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Archive for the ‘Jonathan Ball’ Category

Author Q&A: Chris Carter

Published in the Sunday Times


Chris Carter, author of Gallery of the Dead.


 
If you could require our world leaders to read one book, what would it be?

Any book that could teach them to be humble, tolerant and understanding. It seems that most of the world has been lacking in those basic human attributes of late.

Which book changed your life?

To be honest, no book has really changed my life. I never read very much — as a child or as an adult. Writing became part of my life more by chance than by choice.

What music helps you write?

I can listen to just about anything, but if I have a choice then definitely rock music.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

I have done a lot of strange things while researching for a book. Mind you, I’ve done a lot of strange things while not researching for a book as well, but maybe lying inside a coffin to see how it feels would be top of the list. That was a little odd.

You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?

Can it be musicians? They are much more interesting than writers. In that case I would have Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Nikki Sixx. Can you imagine the party afterwards?

What’s the best book you’ve received as a gift?

I would have to say I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. Great story.

What is the last thing that you read that made you laugh out loud?

An article about Brexit in the UK. All of it is a joke.

What are you most proud of writing?

Every single one of my novels. For someone who never even considered writing a short story, writing nine novels so far is quite an achievement. I am very proud of that.

What keeps you awake at night?

My cat. He keeps jumping on and off the bed.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell myself to start earlier. I started writing when I was 42 years old.

What did you edit out of this book?

A lot. My editing process is very thorough. With every book I write, I end up editing a hell of a lot out of it. I can’t remember exactly what I cut, but it amounted to about 15000 words.

How do you select the names of your characters?

At complete random, but I do use a rule. I only use names that are easy to pronounce no matter in which country the reader is. I once stopped reading a book because I could not pronounce many of the characters’ names. It was annoying. All my characters have easy names no matter which country you’re in — Mark, John, Jennifer, Carlos, Barbara, etc.

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“I deeply admired the work of Thuli Madonsela as our public protector.” Thandeka Gqubule talks about No Longer Whispering to Power, shortlisted for the 2018 Alan Paton Award

Published in the Sunday Times

Thandeka Gqubule has practiced as a journalist and worked in the media for nearly three decades. She has followed the story of former public protector Thuli Madonsela with great dedication and passion.

What prompted you to write the book?

I deeply admired the work of Thuli Madonsela as our public protector. I felt strongly that her choices and values were instructive and could provide a navigational tool for us to approach the choppy political and social waters of our land. I was passionate about the need to share this example, and the trials and tribulations of being South African – nonracialism, corruption, active citizenship, a rocky political transition and much more. As I was thinking about this, seated in the lobby of Johannesburg’s Hyatt Hotel, I spotted Jeremy Boraine from Jonathan Ball Publishers. I thought this must be a gift from the angels! I approached and told him that I wanted to do the Thuli book. He was interested and the rest is history.

Where did the title came from?

Thuli gave the idea of the title. It was in one of her iconic speeches. She was attempting to give a non-legal explanation of the role of the public protector in our society. She said it was like that of the makhadzi — a traditional female Venda leader — normally the sister or the aunt of the king. The makhadzi had to be above reproach and above suspicion, much like Caesar’s wife. She was to be exemplary in her conduct, so she quietly led by example. The makhadzi would lean over and counsel the king by whispering, so she wielded her influence surreptitiously and her power was to be known but not seen or heard. She was to make supplications to the king on behalf of the wounded, marginalised and weak in society — even plead for clemency on behalf of those whom the king had treated unfairly. The king ignored the makhadzi at his peril. When the makhadzi was just, the king was thought to be fair-minded. But when the makhadzi raised her voice to the king it means she was “no longer whispering to power” — thus all was not well in the kingdom. I thought this explains the Thuli/Jacob dynamic beautifully.

Who should read your book?

I think all South Africans should – all those who grapple with ethics-centred leadership should study the example of Thuli Madonsela.

What would people be most surprised to learn about Thuli Madonsela?

Thuli was not always self-assured. She was shy and socially awkward when she was a teenager. She also has an elegant sense of humour!

You write about the many rivers South Africans have to cross for a just and equitable society. Where do we stand now?

