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Archive for the ‘Jonathan Ball’ Category

Changing History: Jan-Jan Joubert talks to Charles van Onselen about his latest book The Cowboy Capitalist

When Charles van Onselen finds new information about history, he doesn’t allow conventional wisdom to get in his way, writes Jan-Jan Joubert for the Sunday Times

The Cowboy CapitalistThe Cowboy Capitalist
Charles van Onselen, Jonathan Ball Publishers

The Jameson Raid took place in 1896, a British imperialist adventure in which Cecil John Rhodes, Leander Starr Jameson and Joseph Chamberlain failed to overthrow the government of Paul Kruger. They were after gold, right? Not so fast, says South Africa’s most adventurous historian, Charles van Onselen, in his new book, The Cowboy Capitalist. It’s a galloping read which adds further dimensions to the story and turns our understanding of the Jameson Raid on its head.

The book came about by chance when Van Onselen stumbled upon information on the American link to the raid. Through rigorous research, Van Onselen unearthed the role of the American imperialist capitalist John Hays Hammond in the raid, a point proved by Hammond’s being one of the main accused after the raid – which has often been overlooked.

He also focuses on a Boer fifth column centred on Kruger’s political opponent General Piet Joubert, lawyer Ewald Esselen and the poet-journalist Eugene Marais, and their ambivalent role during the raid.

Van Onselen has written about anti-heroes and downright scoundrels on the cusp of the previous century. Why that time frame, and why choose such miscreants as his focus?

“History is about change, and change was on steroids in the Industrial Revolution,” comments the historian, lounging on a sofa in Cape Town’s Mount Nelson Hotel.

“Everything was sped up; structures, processes and people played themselves out. And I’ve always been interested in the overlaps of crime as politics and politics as crime,” he says.

“If a society’s moral and ethical foundations, and its institutions, are weak the powerful will enrich themselves at the expense of the weak.

“As for the main characters, with the exception of Joseph Silver in The Fox and the Flies, who is psychotic, they have virtuous aspects and human weaknesses, but are socially undesirable.

“The figures I focus on are often eccentric and strange, but thematically they illustrate how politics and crime become interlinked. Their behaviour is outside of the norm, and therefore acts as litmus to the norm – which exposes the true norms of their societies. Where they connect, truth emerges. Does man shape society, or does society shape man? Where people are off-centre, like many of the people about whom I write, it tells you much about their society.

“Imagine, for instance, if a thief, a liar and a cheat runs a country, what does it tell you about the country?” he says, and for a moment the divide between past and present becomes unclear.

Van Onselen’s books straddle continents rather than being contained to countries. “The figures I prefer to write about function on a global scale; I don’t regard myself as being confined to writing South African history.

“I am allergic to nationalism. If you confine yourself to the history of the nation state, it becomes a nationalist narrative. The world is much more interesting than that. The world of knowledge has no passports or borders.”

Regarding the Jameson Raid, Van Onselen believes in following the money, and the American expansionist Hammond made a lot of it – he was the highest paid mining engineer in the world at the time.

Racial policy and social justice aside, Van Onselen believes Paul Kruger was an excellent president. “Kruger was the best president this country has ever known. He had to steer an agrarian society into a capitalist, industrialising one within a matter of 10 years and had to deal with the full-scale coup d’etat which the Jameson Raid was. No other president had to adapt so completely,” he argues.

And that is the story he tells in The Cowboy Capitalist – how the Jameson Raid had its roots in the American West and the Confederacy; how Jameson’s personality played a part, and how Rhodes became something of an unwilling accomplice.

In so doing, he asks new questions, sets new paradigms, uncovers new facts and proposes new visions of the past – the very reason no one who loves history and wants to understand this beloved country can afford not to read The Cowboy Capitalist.

It is the way history is supposed to be written.

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“I was never ready” – record turnout for the launch of Redi Tlhabi’s Khwezi

The launch of Redi Tlhabi’s long-expected Khwezi: The Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo was launched at Exclusive Books, Hyde Park last night. A rough estimate of 600 (!) people attended. Eusebius McKaiser discussed Redi’s book on what happened to Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo (Khwezi); of what she had to endure from a man she knew and grew up with, and the abuse she had endured from both the public and the state. With this remarkable and considered book, Redi gives agency to Khwezi, and the many women and children plagued by sexual abuse in South Africa.

