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Archive for the ‘Jonathan Ball’ Category

Fiction Friday: read Chimamanda Ngozi’s Adichie’s short story ‘How Did You Feel About It?’

The critically acclaimed author and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient whose TEDx-talk on feminism was appropriated in Beyoncé’s “Flawless”, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, recently wrote an exclusive, original short story for Harper’s Bazaar. Chimamanda is the author of novels Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, The Thing Around Your Neck, and Americanah. Besides being a globally renowned writer, she is an advocate for gender equality, and vocal supporter of the representation of African culture in the international literary sphere. Enjoy!

‘How Did You Feel About It?’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In the quiet carriage we sat angled away from each other. We always rode the quiet carriage, but today it felt like a gift: a reason not to talk. Jonathan in his maroon sweater cradling his iPad. The sunlight weak, the morning uncertain. I was staring at the magazine in my hand, deeply breathing in and out, a willed and deliberate breathing, aware of itself. Breathe – such an easy target for scorn, so often summoned as panacea for our modern ills. But it worked. It helped push away my sense of engulfing tedium, even if only for brief moments. How does this happen? How do you wake up one morning and begin to question your life?

Jonathan shifted on his seat. I kept my eyes on the magazine, to discourage any whispered conversation.

“Something has been on your mind,” he told me that morning as he buttered a piece of toast. I kept silent, slowly spooning muesli into my mouth, and he said nothing more. Why hadn’t he asked me a question? Why hadn’t he asked “What is on your mind?” A question was braver than a statement. A question forced a reckoning. But Jonathan avoided direct questions because they had in them an element of confrontation. His dislike of confrontation I had once found endearing. It made him a person who thrived on peace, and so a life with him would be a kind of seamless happiness.

When he did ask questions, they seemed always to seek reassurance rather than information. His first question to me, shortly after we met years ago, was about servants. I had mentioned the drivers and househelps of my Lagos childhood, and his question followed: How did you feel about it all? Because servants were foreign to him, a relationship with them had become a matter of morality. He told me that when he first could afford weekly Polish cleaners for his London flat, he had hidden in the spare room while they cleaned, so ashamed was he of paying somebody to scrub his toilet.

For Jonathan to ask “How did you feel about it all?” was not really about how I felt, but about a moral code I was supposed to follow. I was to say: “I felt terrible. I worried about their welfare.” But the truth was I felt nothing because it was the life I knew. Had he asked me “What is on your mind?” that morning and had I said “I am wondering if this is the life I want, and what I have missed out on in the years we’ve been together,” he would have no answer for me. Because I was not supposed to think such things. It was unfair to do so. Wrong. That we sometimes think what we are not supposed to, and feel what we wish we did not, was something Jonathan was unable to grasp.

From across the aisle came a loud voice. An elderly American man talking on the phone, his accent distinct, face burnt red as though fresh from a holiday. In the clammy silence of the carriage, his words sounded unnatural, as though coming from somewhere else. Jonathan shifted and sighed, then shifted again. A man turned and rolled his eyes. A woman shook her head.

Why didn’t one of them tell the American that this was the quiet carriage? I guessed, from a bluffness in his manner, that he did not know. Jonathan was seated closest to the American, he had only to reach out across the aisle and gesture to the man and in his modulated voice say something. But he would not. Jonathan would shift and sigh and shift again but would say nothing. I once thought this sweet. I would have teased him about the English ritual of passive aggression, so easily inflamed by the presence of an American.

The quirks that had first charmed me about Jonathan were suddenly scourges designed for my irritation. His sensitivity was weakness. What I thought his innocence was now self-indulgent naiveté. Nothing had happened. Jonathan had done nothing wrong, I had not met anyone else. It was merely that one morning I woke up and felt undone. I began to struggle to shrug off a terrifying sense of something wasted, a colossal waste, leaving a dull mourning for things gone forever.

Continue reading here.

Purple Hibiscus

Book details

 
 
Half of a Yellow Sun

 
 

The Thing Around Your Neck

 
 
 
 
Americanah


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Programme for the ninth Jozi Book Fair announced!