We still have many rivers to cross. We need to find our common humanity and bond as a people … out of the practical reality that we need to provide a peaceful and meaningful future for our children. We must cross the river of hope or our hearts will slowly die. To do this we must build a bridge over the sea of poverty and inequality. Problems have solutions and we must find them. As Tata said: we have many mountains to climb.

How important was it to situate Thuli in reference to our history?

I think Thuli Madonsela is one of the most significant South African historical figures of the post-apartheid period. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to write this book.

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“I wanted to give voice to a story I felt hadn’t been fully explored yet in South Africa – that of children who grew up in exile.” Sisonke Msimang discusses her Alan Paton Award shortlisted memoir, Always Another Country

Published in the Sunday Times

Sisonke Msimang lives in Perth, Australia, where she is programme director for the Centre for Stories. She regularly visits South Africa, where she speaks on current affairs. She has degrees from Macalester College, Minnesota, and the University of Cape Town, is a Yale World Fellow, an Aspen New Voices Fellow, and was a Ruth First Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand. She contributes to The Guardian, The Daily Maverick and The New York Times and has given a popular TED Talk which touches on events that appear in Always Another Country.

Why did you decide to write this memoir?

I wanted to give voice to a story I felt hadn’t been fully explored yet in South Africa – that of children who grew up in exile. While we have had many amazing freedom fighters, I wanted to also demonstrate to young people and women especially that you don’t have to have a long CV and a long list of accomplishments for your life to be worthy of examination. All of us have stories – big and small. In South Africa we have tended to be interested in the big men of our history – black and white. As a contrast I wanted to look at my small little stories, set against the backdrop of South Africa’s much larger story.

Did writing your story give you new insights into your experiences growing up?

The process of writing always helps to clarify your experiences, but a lot of these experiences I had already worked through, so I was ready to share them.

It is an intensely personal and revealing book. Was it painful to write?

Not at all. There is a wonderful quote I use when I teach storytelling – “Tell your stories from your scars, not from your wounds”. I only shared experiences that I had felt I had fully dealt with at a personal level so that by the time I was sitting down to write, I wasn’t treating my readers like therapists. For me there is a very clear line between catharsis and publishing a book. Your diary is for catharsis; a memoir should be about what you hope people might be able to take away from the experiences you’ve had in your life.

What does the word “identity” mean to you?

Your identity is who you are; the component parts that make you a unique individual.

You became disillusioned after your return to a free South Africa. Why?

I didn’t become any more disillusioned with South Africa than other South Africans did during the end of the Mbeki years and the Zuma years. I had high hopes for our political leaders – as we all did. I think the last decade has taught us that anyone can let you down but only you as a person can take responsibility for addressing the challenges you see around you.

Now that you live in Australia, does the distance from South Africa help to focus your views on the country?

Not really. I am here a lot, so there really isn’t much distance. I see myself as being incredibly lucky; someone who is able to make a home anywhere, but who is fundamentally connected to her country – South Africa. It’s as though there is an umbilical cord tying me to this place. Exile made that bond very strong and I have come to realise that no matter what happens or where I live or go, that cord will never be broken. It makes me who I am.

After writing the book, do you feel more at peace with the past?

Ha! Well, the truth is I am a very balanced person because my parents tried hard to make sure that we were okay, in spite of all the moving. So I’ve been at peace with my past for a long time, and I am incredibly grateful for the journey I have travelled.

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Lowveld Book Festival 2018: Save the date!

Via Allison Cooper

The Lowveld Book Festival is fast-becoming a not-to-be-missed event on literary calendars across South Africa!

It’s time to save the dates in your diary as this year’s festival will take place at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, in White River, on 18 and 19 August 2018, whilst the business breakfast and outreach activities will take place on Friday 17 August.