The second launch of Khwezi is taking place tonight at Love Books, but is fully booked. Keep an eye on Twitter for live updates (@mila_se_kind), and if you’re attending we recommend you include the hashtags #Khwezi and #RediTlhabi to reach a broader audience.

Take a look at last night’s turnout:

Here Redi responds to Eusebius’ question about Zuma’s abuse of power and reaction towards the case:


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More than a memoir, it is a study of grief: Michele Magwood talks to Karina Szczurek about her book The Fifth Mrs Brink

The age gap raised eyebrows, but as Karina Szczurek eloquently writes, her love for Brink was pure. By Michele Magwood for the Sunday Times

The Fifth Mrs BrinkThe Fifth Mrs Brink
Karina M Szczurek, Jonathan Ball Publishers

When André Brink died unexpectedly on a flight from Europe in 2015, the literary world mourned the passing of one of its great writers. A flood of tributes and remembrances poured out, obituaries detailed his outstanding career, people lauded his books and awards, his life story was revisited, anecdotes were told, quotes were quoted. But for those who knew André there was a question being asked again and again: “How is Karina?”

Karina Szczurek met Brink when she was 27 and he was 69. There were sneers from those who could not understand the relationship but anyone who spent time with the couple realised that it was a great love. “People who knew us said that it didn’t make sense until they were together with us and then it did make sense,” she says.

An elderly neighbour thought she was an escort that Brink had picked up; another friend that she was an Eastern European mail-order bride. They soon learned that she has a doctorate, speaks four languages and is an esteemed writer and critic.

Szczurek is a graceful, composed woman, who carries herself with a quiet dignity. In this frank and tender memoir she charts their 10-year marriage and the near breakdown she experienced after his death. In doing so the book is more than a memoir, it is a study of grief and loss, describing the splintering pain of bereavement, yawning loneliness and finally the inching climb to wholeness.

In the process she hollows herself out, holding nothing back, charting her disintegration.

“It moves in with you. A creature you did not invite, cannot control or tame. Grief is wild and unpredictable, at first completely inscrutable. It speaks an unknown language and renders yours inadequate. But in the beginning there is silence. After the shattering, all languages become inadequate. You have to learn everything anew. It is impossible to speak if you cannot breathe. ‘Weduwee’, the first word torn out of death’s ribs. Widow.”

She cannot wash Brink’s handkerchiefs, can’t talk about him in the past tense. She stands, catatonic, in the aisles of the supermarket, and cannot read or write. She mislays things, hurts herself doing chores around the house, leaves notes to herself that get lost. She causes a serious accident and writes off their car. Her house – always so safe when Brink was alive – is robbed.

When Szczurek was 10 her family fled communist Poland, crossing the border illegally into Austria where they lived in refugee camps for two years. They were granted asylum in the US and it was there that she was introduced to reading. She had had little interest in books but a librarian in their small town pressed one into her hand and suggested she start to read.

She tells the story now of how, in 2011, she and Brink returned to the town and found the librarian. “Twenty years later I was able to give her one of my books and say ‘thank you, you did this’.”

The family lasted just four years in the US, her parents barely making a living, so they moved to Austria. Szczurek, now set on an academic career, studied in Wales and then in Salzburg, which is where she discovered South African literature. When she fetched Brink from a train station for a conference, it was, she insists, “love at first sight”.

Her memories of their time together glow on the page: of meals in Paris and baths at 3am; of watching Fawlty Towers for the 100th time, of Brink hoarding light bulbs and hotel soaps, of their writing routine. But she writes, too, of his failing health. Shingles, small strokes, a painful knee operation. They have financial worries, he loses confidence in his writing. She is honest when she says his growing frailty terrified her – and him.

She is grateful that when he was dying she was with him, could tell him he was not alone, that she loved him.

“Experiencing the death of another human being has made me slightly less afraid of the future,” she says. “And it does feel as if two-and-a-half years later there is something like peace, some kind of healing is happening.”

This is a beautiful book. Searing, sad, but ultimately hopeful, it is an eloquent testimony to love and to life.

Follow @michelemagwood

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Launch: Khwezi by Redi Tlhabi (27 September)

In August 2016, following the announcement of the results of South Africa’s heated municipal election, four courageous young women interrupted Jacob Zuma’s victory address, bearing placards asking us to ‘Remember Khwezi’. Before being dragged away by security guards, their powerful message had hit home and the public was reminded of the tragic events of 2006, when Zuma was on trial for the rape of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, better known as Khwezi. In the aftermath of the trial, which saw Zuma acquitted, Khwezi was vilified by his many supporters and forced to take refuge outside of South Africa.