In partnership with the City of Johannesburg, the ninth Jozi Book Fair takes place from 31 August – 3 September 2017 at Mary Fitzgerald Square, Newtown, Johannesburg.

The Jozi Book Fair (JBF) is an educational and cultural festival for schools, children, book clubs, women, men, academics, communities and the public. This year JBF’s jam-packed programme has more than 150 events for people of all ages, varied topics and interests, and all art forms, and 60% of events are hosted by the public. If schools want to participate, they need to register before 25 August. Entrance is FREE! See the full programme on the fair’s website: https://www.jozibookfair.org.za/

Celebrating the theme, ‘Women and Literature’, the fair brings together two literary powerhouses, Kopano Matlwa the author of the critically acclaimed novels Coconut, Spilt Milk and Period Pain, and Shailja Patel, an internationally acclaimed Kenyan poet, playwrighter, theatre artist, political activist and author of the bestseller Migritude.

The theme ‘Women and Literature’ informs the fair’s content, historicising depictions of women by both women and men, in literature and the arts globally.

Some authors at the fair: Mohale Mashigo, Marah Louw, Malebo Sephodi, Reneiloe Malatjie, Jayne Bauling, Dumisani Sibiya, Ashwin Desai, Pregs Govender, Christa Kulijan.

Legends and JBF Patrons: Zakes Mda, James Mathews, Keorapetse ‘Bra Willie’ Kgositsile, Diana Ferrus.

The highlights of this year’s fair include:

Guests & Participants
The award-winning guests of the fair, Kopano Matlwa and Shailja Patel will be in conversation about their work and on several panels.

Internationally Acclaimed Authors
Shailja Patel (Kenya)
Lindsey Collen (Mauritius)
Malin Persson Giolito (Sweden)

Conversations with authors
Media personality Penny Lebyane will be in conversation with Marah Louw on her book It’s me, Marah, Mohale Mashigo will be ‘misbehaving’ with Malebo Sephodi, author of Miss Behave, Reneilwe Malatji explores how relationships change as women gain independence with her book Love Interrupted and journalist Thandeka Gqubule will give insight into her book No Longer Whispering To Power: The Story of Thuli Madonsela.

Workshops
The fair boasts over 20 skills workshops which include writing (short stories, poetry), photography, social media, philosophy for teens, meditation for youth and dance meditation.

Book launches include the second edition of Batjha Kaofela, an anthology of ten short stories by teens from schools in townships and three books on #Feesmustfall by Leigh Ann Naidoo, Oliver Metho and Crispen Chungo, self-publishers and small publishers.

Roundtable discussions include: Women and Literature (Lindsey, Kopano, Shailja), White Monopoly Capital: What FUTURE for SA?: (Chris Malikane, D. Gqubule) and Crisis of Feminism with Nomboniso Gasa.

Panel discussions include discussions on the Mining Charter with Oxfam

Exciting exhibitions: Market Photo Workshop (women photographers), sculptor exhibition – Imbali Yo Mfazi/The Legend Of Woman by Mazwi Mdima at Workers Museum.

Music: School bands and Moses Molekwa Foundation

Theatre: Inner City Youth will be performing three iconic plays (Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, The Island and For Coloured Girls) and Botoo by Ronnie Govender.

The JBF is proud to also bring to the public the screening of the film, Whale Caller directed by Zola Maseko. The film is adapted from the book The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda.
 

Coconut

Book details

 
 

Spilt Milk

 
 

Period Pain

 
 

Migritude

 
 
 
 
It's Me, Marah

 
 
 
 
Miss Behave

 
 
 
 

Love Interrupted

 
 
 
 
No Longer Whispering to Power

 
 
 
 

The Whale Caller


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Man Booker prize 2017 longlist announced

The longlist for the prestigious Man Booker prize for Fiction 2017 has been announced. This prize is awarded annually to the best work of fiction written in English. The winner is awarded £50,000.