This year visitors can look forward to a host of interesting authors, including two of the youngest authors Stacey Fru (11- years-old) and Michelle Nkamankeng (10-years-old),Tony Park, Dudu Busani-Dube, Mercy Dube, Tracy Going, Amy Heydenrych, Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, Mike Mills, Gus Mills, Maruping Phepheng, James Styan, Richard Steyn, Fred Khumalo, Rehana Rossouw, Steven Sidley, Kate Sidley, Ronnie Kasrils, Dr Gerrit Haarhoff, Prof Peter Delius, Peter Harris, Menzi Mkhonza, Sandy and Tony Ferrar, Sahm Venter, Vimla Naidoo, Dr Salomon Joubert, Walter Thornhill, Adam Cruise and we are very honoured to have Archbishop Thabo Makgoba as well.

Adam Cruise will also be one of the facilitators and will be joined by Lowveld Living’s Nicky Manson and renowned local author Jayne Bauling as well as Bobo Lukhele, news editor at the SABC in Mpumalanga and Alison Lowry who is the ex-CEO of Penguin Publishers and an independent editor.

A balanced programme is on the cards, including poetry, workshops, kids’ corner and story-time for youngsters, panel discussions, historical Lowveld literature, nature lovers’ presentations, interviews with authors, youth literature, a book club segment, a cooking demonstration, a locally written and produced movie as well as the South African Music Show put on by the CMDA which will include well-known songs by some of our best loved local musicians.

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 encourages a love of reading and acknowledges the role played by writers and poets in society. The 2018 Lowveld Book Festival will again reach out to surrounding rural schools to expose children to the joy of stories and reading; encourage teenagers to read more, whether electronic or printed books; and to support local writers and illustrators through workshops hosted by published authors.

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


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tracy Going and Nozizwe Cynthia Jele are two authors festival goers can look forward to!


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“I wanted more scope for her … more focus on her virtues and flaws.” Madeline Miller discusses Circe with Diane Awerbuck

Published in the Sunday Times

Circe *****
Madeline Miller Bloomsbury, R295


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Men are pigs. Ask Homer, who wrote in the eighth century BCE about heroic Odysseus trying to get home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. In The Odyssey Homer devotes two chapters to Circe, a beautiful witch. When Odysseus and his weary sailors land on her island paradise, she turns them into pigs.

But Madeline Miller gives the goddess a makeover in her second brilliant novel, Circe. The great Odysseus gets a taut two chapters, and Circe has to teach herself “the simple mending of the world”.

Miller says she always starts a book with an idea about a character, and waits until she has a strong sense of their voice. Circe, traditionally “a sexy, dangerous witch, a villain, an obstacle to be overcome”, presented a challenge and an opportunity. “I wanted more scope for her,” says Miller, “more focus on her virtues and flaws” than the huge works of literature, such as The Odyssey and The Iliad, allow.

“I have a background in theatre, so I’m always imagining being in her skin, seeing through her eyes, hearing her delivering the monologue. I like it to feel organic. Natural. So it took me a long time to hear her voice.”

Seven years, to be exact. Not quite as long as it took Odysseus to circumnavigate the known and unknown world, but close. Miller sets out to rehabilitate the witch, and concludes that heroism comes in different forms.

Is Circe a feminist character? “Definitely,” says Miller. “I always felt her otherness.” Rejected by her Titan parents, considered a figure of fun by the other nymphs for her soft heart, and exiled to a faraway island, Circe teaches herself magic. She learns through bitter experience to deal both in healing and the darker arts.

Is writing a similar kind of witchcraft? “Absolutely, I recognise that,” says Miller. “It’s research and hard work and making it happen, day after day – but there is also that inexplicable thing that happens. Call it muse or intuition or inspiration, the way your mind shifts. But you also have to keep showing up.”

Miller has always been fascinated by stories. “I remember from the time I was five or so, my mother would read these epic tales to me, and I loved how big and exciting and real they felt. They were intense and adult – there were monsters, and grief and desire and pain and love.” Circe is so compelling because it is pacy but also literary: Miller writes so clearly and with such yearning and wisdom that the book is a spellbinding immersion in a terrifying, believable and satisfying universe.

It is at once familiar and unsettling. “Like the best cover songs,” I suggest, “the ones where the tune or the words are familiar but the singer has elevated it into a completely different experience.” Miller is unconvinced. “It’s not only songs,” she says. “As a writer I’m very conscious of being part of these epic narratives, both ancient and modern – from The Odyssey and The Iliad and all those guys, but also from Tennyson – the traditions established over millennia.”