Ten years later, just two months after this protest had put Khwezi’s struggle back into the minds and hearts of South Africans, Khwezi passed away … But not before she had slipped back into South Africa and started work with Redi Tlhabi on a book about her life.

How as a young girl living in ANC camps in exile she was raped by the very men who were supposed to protect her; how as an adult she was driven once again into exile, suffering not only at the hands of Zuma’s devotees but under the harsh eye of the media.

In sensitive and considered prose, journalist Redi Tlhabi breathes life into a woman for so long forced to live in the shadows. In giving agency back to Khwezi, Tlhabi is able to focus a broader lens on the sexual abuse that abounded during the ‘struggle’ years, abuse which continues to plague women and children in South Africa today.

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“The story of human evolution is not a simple, linear, straightforward one” – a Q&A with Lee Berger

By Mila de Villiers, @mila_se_kind

Research Professor in Human Origins at Wits University, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, peer-reviewed paleoanthropologist, and author of Almost Human: The astonishing tale of Homo naledi (co-written with John Hawks), Lee Berger, recently spoke to us via Skype (from an excavation site at Dinaledi and Lesedi Chambers, nogal) about his book – an account of the discovery of the hominid species, Homo naledi; Australopithecus sediba as the origin of the X-Men; his estrangement from Phillip Tobias; writing for non-scientific audiences; and local band Satanic Dagga Orgy’s ode to Homo naledi

Lee Berger sharing A Moment with the skull of a Homo naledi
(© Stefan Heunis, AFP/Getty Images)

First things first: your interest in archaeology was sparked at a young age when, as a child growing up in rural Georgia, you’d spend hours in the outdoors, looking for (and finding) artifacts. Do you have any advice for aspiring archaeologists or paleoanthropologists wishing to discover/rummage, yet are confined to suburbs or cities?

There are things to be found everywhere – history is all around us and the world, even urban areas and the suburbs are filled with archaeological artifacts from the past that give clues to what came before. Also, our cities are full of geology as they are of course built on and around it! It’s great to learn and explore the heritage of the area you live in as well as it’s geological heritage. One never knows as the next “big” discovery could be in one’s own backyard!

Almost Human reads surprisingly easy – and funny – for a book with a highly scientific premise. Did you struggle to maintain an accessible writing style for the hoi polloi? (And by no means am I excluding myself here).

Well, science can seem complex and overwhelming for many, but we were trying to use a style that let the specialist reader as well as the non-specialist reader enjoy the book and follow our scientific journey. We therefore tried to use understandable language and as little “jargon” as possible, only using it where it was necessary to define a complex term or meaning. Both John and I communicate widely to the public and so perhaps the writing style you note follows our speaking styles.

Throughout the final chapters of the book you often mention how much there still is to learn about Homo naledi and that it’s very likely that there are more early hominim species which are yet to be discovered. The skeletal material you recently came across in the Lesedi Chamber shares similarities with Homo naledi and adds to this statement. What can/does this new discovery tell us about human evolution in Africa?

I think the clear picture that has come from both the discovery of Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi is that the story of human evolution is not a simple, linear, straightforward one but that ours is a complex history. Naledi and sediba show us that there is more to be found – it’s clear that we don’t really know their ancestral history and the few fossils of other species found across Africa don’t help us much with interpreting where they fit in our family tree – and that’s exciting. We currently are back in the Dinaledi and Lesedi Chambers and making new discoveries – particularly exciting is we seem to have strong evidence that Homo naledi did indeed come down the narrow chute the way our “underground astronauts” come – and that is wonderful and hard to explain – but it’s exciting!

Your “Underground Astronauts” – Marina Elliott, Elen Feuerriegel, Alia Gurtov, K. Lindsay (Eaves) Hunter, Hannah Morris, and Becca Peixotto – are all women. This dispels the myth of science being a male-dominated field. Can you elaborate on this statement within a South African context? Christa Kuljian specifically comes to mind…

I am right now watching four of these heroic women scientists working underground on our cameras in the command centre. Our field was dominated by men traditionally, but there is a worldwide trend that is shifting towards more women in the natural sciences and our field is no different and we are seeing this trend in South Africa as well. But what I think is most important about these underground astronauts is that they are demonstrating that the place for women in these sciences is not just in the lab, but also at the cutting edge of extreme exploration and adventure and very often these women are better suited physically and mentally for these difficult and often dangerous endeavours. They really are an inspiration.

