cities from Lagos to Cape Town.

Ankara men are confident, emotionally expressive and not afraid of independent and sexually assertive women. Our sensuous books will challenge romance stereotypes and empower women to love themselves in their search for love, romance and wholesome sex.

We want our books to reflect the realities of African women’s lives in ways that challenge boundaries and go beyond conventional expectations.


The Seeing Place by Aziza Eden Walker

About The Seeing Place

Hot-shot producer Thuli Poni is holding auditions for her latest play in Cape Town. Andile Sebe is an up-and-coming star, just waiting for his big break. Thuli casts Andile and challenges him to link his painful past with the role he is portraying, leading him to open up to her. The two fall for each other and a passionate romance ensues.

But when auditions open for Sins of the Fathers, the most-watched TV show in South Africa, Thuli turns cold. Will she play a part in Andile’s rise to fame, or will she hinder it?

This is a story about how love can triumph against the odds if we stay humble, take risks and are willing to learn. The Seeing Place offers a very different kind of romance – between a powerful woman and a man who wants something only she can offer.

About the author

Aziza Eden Walker is a former actress and psychologist who now writes full-time. She began writing love stories on a little blackboard as a teen, the advantage being that she could rub the risqué bits out before anyone saw them! She has published short stories and poetry. The Seeing Place is her first novel with Ankara Press.

Love Next Door by Amina Thula

About Love Next Door

When business analyst Abby finally moves into a place of her own, she is delighted to discover that her new apartment block is also home to a hunk-next-door. Kopano – teacher, swim coach, artist and all-round nice guy – seems too good to be true. Until Abby discovers evidence of a mystery girlfriend.

As neighbours Abby and Kopano spend more and more time together as “just good friends”, the attraction deepens and their close connection develops into something more intense.

But just as her love life finally seems on track, a fabulous career opportunity opens up for Abby in New York – and she is torn between making her career aspirations come true and leaving behind the man of her dreams …

About the author

When Amina Thula was six years old her older brother bought her a comic book, a simple gift that would be the start to a lifelong love of books and reading. Her introduction to romance was the love triangle between comic book characters Archie Andrews, Betty and Veronica, before she graduated to the Sweet Valley and Sweet Dreams series in her teens – the start of her love affair with tall, brooding, hot, dark, handsome strangers. Love Next Door is her second novel with Ankara Press; her first, The Elevator Kiss, was published in 2014.

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An emotional rollercoaster: Olivier Moreillon reviews Affluenza by Niq Mhlongo

Niq Mhlongo
Dog Eat DogAfter TearsWay Back Home


His finger-on-the-pulse reports of post-apartheid South Africa’s social complexities and challenges have rightly established Niq Mhlongo as part of a younger generation of black South African writers. Mhlongo’s first two novels, Dog Eat Dog (2004) and After Tears (2007) which focus on student life and its precarious financial predicaments, have not lost their relevance in view of the 2015 student protests that swept across the campuses of South Africa’s leading universities. His third novel, Way Back Home, deals with the lesser-known history of the ANC’s detention camps in Angola and corruption among the leading officers of its armed struggle with the latter finding its continuation in the highest echelons of post-apartheid politics. Kimathi, the novel’s protagonist, and his obsession with expensive whiskeys, imported cigars, and fancy cars can be considered a harbinger of Mhlongo’s latest offering, his short story collection Affluenza.

Many of the protagonists in Affluenza share Kimathi’s excessive consumption of goods. In “Betrayal in the Wilderness”, for example, there are the posh tourists who, in pursuit of capturing the Big Five on their high-tech cameras at Kruger National Park, are sipping champagne under the scorching sun. In the title story, “Affluenza”, there is the businessman, Fanna, who flashes about his credit cards in order to impress a group of elegantly dressed young women despite being in arrears with the instalments for his expensive car.

The collection consists of 11 short stories some of which have previously been published internationally, to critical acclaim. They are, however, mostly unknown among the South African reading public. Affluenza adds to the eclectic list of relevant sociopolitical issues tackled in Mhlongo’s oeuvre. Some of the topics covered in the collection are land restitution, xenophobia, stereotypes against Africans, corruption, HIV/Aids, homophobia, betrayal, and dysfunctional relationships, to name but the most prominent. The collection thereby deftly combines Mhlongo’s witty and satirical tone of Dog Eat Dog and After Tears with the more earnest and sombre style of Way Back Home.

Readers are indeed up for an emotional rollercoaster in Affluenza. The pathological need and desire for a more affluent life, as the title suggests, is a recurrent theme in all the stories, which make you laugh, cry, and livid all within the space of two book covers. The alternation of more serious stories with lighter ones, however, gives the readers the necessary space to digest the heavier topics the author dishes up.

Here are my personal favourites:

The collection’s opening story, “The Warning Sign”, hurtles headlong into one of the most contested issues of apartheid’s legacy, namely the question of land restitution. The story, which is set in Limpopo Province, follows the white farm owner Mr Adams who decides to “defend his property” by all available means when notified to vacate his farm by the local Land Redistribution Committee. Mr Adams’s blatant racism towards the protesting committee members and his exploitative stance towards the black farm workers make you shiver in horror: “Kaffirs! What do these monkeys think they would be without us white people!”