And Miller’s own voice is utterly distinctive, keen and kind. Circe shows how experience transforms us: nymphs change into sea monsters; rapists morph into pigs; a heartless goddess becomes a selfless parent: “What creature,” Circe asks herself, “lies within me?”

Miller argues that being human is banal and unfair, but also wonderful and terrible. Men may become pigs, but the gods are worse: they are eternal. Mortals can be both heroes and monsters. We get the whole pantheon – grief, and desire, and pain, and love.

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Open Book Festival announces first group of authors

Via Open Book Festival

Throwback to a panel discussion at Open Book Fest 2016. ©Retha Ferguson

 
The first group of authors has been announced for the eighth Open Book Festival taking place from 5 to 9 September this year.

Brought to you by the Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre, Open Book Festival offers a world-class selection of book launches, panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses, readings, performances, and more. The festival also hosts the popular Comics Fest, #cocreatePoetica and various children’s and outreach programmes. Venues for the event include the Fugard Theatre, District Six Homecoming Centre, the A4 Arts Foundation, and The Book Lounge in Cape Town, and are all within walking distance of one another. Selected events will also take place outside the city centre, such as at Elsies River Library and Molo Mhlaba School.

Open Book Festival has established itself as one of the most innovative literature festivals in South Africa. It has twice been shortlisted for the London Book Fair Excellence Awards. Last year, nearly 10 000 people attended the festival’s record 140 events, with ticket sales from previous years surpassed in the first two days. Open Book Festival is committed to creating a platform to celebrate South African writers, as well as hosting top international authors. The festival strives to instill a love of reading among young attendees, with the programme designed to engage, entertain and inspire conversations among festival goers long after the event.

“We are once again compiling a phenomenal line up of authors, across a wide range of genres, to join us at the festival,” says Festival Director Mervyn Sloman. “We’ve put together a short preview of some of the authors joining us, to help plan your reading.”

The international authors include:

Author: Lesley Arimah (Nigeria / USA)
Books include: What it Means when a Man Falls from the Sky
Why we’re excited: Lesley has been a finalist for the Caine Prize and a winner of the African Commonwealth Short Story Prize among other honors. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection What it Means when a Man Falls from the Sky won the 2017 Kirkus Prize.

Author: Jonas Bonnier (Sweden) joining us courtesy of the Swedish Embassy
Books include: The Helicopter Heist, Stockholm Odenplan
Why we’re excited: Jonas Bonnier is a novelist, screenwriter and journalist. His latest book, The Helicopter Heist is a gripping suspense thriller about the Västberga helicopter robbery. It has been sold to 34 territories.

Author: David Chariandy (Canada) joining us courtesy of Canada Council of the Arts
Books include: Brother, Soucouyant
Why we’re excited: David Chariandy won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize in 2017 for Brother. The Guardian UK described it as ‘breathtaking…compulsive, brutal and flawless’. David’s debut novel, Soucouyant, received nominations from eleven literary awards juries.

Author: Anna Dahlqvist (Sweden)
Books include: It’s Only Blood
Why we’re excited: Anna Dahlqvist is a leading voice writing about women’s and girls’ rights. She is editor-in-chief of Ottar, a Swedish magazine focusing on sexuality, politics, society and culture.

Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn (Jamaica/USA) with thanks to the University of Stellenbosch for assisting with her joining us
Books include: Here Comes the Sun
Why we’re excited: Her debut novel, Here Comes The Sun, received a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a NPR Best Books of 2016, an Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Entertainment Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016, a BuzzFeed Best Literary Debuts of 2016, among others.

Author: Guy Deslisle (Canada) joining us courtesy of Canada Council of the Arts
Books include: Hostage, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China, Burma Chronicles, Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Why we’re excited: Guy Deslisle is a cartoonist and animator, who is acclaimed for his graphic novels about his travels. His most recent book, Hostage, was longlisted for Brooklyn Public Library’s 2017 literary prize.