The list was chosen from 144 submissions published in the UK between 1 October 2016 and 30 September 2017.

Baroness Lola Young, chair of the 2017 judging panel, said the 13 books “showcased a diverse spectrum – not only of voices and literary styles but of protagonists too”.

The shortlist, consisting of six books, will be announced on 13 September, ahead of the winning book being announced on 17 October.

The 13 titles which made the longlist are:

4321
Paul Auster

On March 3rd, 1947, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous paths. Four Fergusons will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and passions contrast. Each version of Ferguson’s story rushes across the fractured terrain of mid-twentieth century America, in this sweeping story of birthright and possibility, of love and the fullness of life itself. Listen to Michele Magwood’s interview with Auster on 4321 here.

Days Without End
Sebastian Barry

After signing up for the US army in the 1850s, barely seventeen, Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, fight in the Indian Wars and the Civil War. Having both fled terrible hardships, their days are now vivid and filled with wonder, despite the horrors they both see and are complicit in. But when a young Indian girl crosses their path, Thomas and John must decide on the best way of life for them all in the face of dangerous odds. Read Bron Sibree’s interview with Barry here.

History of Wolves
Emily Fridlund

How far would you go to belong? Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in an ex-commune beside a lake in the beautiful, austere backwoods of northern Minnesota. The other girls at school call Linda ‘Freak’, or ‘Commie’. Her parents mostly leave her to her own devices, whilst the other inhabitants have grown up and moved on. So when the perfect family – mother, father and their little boy, Paul – move into the cabin across the lake, Linda insinuates her way into their orbit. She begins to babysit Paul and feels welcome, that she finally has a place to belong. Yet something isn’t right. Drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand, Linda must make a choice. But how can a girl with no real knowledge of the world understand what the consequences will be? Click here to read our review of Fridlund’s debut novel.

Exit West
Mohsin Hamid

Nadia and Saeed are two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing – to fall in love – in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it. Civil war has come to the city which Nadia and Saeed call home. Before long they will need to leave their motherland behind – when the streets are no longer useable and the unknown is safer than the known. They will join the great outpouring of people fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world … Read a review of Hamid’s, who was previously shortlisted for the Man Booker (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), longlisted novel The Guardian here.

Solar Bones
Mike McCormack

Marcus Conway has come a long way to stand in the kitchen of his home and remember the rhythms and routines of his life. Considering with his engineer’s mind how things are constructed – bridges, banking systems, marriages – and how they may come apart. Mike McCormack captures with tenderness and feeling, in continuous, flowing prose, a whole life, suspended in a single hour. Follow https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/04/solar-bones-by-mike-mccormack-review for a full review on McCormack’s novel.

Reservoir 13
Jon McGregor

Reservoir 13 tells the story of many lives haunted by one family’s loss. It’s Midwinter. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed. The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must. As the seasons unfold there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together or break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals. Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods – mating and fighting, hunting and dying. An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, Reservoir 13 explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a stranger’s tragedy refuse to subside. The Sunday Times review of Reservoir 13 can be read here.

Elmet
Fiona Mozley

Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction – Sally Rooney meets Sarah Perry, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape.

Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go. Click here for more on Mozley’s longlisted novel.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Arundathi Roy
A richly moving new novel – the first since the author’s Booker-Prize winning, internationally celebrated debut The God Of Small Things went on to become a beloved best seller and enduring classic. The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey across the Indian subcontinent – from the cramped neighbourhoods of Old Delhi and the glittering malls of the burgeoning new metropolis to the snowy mountains and valleys of Kashmir, where war is peace and peace is war, and from time to time ‘normalcy’ is declared. Anjum unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard that she calls home.

We encounter the incorrigible Saddam Hussain, the unforgettable Tilo and the three men who loved her – including Musa whose fate as tightly entwined with hers as their arms always used to be. Tilo’s landlord, another former suitor, is now an Intelligence officer posted to Kabul. And then there are the two Miss Jebeens: the first born in Srinagar and buried, aged four, in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard; the second found at midnight, in a crib of litter, on the concrete pavement of New Delhi. At once an aching love story and a decisive remonstration, a heart-breaker and a mind-bender, The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness is told in a whisper, in a shout, through tears and sometimes with a laugh. Its heroes are people who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, patched together by acts of love-and by hope. For this reason, fragile though they may be, they never surrender.