In an uncanny way, Mr Adams’s outburst is reminiscent, or rather anticipatory, of Penny Sparrow’s infamous comparison of black beachgoers to “littering monkeys” in January this year and the race debate that it (re-)kindled. Mhlongo cleverly reflects this racial clash between black and white in the story’s alternating night/day pattern. The farm workers and their story leave the readers with further food for thought. There is Knowledge, “Mr Adams’s trusted farm manager”, and three female farm workers: Memory, Patience and Grace. With Knowledge’s sudden disappearance and Memory’s abduction by the protestors only Patience and Grace are left at the end of the story. In view of South Africa’s festering racial tensions, particularly since the advent of the #RhodesMustFall Movement, this can be seen as an underlying criticism on Mhlongo’s part. Patience and Grace (at the expense of knowledge and memory), such as were promoted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its guiding principle of ubuntu, are not enough to overcome the deeply entrenched sociohistorical racial clashes that are the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.

While “Four Blocks Away” may be on the lighter side, it is no less sociopolitically relevant. The absurdity of the situation the protagonist finds himself in leaves one helpless with laughter. And yet, there is stale aftertaste to it. The story is reminiscent of police violence against black people in the United States as well as the undue use of police power in post-apartheid South Africa. This is a topic that crops up time and again in Mhlongo’s oeuvre. Readers of his previous works will recognise the parallels to Dingz’s altercation with the police and his subsequent arrest for public drinking in Dog Eat Dog or Kimathi’s detention for publically soliciting a prostitute in Way Back Home.

In “Four Blocks Away”, the gumboot dancer Qhawe Mcwabe is in the US on a cultural exchange programme together with two other representatives from Zimbabwe and Mali. As part of the programme they visit Washington DC, where they are to give a talk at Howard University. After a boozy evening, Qhawe and Siri, an acquaintance or flame of his he has run into at the university, end up in his hotel room. About to have sex, Qhawe realises that he does not have any condoms. Besotted and dressed in his hotel gown, Qhawe makes his way to the next pharmacy, repeating the receptionist’s directions and Siri’s condition like a mantra in his head: “Four blocks! No glove, no love! Four blocks! No glove, no love!” In front of the pharmacy, however, the police stop Qhawe and deny him access to the pharmacy due to his “unbefitting attire”. The ensuing debate between Qhawe and the police quickly draws the attention of passers-by. With their help, Qhawe is eventually allowed to enter the pharmacy in order to purchase the hoped-for condoms. In high spirits, he returns to his hotel room, only to find Siri “lying across the bed, snoring”.

“My Name is Peaches” sees Peaches, whose nickname stems from Nina Simone’s famous song “Four Women”, give tribute to her late boyfriend Tshif. The second-person narrative, which is reminiscent of Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2000), traces their seemingly loving relationship. As the story progresses, however, it becomes increasingly clear that things were more illusion than reality, just like the whisky they are drinking at Tshif’s place one night: “My friends and I were very impressed by your collection […] What we didn’t know then was that you had simply filled the expensive bottles with cheap stuff. As you told me several years later, what we had thought was Hennessy, Johnnie Walker Blue and Chivas was actually concoctions of Klipdrift, Firstwatch and Bell’s that you had simply poured into the empty bottles. Silly man!” Similar to the women in Nina Simone’s song, Peaches eventually finds out that Tshif has repeatedly betrayed her. At the end of the story, she stands at Tshif’s grave with a bottle of Hennessy to say her goodbyes. After pouring half of the bottle on Tshif’s grave in “his honour”, Peaches leaves for his After Tears with Matome where they will enjoy the rest of the expensive whisky.

The irony here is a double one: not only has the scene to be seen as an act of revenge on the part of Peaches. It is also a humorous self-reference by Mhlongo to his second novel, After Tears, where uncle Nyawana’s drinking buddies similarly stand over his grave saying their goodbyes, pouring “a little of [their cheap] J&B” on the grave. One of the friends’ comments: “Wherever you are, drink a bit of this to give you courage, nkalakatha. I’m not being stingy, but I won’t give you much because we are running low on supplies, my bra”. In view of this intertextual self-reference, Peaches’s action gains in bittersweet irony. Her pouring half of the expensive bottle of Hennessy, which stands in stark contrast to the scene in After Tears and the sense of brotherhood it expresses, bespeaks her “affluenza” as an act of personal satisfaction to avenge her late boyfriend’s betrayal.

Such and similar sentiments run through the remainder of the collection like a golden thread. In “Affluenza” the readers are told about the city of Johannesburg, the setting of most of the collection’s stories: “This is Johussleburg and everyone here is suffering from affluenza. Almost every black person pretends to be rich while staying in a rented room.” The “gravy train” of hoped-for opportunities for the majority of black people in post-apartheid South Africa “has passed”. What people are left with is a cruel game of pretence where the needed-for opportunities are grasped as they come along or are (self-)created if necessary.

Once more, Mhlongo succeeds in capturing post-apartheid South Africa’s zeitgeist. The topics and issues he raises in his latest offering may not necessarily make the short story collection a comfortable read, but certainly an indispensible one.

Join the author at one of the upcoming launches of Affluenza in Soweto, Cape Town or Vanderbijlpark. Click here for details.

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