Author: Frankie Edozien (Nigeria/USA)
Books include: Lives of Great Men
Why we’re excited: Frankie Edozien is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of AFRrican Magazine. Lives of Great Men was shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award. The Financial Times called the book ‘a fine contribution to the important work of pursuing equality and social justice on a global scale’

Author: Mariana Enriquez (Argentina) joining us courtesy of the Embassy of Argentina
Books include: Things We Lost in the Fire
Why we’re excited: Stories by Mariana Enriquez have appeared in anthologies of Spain, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia and Germany. The New York Times Book Review called Things We Lost in the Fire, ‘[P]ropulsive and mesmerizing, laced with vivid descriptions of the grotesque…and the darkest humor’.

Author: Aminatta Forna (Scotland/Sierra Leone/USA)
Books include: Happiness, The Hired Man, The Memory of Love.
Why we’re excited: Aminatta Forna’s award-winning work has been translated into eighteen languages. Her essays have appeared in Freeman’s, Granta, The Guardian, LitHub, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, The Observer and Vogue. She has written stories for BBC radio and written and presented television documentaries.

Author: Adam Smyer (USA)
Books include: Knucklehead
Why we’re excited: Adam Smyer’s debut novel Knucklehead is a refreshingly honest, fierce, intelligent, and often hilarious read.

“By setting his novel in the ’90s, Smyer, has crafted some brutal deja vu. As Marcus reflects on Rodney King, the Million Man March and the Oklahoma City bombing, we think of Freddie Gray, Black Lives Matter and school shootings that have become a way of life… Here we are more than 20 years on, and it’s only gotten worse. We should all be furious.” San Francisco Chronicle

Author: Mariko Tamaki (Canada) joining us courtesy of the Canada Council of the Arts
Books include: Skim, Emiko Superstar, This One Summer.
Why we’re excited: Mariko Tamaki is an acclaimed graphic novelist and author. In 2016 she began writing for both Marvel and DC Comics.

“A key objective of Open Book Festival is to celebrate the wealth of South African talent,” says Sloman. “We have a selection of the most insightful minds and compelling storytellers joining us. Here are a few.”

“We are looking forward to The Last Sentence, a psychological thriller and the debut novel from Tumelo Buthelezi and also to welcoming Ijangolet S Ogwang, whose novel An Image in a Mirror, is a richly told African coming-of-age story.”

Clinton Chauke’s Born in Chains: The Diary of an Angry ‘Born Free’ is a story of hope, where, even in a sea of poverty, there are those that refuse to give up and, ultimately, succeed. Journalist Rebecca Davis, author of Best White and Other Anxious Delusions will talk about her new memoir and journey on a spiritual quest.

Sorry, Not Sorry author Haji Dawjee joins us to discuss this revealing experience of moving through post-Apartheid South Africa as a woman of colour. “We are delighted to welcome back Judith February of the Institute for Security Studies, and author Pumla Dineo Gqola, whose book Reflecting Rogue was the best selling title at last year’s Festival,” says Sloman.

Nozizwe Jele has recently released her new novel, The Ones With Purpose. Happiness is a Four-Letter Word was Jele’s debut novel and won the Best First Book category (Africa region) in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2011, as well as the 2011 M-Net Literary Award in the Film category. Playwright and theatre director Craig Higginson whose novels include The Dream House also joins the line-up to talk about his new novel, The White Room.

Siya Khumalo’s debut memoir, You Have to be Gay to Know God, is a powerful book dealing with gay identity. In Becoming Him, Landa Mabenge explores his own journey that includes being the first transgender man in South Africa to successfully force a medical aid to pay for his surgeries.

The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa sees an unraveling of the life that ambitious, social climber Bontle Tau was aiming for. Makholwa’s previous books include Black Widow Society, The 30th Candle and Red Ink. The Gold Diggers is the latest novel by Sue Nyathi (The Polygamist).It is a simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming chronicle of immigrant experiences.

Singer-songwriter and author Mohale Mashigo (The Yearning) returns to talk about her new collection, Intruders while in Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree, another festival regular Niq Mhlongo brings the complexities of Soweto to life on the page.