Braiding richly complex lives together, this ravishing and deeply humane novel reinvents what a novel can do and can be. And it demonstrates on every page the miracle of Arundhati Roy’s storytelling gifts. Michele Magwood’s recent interview with Roy can be read here. Click here to listen to the podcast of their conversation.

Lincoln in the Bardo
George Saunders
In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other.

February 1862. The Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son is gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory — called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo. Within this transitional state, where ghosts mingle, gripe, and commiserate, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices — living and dead, historical and invented — to ask a timeless question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

Read Rosa Lyster’s Sunday Times review of Saunders’ novel.

Home Fire
Kamila Shamsie
From the Orange and Baileys Prize-shortlisted author comes an urgent, explosive story of love and a family torn apart

Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London – or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.

Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?

A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide – confirming Kamila Shamsie as a master storyteller of our times.

A review of this internationally acclaimed author’s longlisted novel can be read here.

Autumn
Ali Smith
A breathtakingly inventive new novel from the Man Booker-shortlisted and Baileys Prize-winning author of How to be both. Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. That’s what it felt like for Keats in 1819.How about Autumn 2016? Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic once-in-a-generation summer.Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand in hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever. Ali Smith’s new novel is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. This first in a seasonal quartet casts an eye over our own time. Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearian jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s Pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history-making.Here’s where we’re living. Here’s time at its most contemporaneous and its most cyclic.From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves. Here comes Autumn.

Click here for more on Autumn.

Swing Time
Zadie Smith

A dazzlingly exuberant new novel moving from north west London to West Africa, from the multi-award-winning author of White Teeth and On Beauty. Two brown girls dream of being dancers – but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, black bodies and black music, what it means to belong, what it means to be free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten either. Bursting with energy, rhythm and movement, Swing Time is Zadie Smith’s most ambitious novel yet. It is a story about music and identity, race and class, those who follow the dance and those who lead it . . .

Annetjie van Wynegaard’s Sunday Times review of the renowned Smith’s longlisted novel can be read here.

The Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North. In Whitehead’s razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.

Read Bron Sibley’s interview with the Pulitzer Prize winning author here.

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“Johannesburg is Africa without some of the prejudice of other parts of the continent” – Binyavanga Wainaina on Johannesburg, clumsiness, and dancing

The acclaimed Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, whose memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place was published in 2011, recently moved to Johannesburg. Hugo kaCanham, a lecturer at Wits University’s Psychology department, sat down with Waianaina at Melville’s Lucky Bean Cafe during which the two discussed Wainaiana’s clumsiness, his love for dancing, thoughts on Johannesburg’s gay scene, and traditional healers:

I am afraid of Binyavanga. When the invitation to meet him arrives, I accept without thinking. It is Binyavanga Wainaina after all. And then the anxiety comes. The dinner is tomorrow. When I get home I reach out for his book — One day I will write about this place. The cover has a curry stain. After reading it, I had passed it on to my brother. He had passed it along to my sister. It came back to me with other stains. I decide that I will ask for his autograph. I want to read the book again so I can ask Binyavanga important questions. But I don’t. I am from Lusikisiki and I know the Mthatha of which he writes about his student days. The texture of the book is as familiar as the caress of my favourite jacket. He weaves yarns to describe worlds that I know. I come to see them in new ways. I want to visit the worlds that I do not know.