You write candidly about your growing difference of opinions with prominent paleoanthropologists Phillip Tobias and Ronald Clarke. How has your account of your academic estrangement from Profs Tobias and Clarke been received by the scientific community, and readers at large?

Well, my estrangement with Phillip Tobias occurred as perhaps a natural progression of our relationship. He was like a father to me and sometimes when fathers and sons are working in the same area, they can clash. He and I reconciled later and he was very engaged and enjoyed the sediba years. Ron Clarke and my history is a complex one. Phillip and the University were promoting this young upstart (perhaps in his eyes) ahead of him. A lot of that tension I think was driven from insecurity of position. Palaeoanthropology is a competitive field with, until recently, few fossils and “fights” over the perceived more important ones are nothing new. I think though that with sediba and naledi and our approach to open access some of this tension has lessened. There is, though, still a generation that was brought up behaving in a very negatively competitive way that exists, but they are fewer and the fossils are certainly more plentiful!

I must admit that I didn’t know you and Phillip Tobias had such a strong bond…

He was my Ph.D. supervisor and then promoted me to take over his position in 1996. He and I were very close. It was the “way” Little Foot was discovered, hidden and then handled that caused the fissure. But like I said, I think that can be quite normal in such situations.

Have you received any personal ‘backlash’ from readers or scientists (including your colleagues, perhaps) regarding the candid account of your estrangement?

And no, not at all! You’re the first person to bring it up!

Seriously? Wow.

I think most scientists and “insiders” know/knew the story and it was a long time ago.

Your search for assistants to aid you in your expedition was unique in that you created a Facebook-post urging experienced scientists and intrepid cavers across the globe to apply for the task. Similarly, your discoveries at the Rising Star cave system were live streamed on social media platforms. (Those hashtags!) Can we expect an increase in scientific findings being made more and/or immediately accessible to the public, say via social media, as opposed to waiting until they’ve been published in journals after months of research and deliberation?

Okay, so if you turn on your social media feed right now you will notice we are bringing science “live” to the world through technology and social media. We are, however, doing all of our science the good old fashioned way – in peer reviewed journals. In fact and as an example there have been more than 600 pages of peer reviewed journal articles on naledi since we announced the new species. While some very prominent individuals (Bill Kimbel, Tim White and Bernard Wood to name the most vocal) have argued that we are somehow doing the science in front of the public – and they feel this is a bad thing – it’s simply not true. They are in fact creating a Quixote-esque windmill of misinformation to tilt at. We are in fact the traditionalists, they are publishing their criticisms in non-peer reviewed venues. It’s ironic and a form of “peer evasion” on their part.

Lastly – are you aware that the Joburg-based band Satanic Dagga Orgy have a song titled ‘Homo for Naledi’?

I am and we were laughingly playing the song just this morning! I think it might have even had it’s debut in the Dinaledi chamber as Elen just tweeted from the chamber about it! We all quite enjoy seeing our science become part of the popular and public sphere. It means more people hear about science and maybe it inspired people to dig a little deeper. I don’t know if you saw but Marvel Comics has sediba as the origin of the X-Men now! (which for a bunch of science nerds is very cool) – just google ‘Australopithecus sediba marvel X-Men’ for the pages.


(I did. Look what I found.)

Almost Human

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Sisonke Msimang’s memoir out in October!

In her much anticipated memoir, Sisonke Msimang writes about her exile childhood in Zambia and Kenya, young adulthood and college years in North America, and returning to South Africa in the euphoric 1990s.

She reflects candidly on her discontent and disappointment with present-day South Africa but also on her experiences of family, romance, and motherhood, with the novelist’s talent for character and pathos.

Militant young comrades dance off the pages of the 1970s Lusaka she invokes, and the heady and naive days of just-democratic South Africa in the 1990s are as vividly painted. Her memoir is at heart a chronicle of a coming-ofage, and while well-known South African political figures appear in these pages, it is an intimate story, a testament to family bonds and sisterhood.

Sisonke Msimang is one of the most assured and celebrated voices commenting on the South African present – often humorously; sometimes deeply movingly – and this book launches her to an even broader audience.