Zuki Wanner’s books include Men of the South which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize Africa Region for Best Book; London – Cape Town – Joburg and children’s book Refilwe. Her recent Hardly Working: A Travel Memoir of Sorts explores the politics of nations, and the ‘burden’ of travelling on an African passport.

SAPS Major General Jeremy Vearey also joins us to talk about Jeremy Vannie Elsies which chronicles his journey of growing up in Elsies River, from rough-and-tumble youngster to the head of the anti-gang unit in the Western Cape. Along the way he mastered the Communist Manifesto in Afrikaans, joined MK, and was sent to Robben Island for his role in the struggle.

The eighth Open Book Festival will take place from 5 to 9 September at the Fugard Theatre, D6 Homecoming Centre, The A4 Arts Foundation and The Book Lounge from 10:00 to 21:00 each day. For further information and the full programme, which will be available in early August, visit www.openbookfestival.co.za

Bookings can be made at Webtickets: www.webtickets.co.za

Open Book Festival is organised in partnership with the Fugard Theatre, The District 6 Museum, The A4 Arts Foundation, The Townhouse Hotel, Novus Holdings, The French Institute, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Embassy of Sweden, The Embassy of Argentina, The Dutch Foundation for Literature, UCT Creative Writing Department, University of Stellenbosch English Department and Central Library and is sponsored by Leopards Leap, Open Society Foundation, Pan Macmillan, NB Publishers, Jonathan Ball and Penguin Random House.

An Image in a Mirror

Book details

 
 
 
Born in Chains

 
 
 
 
 
Best White and Other Anxious Delusions

 
 
 
 

Sorry, Not Sorry

 
 
 
 

Reflecting Rogue

 
 
 
 

The Ones With Purpose

 
 
 
 

The Blessed Girl

 
 
 
 
 
The Gold Diggers

 
 
 
 
 
The Yearning

 
 
 
 
 
Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree

 
 
 
 
Jeremy vannie Elsies


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Book Bites: 20 May

Published in the Sunday Times

The Hum of the Sun
*****
Kirsten Miller, Kwela R285

Zuko is eight and his thoughts get stuck in his mouth. He enjoys Cheerios, nature, rhythms, patterns, and the light. With his mother and sister dead, his only guide through life is Ash, his teenage brother. Ash should be in school, but with no money or food, he pins his hopes on finding their father in the city. But it is a long walk for two boys; can he be strong enough to get both himself and Zuko there safely? A beautifully told tale that penetrates the heart. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

The Little Italian Bakery
****
Valentina Cebeni (Little, Brown, R275)

Food is magic. From candied lemon sweets (little bits of sunshine) to fried bread soaked in orange blossom honey, Elettra has to come to terms with her baking heritage. Her mother Edda is in a coma, and Elettra’s only answer to her family background is a necklace that points her to Titan’s Island, just off the coast of Sardinia where she discovers a group of widows living in a convent. They might have the answer to all her questions. Cebeni’s novel is atmospheric – filled with scents of lemon, cobalt blue skies and hills covered with juniper berries and heather, and most of all, a deep warm feeling of love. Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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

Published in the Sunday Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anna

Book details

 
 

Theo


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The Sunday Times Literary Awards shortlist announced

After months of extensive reading, careful evaluation and fierce deliberation it is finally time to reveal the shortlists for South Africa’s most prestigious book awards, the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction and the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize, in association with Porcupine Ridge. The winners, who will each receive R100 000, will be announced on Saturday June 23.

Alan Paton Award

Chair of judges Sylvia Vollenhoven comments: “When nations sink into division and despair creativity points to a way forward. The collective power and style of the five authors (three of them women) on this year’s shortlist represent the finest artistic vision for the future. Literary flair is coupled with excellent research that takes us into places we need to visit. Exploring recent history a remarkable opus dissects Zimbabwe like no other, the man who founded the ANC is honoured in all his complexity and we get to know exactly why we owe the former Public Protector such a huge debt of gratitude. Balancing the political with the personal, two achingly beautiful memoirs give us deep insight into the family terrain where all our horrors and delights originate.”