I didn’t know that Binyavanga is in South Africa. My friend Grieve invited me to join them for dinner. I would also get to meet Grieve’s wife Mnwasa. Grieve calls him Binya. I follow his cue. Binya does not fill my mouth the way that Binyavanga does. When Binya arrives, he is tall. He has a striking face that I recognise from online images. A strong and steady stare. His mouth is not prone to smiling. There is a fine green line dyed into his hair and running across to the back of his head. His colourful jacket does not hide a gentle protrusion of his stomach. I immediately think of his father’s stomach in the essay - I am homosexual, mom. He greets Mnwasa by taking her hands in his. “You are beautiful,” he says. Mnwasa glows. I hear the slur in his voice and recall that he was very ill a while back. His voice is a bit too loud and the people at neighbouring tables hear him. I see their looks. But they stop hearing him after a while. Later, he explains that he had a stroke and that it will take a few more months to recover his speech. I had read his essay about how a major stroke killed his father. I hope he recovers soon. He looks vulnerable but he is upbeat.

I am ashamed of South Africa, but Binya believes it is the place to be. He has elected to stay in Johannesburg for about five years. It is a feeling he has about the city. He places high value in his sense of place. He is spiritual and talks a lot about the traditional healers that he knows. Johannesburg has many. He laments how traditional healers have been wiped out of Kenya’s public life. He could be a sangoma. Illness forces many to confront the realm of the ancestors. Johannesburg feels right to him. “I danced all night when I got here a few months ago. I love my large apartment in Yeoville. I wish it had wifi though. Johannesburg is Africa without some of the prejudice of other parts of the continent. Nigerian men date other men here.” He gestures to a black male couple at the neighbouring table. One of the men meets his eyes. “I don’t hang out with middle class homosexual men. I love hustling gay people. They don’t have all of these pretences of trying to be something. They just are.” He likes the word homosexual. He chose it above the more familiar gay in the title of the ‘lost’ chapter of his memoir — I am homosexual, mom. He is working on three projects. The two book projects already have publishers but he loves one project more than the other. He is writing furiously. He has been doing so since he arrived in South Africa.

Continue reading Hugo’s piece here.

One Day I Will Write about This Place

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Bron Sibree interviews Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead on his novel The Underground Railroad

Published in the Sunday Times

Colson Whitehead sees a continuity in US history from the brutal days of slavery depicted in his novel to the Donald Trump present, writes Bron Sibree

The Underground Railroad

*****
Colson Whitehead (Little Brown)

Long before he won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for his remarkable novel about a runaway slave, The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead was renowned for his audacious, inventive novels that tackle subjects as diverse as elevator inspectors, zombies, or the Band-Aid industry.

They are often laugh aloud funny, sometimes darkly satirical. Yet the success of The Underground Railroad, which also won the National Book Award, has, it seems, surprised even himself.

“Generally I’m sort of walking around in a very morose, glum sort of mood, but I’ve been in a really good mood for the last six months,” says Whitehead, who is renowned for his quick, deadpan humour off the page as well as on it. “So, despite my best instincts, I’m trying to enjoy it.”

The Underground Railroad is a heart-stopping interrogation of history and the nature of the American nation wrapped inside the story of Cora, a teenage girl born into slavery on a plantation in Georgia. Prefaced with the stories of her mother, who has, it seems, escaped, and her grandmother, who “died in the cotton”, the novel depicts the living hell that Cora has been born into with economy and power. From the moment Cora decides to accompany Caesar, a fellow slave, on a well-planned escape, the novel hurtles headlong into a series of picaresque encounters that transport you into 19th-century America. Deep into the cogs of a system so brutal that your first instinct is to turn away, yet the magic of Whitehead’s prose keeps you glued to the page.

Whitehead first conceived of the novel some 17 years ago, along with the notion of subverting America’s real underground railroad – a secret network who helped fugitive slaves escape from the slaveholding states of America’s South – from a metaphor into a literal subterranean railway. But he kept putting off the writing of it.

“For many years I didn’t think I could pull it off; doing that full reckoning with history and slavery seemed very daunting and, definitely, when I first had the idea I didn’t realise what sort of darkness and brutality I would end up dealing with.”

He attributes the tone of the novel, and much of the detail and language, to his immersion in famous slave narratives by Frederick Douglas and Harriet Jacobs, as well as the accounts of former slaves who’d been interviewed in the 1930s by the US government. “People who were by then in their 70s and 80s and had been children and teenagers at the time of the Civil War,” says Whitehead.

