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Archive for the ‘Franschhoek Literary Festival’ Category

Programme for the 2018 Franschhoek Literary Festival announced!

The quaint Western Cape town of Franschhoek will be accommodating South Africa’s literary greats from Friday 18 May to Sunday 20 May.

This annual literary festival’s 2018 line-up includes discussions ranging from the André P Brink memorial wherein Elinor Sisulu will focus on the life and times of Ahmed Kathrada, with an introduction by Karina Szczurek (The Fifth Mrs Brink); a panel discussion on what feminism looks like in 2018, featuring discussants Mohale Mashigo (The Yearning), Jen Thorpe (Feminism Is), Helen Moffett (Feminism Is) and social commentator and public speaker Tshegofatso Senne; and Jacques Pauw (The President’s Keepers) and Jan-Jan Joubert (Who Will Rule in 2019?) deliberating whether there’s a ‘recipe’ for an ideal South African president with international relations scholar Oscar van Heerden.

And that’s just day one!

Find the full programme here.

The Fifth Mrs Brink

Book details

The Yearning

Feminism Is

The President's Keeper

Who Will Rule in 2019?

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Quality education begins at home: read Jenny Hobbs’s advice on fixing South Africa’s literacy crisis

“Education is the new weapon in the liberation struggle, and our youth must arm themselves with books.”
Adelaide Tambo


The literacy crisis among South Africa’s youth is worse than expected. It was recently announced that eight out of 10 grade four pupils still cannot ‘read at appropriate level’. Dr Nic Spaull of Sellenbosch University is quoted saying that an inability to read properly means ‘many pupils never get a firm grasp on the first rung of the academic ladder and fall further and further behind.’

Co-creator and former managing director of the Franschhoek Literary Festival (and author!), Jenny Hobbs, composed the following piece on the necessity of nurturing a love of reading among children, including helpful tips on encouraging a reading culture in South Africa:

Here’s the important thing about quality education: it starts with you, parents and caregivers, from the time babies are born. Talking and singing to them, giving them words and songs and stories, is the best way to ensure that they learn to talk and read confidently. These are the building blocks of education and success in life.

• Parents, gogos, caregivers and child minders: talk and sing often to babies and toddlers, passing on the magic of spoken words and singing.
• Speak from the beginning in your mother tongues, adding words and songs from other languages (especially English) as they grow. Languages are easily picked up by small kids and you will be giving them invaluable free skills.
• As soon as they can sit on your lap, tell them stories and read to them from books, magazines or catalogues, letting them turn the pages – however clumsily! – to discover the excitements on the next page.
• Encourage them to talk, chat and tell their own stories. Teach them the songs you sang and the games you played, family history and traditions. Children who own many words talk easily with friends and adults.
• Take them as young as you can to libraries to enjoy exciting, different books and choose some to bring home. Municipal and community libraries are free, and librarians are always ready to help with advice.
• Give children books as presents. Ask at the library for the late, great Chris van Wyk’s Ouma Ruby’s Secret, which tells the story of how his loving grandma bought him books in second-hand shops, always asking him to choose and then read them out loud to her. He only realised when he grew older that she couldn’t read – like so many elders who were denied education.

• Seeing parents read newspapers and books is inspiring for children. Keep books in your home and make reading a cool thing to do.
• All reading is good reading. Look for book sales and street vendors selling comics and well-priced picture and story books. Visit a library to access the online South African book sites for children and teens.
• Enrol children as soon as possible in early learning centres to expose them to new skills and the first formal steps to reading.
• Fight harder and more fiercely for schools with libraries that actively promote reading and a culture of independent learning.

Note: The government mandates weekly library lessons in schools which all receive library allocations, but random bookshelves are not enough. Libraries need assistants to help readers and control the books. For more information, see the downloadable school library booklet at

• Link older children and teens with the FunDza Literacy Trust for daily reading on their cellphones.
• Readers should recommend books they’ve enjoyed and circulate personal libraries in their communities. Record who has borrowed each book by taking a cellphone photo with them holding it.

Surely it’s time for VAT on books to be abolished – it’s a tax on learning!

Online sites for South African children’s & young adult books:

Book Dash:
Children’s Book Network:

11-year-old Lindiwe Makhoba from Mangaung, Bloemfontein, the 2017 winner of Nal’ibali’s annual Story Bosso contest


Quotes about reading to live by:

It is my wish that the voice of the storyteller will never die in Africa, that all children in the world may experience the wonder of books, and that they will never lose the capacity to enlarge their earthly dwelling place with the magic of stories. – Nelson Mandela

The key to a healthy society is a thriving community of storytellers. Stories are what really make us human. – Franco Sacchi

Reading books at home is an important part of the early development of children during which they confront in a pleasurable activity those human passions of love and hate, of ambition and desire, of change and hope. – Jonathan Jansen

If we want to break down barriers between ourselves across race, linguistic and cultural lines, we must promote reading. Fiction forces you to live in other people’s worlds. It develops our empathetic capacities … it can and does help to build bridges. Reading will help us to humanise each other. In a time of violence, we must spread the word about the power of books to make South African life a little easier. – Eusebius McKaiser

A book can change your life. You can read yourself out of poverty. – Annari van der Merwe

Books not only change the mind, they can change the course of society. – Jonathan Jansen

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture – just get people to stop reading them. – Ray Bradbury

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Franschhoek Literary Festival 2017: the podcasts

The quaint Western Cape town of Franschhoek recently played host to the country’s literary greats for the eleventh annual Franschhoek Literary Festival.