Kingdom, Power, Glory – Mugabe, Zanu and the Quest for Supremacy, 1960-1987, Stuart Doran (Sithatha Media/Bookstorm)

The judges voted quickly and unanimously to shortlist this massive book. It is an exhaustive, meticulously detailed history of Zimbabwe’s formative years that draws on previously classified information and throws new light on such events as the Gukurahundi massacres. One judge called it: “Monumentally researched, monumentally annotated and evidenced, and monumentally impressive.”

No Longer Whispering to Power – The Story of Thuli Madonsela, Thandeka Gqubule (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

The biography of the former public prosecutor reminds us of the enormous impact she made during her seven years of tenure. Gqubule reveals details of Madonsela’s life, as well as her investigations, findings and their consequences, in what one judge described as “an energetic, passionate whirl of words.”
 
 
Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home, Sisonke Msimang (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

The judges regarded Msimang’s memoir to be one of the best entries in terms of style. It charts her way from childhood through multiple identities and roles, beginning with her early years in exile in Zambia and Kenya, young adulthood and college years in North America, and returning to South Africa in the 1990s.
 
 
The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Bongani Ngqulunga (Penguin Books)

The panel hailed this biography as an important part of Afrocentric history, an even-handed and scholarly study of a complex man and the conflicting and fluctuating strains of Pan Africanism and Zulu chauvinism. Seme was just 30 when he founded the organisation, but he eventually brought it to its knees.
 
 
Colour Me Yellow: Searching For My Family Truth, Thuli Nhlapo (Kwela Books)

Shunned by her paternal family while growing up, journalist Thuli Nhlapo embarked on a painful journey to find her “true” identity. The judges were moved by its brutal honesty, finding in her story the roots of so much of the nation’s dysfunction, “a smaller story illuminating a greater picture.”
 
 
 
Barry Ronge Prize

Judging chair Africa Melane says: “The authors on this list help us search for truth, which is often unsettling and uncomfortable. There are stories of love and loss, of lives not yet lived and those long forgotten. Our history narrates heartbreak and pain, and we learn how to carry our past in our souls. The pulsating veins of our cities are laid bare through deeply personal accounts and there is a fearlessness in addressing controversial issues. The works are thought- provoking, unflinching and disturbing at times, but very compelling. Every read has been immensely rewarding.”

Softness of the Lime, Maxine Case (Umuzi)

Set in the Cape of Good Hope in 1782, and drawing on Case’s own family history, the story traces the relationship between a wealthy Dutch settler and his young slave. The judges admired the fluent writing and vivid sense of place.
 
 
 

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg, Harry Kalmer (Penguin Books)

Kalmer probes the lives of a handful of disparate characters including the exiled, those returning from exile, and those who never left, casting back a hundred years and bringing the narrative right up to date. This richly faceted portrait of Jozi was applauded for its originality and finely observed writing.
 
 

The Third Reel, SJ Naudé (Umuzi)

Described as “intense, intelligent and accomplished”, Naudé’s unsettling novel is set in London and Berlin in the 80s and centres on a young man, Etienne, who has fled conscription in South Africa. It is an intense love story as well as a quiet exploration of film, architecture, music and art.
 
 

Bird-Monk Seding, Lesego Rampolokeng (Deep South Publishers)

Rampolokeng’s third novel is a stark portrait of a Groot Marico township two decades into South Africa’s democracy. Innovative and violently sensory, one judge noted that he “brandishes his scatting be-bop voice like a fearsome weapon” as he renders the resilience of people marked by apartheid.
 
 

The Camp Whore, Francois Smith, translated by Dominique Botha (Tafelberg)

Based on the true story of a young woman who was raped and left for dead in a concentration camp during the Anglo-Boer War. She manages to recover and dedicates her life to healing trauma, but in the process comes face-to-face with her attacker. “An inspiring character and a deeply skilful, atmospheric story,” noted the panellists.
 

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One week until FLF 2018!

And the countdown continues!

The quaint Western Cape town of Franschhoek will be accommodating South Africa’s literary greats and bibliophiles alike from 18 – 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

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The Yearning

 
 

Feminism Is

 
 
 
 
The President's Keepers

 
 
 
Who Will Rule in 2019?


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