“My narrator has the matter-of-fact attitude toward violence, and I got that from the slaves themselves. If your everyday existence is defined by brutality, when you describe what happened you don’t have to adorn or dramatise it. I tweaked things, I changed details, but there’s not much that happens in the book that didn’t actually happen in real life, in an altered form.”

Not that anything the Harvard-educated New Yorker discovered during his trawl through the archives came to him as a revelation. “It’s not news to me that it’s a pretty racist country,” says Whitehead, who sees the novel as a comment on history. “Whether you’re talking about American imperialism, Dutch imperialism or British colonialism – all those forces that defined the last couple of centuries – they don’t go away very easily. And when we elect a white nationalist to the White House who is drawing from the same sorts of ideas that defined American political thinking in the 18th and 19th centuries, then obviously all those dark energies … are still now defining our culture,” adds Whitehead. “It’s almost like they have just been waiting beneath the surface.”- @BronSibree

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Twelve Quick Questions with Patricia Scanlan

Published in The Sunday Times


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

I went for brunch to Norma’s at the Le Parker Meridien Hotel in New York City. It’s the place to have brunch. They’re famous for their $1000 omelette, which I can assure you I didn’t order!


What do you snack on while you write?

Cups of tea and gingernut biscuits.
 
 
Where do you write best?

I have a holiday home in county Wicklow (known as the Garden of Ireland). My veranda overlooks a 32-acre field. The farmer thinks it’s his field but we call it “ours”. I watch the wheat ripen from green to gold and gaze in awe at the Red Kites flying overhead, and write for hours in this lovely paradise.

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

Ciara Geraghty’s novel This is Now.

Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?

Graham Norton.

How would you earn your living if you had to give up writing?

I’d love to be a set designer in the theatre.

What was the first novel you read?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?

Samwise Gamgee, Hobbit of the Shire, in The Lord of the Rings.

Which current book will you remember in 10 years?

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Which words do you most overuse?

It differs with every novel. In Orange Blossom Days it was “cascading” and “furious”.

What are you working on next?

My next novel is called The Four Winds and will be set in Ireland and France. I’m also collaborating with three other authors on a special non-fiction book called Death: The Next Great Adventure.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

Most of the Booker Prize winners!

Patricia Scanlan’s latest novel is Orange Blossom Days, Simon & Schuster, R305

Orange Blossom Days

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Wenners van Media24-boekpryse vir 2017 bekend

Die wenners van die Media24 Boeke Literêre Pryse vir 2017 is Donderdag, 22 Junie 2017 in Kaapstad bekend gemaak.

Nagenoeg 80 boeke wat in 2016 by uitgewerye in die Media24-stal verskyn het, is ingeskryf in vyf kategorieë met ’n gesamentlike prysgeld van meer as R175 000.

Die oorhandiging van die pryse het saamgeval met ’n groot mylpaal – die viering van 100 jaar van boekuitgewery binne die Naspersstal.

Die wenner van die W.A. Hofmeyr-prys vir Afrikaanse fiksie is Dan Sleigh met sy historiese roman 1795, uitgegee deur Tafelberg. Dit is die derde keer dat Sleigh hierdie belangrike prys ontvang. 1795 is deur die keurders beskryf as ’n “ambisieuse museale roman waarin Sleigh se uitsonderlike kennis van die VOC-geskiedenis indringend verhaal word. Sleigh laat oortuigend sien dat gebeure uit 1795 relevant en aktueel is, veral wanneer dit gaan om verset teen verraad en korrupsie en om opstand teen die verlies van kultuur en taal.”

Die ondersoekende joernalis en etnograaf Sean Christie het die Recht Malan-prys vir niefiksie verower met sy Under Nelson Mandela Boulevard: Life Among the Stowaways oor jong Tanzaniese skeepsverstekelinge wat onder ’n oorwegbrug op die Kaapstadse strandgebied woon. Dit is uitgegee deur Jonathan Ball Publishers. Under Nelson Mandela Boulevard is volgens die keurders ’n buitengewone prestasie en ’n verruimende leeservaring. “Met groot en uitdagende kwashale gee Sean Christie ’n verrassend vars en uitdagende blik op ’n stad wat iedereen gedink het hulle ken.”