In between dashing from shady spot to shady spot, consuming copious amounts of Porcupine Ridge wine and buying books, festival-goers attended panel discussions with a vast range of topics. If you couldn’t make it this year, or happened to miss a discussion, we’ve got you covered.

Click here to listen to the recordings of the 2017 discussions.

(To those of us who were there – do you now get why we had to turn our phones off…)

From victim to survivor (Old School Hall): Michelle Hattingh (I’m the Girl Who Was Raped) uncovers stories of courage, faith and perseverance in the face of opposition and adversity as told by Grizelda Grootboom (Exit), Lindiwe Hani (Being Chris Hani’s Daughter) and Shamim Meer (Memories of Love and Struggle).)


How powerful are Constitutions? (New School Hall): Tembeka Ngcukaitobi speaks to three human rights advocates – former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs, author Deborah Lipstadt and author and professor of law at University College London Philippe Sands – about the role of a country’s constitution in protecting human rights.


Rattling the cage of discrimination (Old School Hall): Sifiso Ndlovu (The Thabo Mbeki I Know), Anastacia Tomson (Always Anastacia), Griffin Shea and Marianne Thamm (Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me) interrogate the systems that divide South Africans, and how we can dismantle them.


Crossing the arts (Elephant & Barrel): ‘Polyartists’ Carol Mashigo (actor/writer), Rian Malan (writer/musician) and Sam Wilson (film producer /writer) tell Africa Melane about the crossover between their various artistic lives and what they mean to them.

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Franschhoek Literary Festival: Day Two

The second day of the annual Franschhoek Literary Festival’s programme featured topics as diverse as implications of media censorship, the responsibilities of opinion pieces, cultural appropriation, the Karoo as literary muse and questions regarding feminism and who ‘owns’ it.

After the mandatory drink or two – besides the perennially favourite mahala glass of Porcupine Ridge Wine – at the Elephant and Barrel, festival-goers and authors alike bid FLF 2017 goodbye.

Check out #flf2017 for more!

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Franschhoek Literary Festival: Day One

From great discussions about identity politics to the psyche of apartheid spies; speculative fiction and Holocaust denialism; women who write crime fiction and debates about whether writers are made or born -the first day of the annual Franschhoek Literary Festival provided enough stimulating conversation to exercise festival goers’ brain muscles, and festival-sponsor Porcupine Ridge supplied enough wine to keep them hydrated.

Hotter than expected, veteran FLF’ers were often heard remarking that “it ALWAYS rains during Franschhoek,” yet the pleasant weather made for an excellent excuse to enjoy a glass of in vino veritas.

To whet your appetite for whatever Saturday might bring, here are a few tweets of the vet pret first day of Franschhoek Literary Festival:


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Ten talks to attend at the 2017 Franschhoek Literary Festival

Everyone’s favourite Porcupine Ridge-sponsored, vineyard-surrounded literary festival is around the corner.

Yes, you read correctly. The Franschhoek Literary Festival is coming up on the weekend of the 19th – 21st of May.

With a programme which skriks vir niks, it can be rather daunting to decide which discussions you’d like to attend.

Enter Kate Sidley. Kate recently compiled a list of 10 must-see discussions for the Sunday Times, which can be viewed here.

‘Til the 19th!

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Check out the programme for this year’s Franschhoek Literary Festival!

The quaint Western Cape town of Franschhoek will be accommodating South Africa’s literary greats from Friday 19 May to Sunday 21 May.

This annual literary festival’s 2017 line-up can only be described as one which skrik’s vir niks.

Festival-goers can expect discussions and debates featuring Rebecca Davis, author of Best White and Other Delusions, in conversation with agricultural economist Tracy Ledger (An Empty Plate) and African diplomacy scholar Oscar van Heerden (Consistent or Confused) on the ever-dividing rift between South Africans; the Sunday Times‘ contributing books editor Michele Magwood asks publishers Phehello Mofokeng (Geko Publishing), Thabiso Mahlape (BlackBird Books) and short story writer Lidudumalingani Mqombothi (recipient of the 2016 Caine Prize Winner for Memories We Lost, published in The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things) whether there’s a shortage of black fiction authors; and poet Rustum Kozain (Groundwork) will discuss Antjie Krog, Lady Anne: A Chronicle in Verse with the acclaimed poet herself.