Sisonke Msimang currently lives in Perth, Australia, where she is Programme Director for the Centre for Stories. She is regularly in South Africa where she continues to speak and comment on current affairs. Sisonke 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 regularly contributes to The Guardian, The Daily Maverick and The New York Times and has given a very popular TED Talk which touches on events which appear in Always Another Country.

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Launch: The Cowboy Capitalist (19 September)

“Charles van Onselen’s richly informative and gripping Cowboy Capitalist offers intrigue, betrayal and suspense worthy of a spy thriller in a deeply documented account of international entrepreneurial capitalism, labor exploitation, and political conspiracy in the age of imperialism.” – Robert E. May, Professor Emeritus of History, Purdue

The Jameson Raid was a pivotal moment in the history of South Africa, linking events from the Anglo-Boer War to the declaration of the Union of South Africa in 1910. For over a century the failed revolution has been interpreted through the lens of British imperialism, with responsibility laid at the feet of Cecil John Rhodes. Yet the wild adventurism that characterised the raid resembles a cowboy expedition more than a serious attempt to overthrow a Boer government.

In The Cowboy Capitalist, Charles van Onselen challenges a historiography of over 120 years, locating the raid in American rather than British history and forcing us to rethink the histories of at least three nations. Through a close look at the little-remembered figure of John Hays Hammond, a confidant of both Rhodes and Jameson, he discovers the American Old West on the South African Highveld.

This radical reinterpretation challenges the commonly held belief that the Jameson Raid was quintessentially British and, in doing so, drives splinters into our understanding of events as far forward as South Africa’s critical 1948 general election, with which the foundations of Grand Apartheid were laid.

Charles van Onselen is the acclaimed author of several books including The Fox and the Flies, Masked Raiders, and The Seed is Mine, which won the Alan Paton in 1997 and was voted as one of the best books to emerge from Africa in the 20th century. His latest book, Showdown at the Red Lion, has been opted for a TV series. Van Onselen has been honoured with visiting fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and Oxford, and was the inaugural Oppenheimer Fellow at Harvard’s WEB Du Bois Institute. He is currently Research Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria.

The Cowboy Capitalist

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Six local authors shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Literary Awards


Literary website Brittle Paper has announced the shortlists for the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards. PEN SA members Petina Gappah and Sisonke Msimang were shortlisted in the Fiction and Essays / Think Pieces categories respectively. Gappah for her story “A Short History of Zaka the Zulu”, published on The New Yorker‘s website, and Msimang for her piece “All your faves are problematic: A brief history of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, stanning and the trap of #blackgirlmagic”, published on the Africa is a Country website.

Besides Sisonke, five other local authors made the cut.

The Brittle Paper Award for Fiction:
- Sibongile Fisher for her short story “A Door Ajar”, published in Short Story Day Africa: Migrations
- Megan Ross for her short story “Farang”, published in Short Story Day Africa: Migrations

The Brittle Paper Award for Essays/Think Pieces:
- “Writes of Passage, an Urban Memoir: How a Pan-African Journal and American Glossies Put Bongani Madondo on the Write Path,” by Bongani Madondo, as published in The Johannesburg Review of Books

The Brittle Paper Anniversary Award:
- “Love Is Not Apolitical,” by Andile Ndlovu (Fiction)

Koleka Putuma was shortlisted in the poetry category for her PEN SA Student Writing Prize-winning poem “Water”, published on our website here.

Congratulations and good luck to all six of them!

The press release reads:

August 1, 2017 was Brittle Paper’s seventh anniversary. In celebration of this milestone, we are launching the Brittle Paper Literary Awards, to recognize the finest, original pieces of African writing published online.

The awards come in five categories: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Essays/Think Pieces, and the Anniversary Award for works published on our blog. The winners in the fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and essays/think pieces categories will receive $200 each, while the winner of our Anniversary Award will receive $300. The winners will be announced on 23 September, 2017.

The shortlists are a result of months of meticulous hard work. The selections were made based on quality, significance, and impact. In this, we considered only works that are available online for free. For the fiction, poetry, nonfiction and essays/think pieces categories, we considered works published between 1 January, 2016 and 31 July, 2017. For our anniversary award, our consideration was limited to between 1 August, 2016 and 31 July, 2017.

Click here for the complete shortlist.


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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

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Half of a Yellow Sun


The Thing Around Your Neck


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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:

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.

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.


Book details


Spilt Milk


Period Pain



It's Me, Marah

Miss Behave


Love Interrupted

No Longer Whispering to Power


The Whale Caller

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