Bibi Slippers is met die Elisabeth Eybers-prys vir poësie beloon vir haar debuutbundel Fotostaatmasjien (Tafelberg), wat deur die keurders geloof is vir die omvang en verskeidenheid van die materiaal wat tot samehang gebring word en vir sy “innovering-met-gehalte”.

Die M.E.R.-prys vir jeugromans is toegeken aan Edyth Bulbring vir Snitch, uitgegee deur Tafelberg, en die M.E.R.-prys vir geïllustreerde kinderboeke aan Ingrid Mennen en Irene Berg (illustreerder) vir Ink, ook uitgegee deur Tafelberg. Dit is die tweede keer dat Mennen en Berg hierdie prys wen.

Die keurders was: Vir die WA Hofmeyr-prys: Ena Jansen, Danie Marais en Francois Smith; vir die Recht Malan-prys: Jean Meiring, Elsa van Huyssteen en Max du Preez; vir die Elisabeth Eybers-prys: Henning Pieterse, Louise Viljoen en Marius Swart; vir die M.E.R.-prys vir jeugromans: Louise Steyn, Verushka Louw en Wendy Maartens; en vir die M.E.R.-prys vir geïllustreerde kinderboeke: Lona Gericke, Paddy Bouma en Magdel Vorster.

Die Herman Charles Bosman-prys vir Engelse fiksie is nie vanjaar toegeken nie en staan oor tot volgende jaar.

Boekbesonderhede

Under Nelson Mandela Boulevard - Life In Cape Town's Stowaway Underground

 
 
 
 
Fotostaatmasjien

 
 
 
 

1795

 
 
 
 
Snitch

 
 
 
 
Ink


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Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre to again host the Lowveld Book Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bumper programme

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fifth Mrs Brink

Book details

 
 
 

Louis Botha's War

 
 
 

In the Pursuit of Solitude

 
 
 

Pushing Boulders

 
 
 

Garden of My Ancestors

 
 
 

Man-eaters, Mambas and Marula Madness

 
 
 

Dreaming of Light


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Exclusive Books Homebru 2017 selection announced

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

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

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

The titles which appear on the list are:

NON-FICTION

Confluence


Confluence: Beyond the River with Siseko Ntondini

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

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

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

edited by David Medalie
 
 
 
 
 
 
Web
Web

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

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

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

by Fred Strydom
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alles het niet kom wod

Alles het niet kom wôd

by Nathan Trantraal
 
 
 
 
 
 
BIOGRAPHIES

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

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

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

Billionaires Under Construction

by DJ Sbu
 
 
 
 
 
 
CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
 

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

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

by Fanie Viljoen
 
 
 
 
 
 

COOKERY

 

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

by Hope Malau
 
 
 
 
 

Book details

  • Making Africa Work: A Handbook for Economic Success by Greg Mills, Jeffrey Herbst, Olusegun Obasanjo, Dickie Davis
    EAN: 9780624080275
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Six West African books with unconventional approaches to gender and power, as recommended by Chinelo Okparanta


Nigerian-American author Chinelo Okparanta recently compiled a list for Electric Literature of six West African books with an unconventional, defiant approach to gender relations and relationships.

Okparanta drew upon her own experience as a child of parents whose marriage was based on inequality and oppression; she writes: “Perhaps I recognized it in my parents’ marriage as my mother underwent one painful and exhausting move after another, following my father everywhere he went, because, she too, had not yet conceived of happiness outside the realm of marriage.