And that’s just day one!

Find the full programme here.

Tickets are available from


Best White and Other Anxious Delusions

Book details





Lady Anne


An Empty Plate


The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories

  • The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 by Caine Prize
    EAN: 9781566560160
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!


Consistent or Confused

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Not welcome: Thabiso Mahlape and Lauren Beukes on Eugene de Kock’s presence at the Sunday Times Literary Awards shortlist event

Anemari Jansen, Eugene de Kock, Annie Olivier
Anemari Jansen, Eugene de Kock, Annie Olivier at the Franchhoek Literary Festival


Eugene de KockEugene de Kock


Lauren Beukes and Thabiso Mahlape spoke to Books LIVE about Eugene de Kock’s presence at the Franschhoek Literary Festival this weekend.

Eugene de Kock: Assassin for the State, a biography by Anemari Jansen written with the full co-operation and consent of the former Vlakplaas commander, was longlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award in April, and De Kock was in attendance at the shortlist announcement on Saturday night.

More about the book.

De Kock, who was known as “Prime Evil” for his apartheid-era crimes, was spotted by Books LIVE at the French Connection restaurant on Saturday afternoon and also attended a panel discussion on Friday, as tweeted by Cover2Cover Books managing director Palesa Morudu:

According to Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko, De Kock was at the Sunday Times Literary Award event as a guest of the publisher of Anemari Jansen’s biography, not as a guest of the Sunday Times. “De Kock was not acknowledged in any way,” Siqoko says. “We only acknowledge the sponsors, authors and publishers at the Sunday Times Literary Awards events.”

Author and journalist Jacques Steenkamp tweeted from the festival:

Internationally acclaimed author and former journalist Beukes, who asked De Kock to leave the shortlist event, says: “There were black writers and publishers who were visibly upset that he was there, some of whom were victims of his operation, who had lost family members. There was talk of staging a walk-out in protest and maybe we should have done that.

“But I was angry that the writers should have to leave an event celebrating them. I walked over to him standing by the stairs and asked if he was Eugene de Kock. I said, ‘It’s inappropriate that you are here. People are in tears that you are here and I think you should leave.’

“He said ‘Thank you for telling me’, and left.

“But this story is not about me. It’s about the black writers and publishers who were traumatised by having him there.

“Yes, we need forgiveness and yes, he’s served his time. We also need compassion and sensitivity about inviting him to a private party where there are people who have suffered terrible loss directly because of him.”

Beukes tweeted:

Mahlape, a publisher at Jacana Media and the head of its new division BlackBird Books, says she was shaken when she realised De Kock was present at the announcement.

“I stayed away from the news of Eugene asking to be let out and eventually being let out,” she says. “I never imagined I would ever run into the man. In my head he would go find a farm and live as far as possible from people.

“When I heard he was at the festival and had even cried at a session I was quite detached. My one question is, why does he think he can just socialise? And then I saw him. I was standing with [Modjaji Books publisher] Colleen Higgs and [author] Rehana Rossouw. I saw Rehana’s jaw drop, I turned around and there he was.”

Mahlape says seeing De Kock brought to mind a number of other racially charged events, specifically Pretoria High Court judge Mabel Jansen’s recent remarks on rape and black culture, published on Facebook to widespread condemnation.

“My immediate response was to get away, so I went upstairs. But when the energy in the room changed everything last week came back. The judge had called my people culturally rapists or sadists and when he came up the stairs that hit me. There, right in front of me, was the man who was responsible for the breaking of so many black men and as a result black families. I wept, I never expected that to happen; my own feelings overwhelmed me.

“I had also been in altercation during the day with another man, a festival goer, so I may have been tired. But I cried, and that’s when Lauren went over to him and asked him to leave. And he said ‘thank you’ and left.”

Mahlape’s BlackBird Books recently published the debut novels of Panashe Chigumadzi and Nakhane Touré. She is also the publisher of Thando Mgqolozana, who was responsible for the Franschhoek Literary Festival making international news last year, when he publicly condemned South Africa’s “white literary system” and announced that he would be boycotting such festivals in future.

In the Sunday Times it was erroneously stated that De Kock left before his exchange with Beukes.

Book details

Main image: Esa Alexander

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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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The 2016 Franschhoek Literary Festival is underway!

2016 Franschhoek Literary Festival opening

The 2016 Franschhoek Literary Festival – the 10th edition of the festival – is taking place on the 13, 14 and 15 May.

Also see:

Check out tweets from the festival:


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Follow Jennifer Malec (@projectjennifer), Jennifer Platt (@Jenniferdplatt), Michele Magwood (@michelemagwood) and Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp) for more!

All you need to know about the international authors at the 2016 Franschhoek Literary Festival


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