In my novel, Under the Udala Trees, I explore the themes of betrayal and rebirth and happiness in the context of gender and power. In writing the novel, I imagined, unlike Ramatoulaye, a sort of happiness that existed outside of the traditional schema of marriage. Or rather, I imagined the pursuit of that sort of happiness. The fundamental desires of my protagonist, Ijeoma, are unconventional in her West African setting in the sense that she does not find her value via an attachment to a man. Lately, I’ve been interested in finding other West African authors who are also unconventional in their portrayal of love and marriage, of gender and power. The following are my top six:”

Stay With Me
1. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Akin and Yejide have trouble conceiving a child. Years of struggling leads Yejide to a prophet who stipulates that she find a goat and engage in a goat ceremony. Yejide even winds up breastfeeding the goat. With expertly maneuvered, almost incredible, certainly unpredictable plot twists, the end result is a deconstruction of the concepts of masculinity and femininity and a rejection of traditional customs of marriage. The novel asks us: What does it mean to be strong? Is strength a woman who carries on serving her husband his meal even after he has betrayed her, or is she in fact weak? Is weakness a man who acquiesces to his mother’s persistent demands, rather than resisting — rather than summoning up the strength to stand proudly by his wife?

 
 
 
 
 
What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky
2. What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Arimah

In this collection, we see love in many forms, but particularly, we see stories with young Nigerian women whose sexuality is not boxed up like some shameful secret, tucked away beneath a pile of blankets. These young women do not apologize for their existence as sexual beings; or at least they do not apologize in the traditional, self-deprecating sort of way. “Wild” presents a young woman who has had a baby outside of marriage and refuses to give in to her mother’s condemnation of her. The story itself is not quite an embracing of untraditional ideals, but a lifting up of the veil of taboo enough that by the end of this story, the young woman and her child are still portrayed with dignity. “Light” begins with the beautiful description of Enebeli’s fourteen year old daughter, who sends a boy a note, and it is not the first time. She writes, “Buki, I love you. I will give you many sons.” What is beautiful about this declaration is the girl’s own ownership of her intentions. The script is flipped here, which is to say that the demand is not being put upon her. NOT: “You must give your husband many sons.” Rather, she is the one in the power position here, and she acknowledges not only her authority to give, but also the fact that it is her will.
 
 
Homegoing
3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Two half-sisters grow up not knowing about each other. One sister becomes the “wench” of a British officer, unable to claim the title of “wife” — “wife” being a word reserved for white women. The other sister becomes a slave to the British, and goes on to give birth to a girl who also becomes a slave in Mississippi, USA. The bulk of literary criticism on Homegoing thus far has focused on the slave narrative and the purported complicity of Africans in selling themselves. What interests me, however, is the highly women-focused bent of the novel, the story really beginning with Esi and Effia. Though men certainly have their parts in the novel, these women are at once the subject and object of the story, both the water and the fire, whose lineages scald and flow into contemporary times. Effie and Esi are the ancestral characters whose spirits linger, long after they themselves, and their husbands, are gone.
 
 
 
 
Season of Crimson Blossoms
4. Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Embracing desire, fifty-five year old widow Binta falls into a love affair with a twenty-five year old gang leader and weed dealer named Reza. And why not? After a marriage marked by sexual repression, she craves intimacy. Set in Northern Nigeria, this bold new narrative tackles romance and eroticism in ways that defy the conservative culture of the North. Things get a bit tricky when Binta’s son confronts Reza about the affair.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun
5. Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Manyika
This beautiful, compact novel is a meditation on female aging and desire, as Dr. Morayo Da Silva, a seventy-four year old Nigerian woman living in San Francisco, narrates aspects of her life, past and present, in delightfully witty and poignant prose. Aging was never so hip, femininity never as powerful.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Behold the Dreamers
6. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
There is a married couple here. In fact, no, there are two married couples in this utterly beautiful and absorbing novel — Cameroonians Neni and Jende Jonga, and Americans Cindy and Clark Edwards. And yet, it is a triangular affair. Imagine an equilateral triangle where two sides are represented by each couple and the third by a country. You see, both couples are also in the midst of a tumultuous love affair with America. America becomes a genderless character whose power crumbles as the financial crisis takes root and the human story progresses.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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