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Archive for the ‘Mozambique’ Category

2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature Winner Mia Couto: This Entity Called “Africa” is Imaginary


Mozambique author Mia Couto has received the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, becoming the first Mozambican author to be honoured with the prestigious title.

Couto was announced as the winner of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature late last year, and was finally awarded the honour last Friday.

“He is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and biologist, a writer whose first novel Sleepwalking Land has been called one of the best African books of the twentieth-century,” Dennis Abrahams writes for Publishing Perspectives. “Mia Couto has been described by Niyi Afalabi as a ‘revolutionary optimist’ and by translator David Brookshaw as the “most original and prolific voice of his generation.”

The Tuner of SilencesUnder the FrangipaniVoices Made NightSleepwalking Land

Abrahams interviewed Couto, asking him about his identity as an African writer, the preconceptions the rest of the world has about African literature, the links between him and other prolific African writers and the loss of the tradition of oral storytelling in Africa.

“There’s this entity called ‘Africa’ – we know that it’s imaginary, it’s an invention, there are so many Africans and so many literatures in Africa, and when you consider a kind of division that is inherited by colonialism – there’s Lusophone, Anglophone, Francophone, African … you package this as a kind of one thing and it’s not of course. You don’t talk the same way about European literature. I understand it as a kind of marketing thing, so maybe instead of fighting against it, let us say that it doesn’t exist, but, as I learned from the guerilla movement, we should take advantage of the moment and the fragilities of the system,” Couto says.

Read the article for more of Couto’s poignant views:

What preconceptions do you see the rest of the world as having about African literature?

It’s not just the rest of the world. Africans have often incorporated some of these prejudices. One of them is that Africans are supposed to talk about Africa. That’s a stereotype of Africa, you don’t think that it’s a problem that an American writer will write about India or Europe, or some other place, we think that it’s natural that someone from America is doing research in Africa about topology or sociology, but it’s strange that an African guy would come to America and do anthropological studies, and so we have that deeply rooted in ourselves. You expect that from an African author you will have authenticity, and that’s something you don’t ask for from a European writer or any other writer. But that’s slowly changing. We are becoming free of that imposition or stamp of needing poverty and huts, or even worse, witch doctors and dancing around the fire. We see the reaction when people go to Cape Town or Nairobi or Johannesburg and they say “this is not Africa.” Why can’t we have the right to have diverse urban areas?

Addressing students at the University of Oklahoma during the 2014 Neustadt Festival of International Literature & Culture, Couto said: “We have fallen in the temptation of a single story against which the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie so eloquently warned us.” Katherine Parker reported on the event:

“…The Neustadt Prize creates bridges, when I say this let us think of the song ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Paul Simon, to create bridges where there is distance and worse than that. It’s good to know that literature can help build bridges. In a world that imagines the proximity between cultures are totally dissolved by technology not solutions.”
Couto said that as a child his parents, Portuguese immigrants, would tell him stories of their life in Portugal and that through their storytelling he realized that they were able to erase distance and time and return to Portugal.

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Image courtesy of Neustadt Prize

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Nominees for the 2014 South African Literary Awards Revealed

Alert! Books LIVE can exclusively reveal the nominees list for the 2014 South African Literary Awards.

The SA Literary Awards were founded by the wRite associates and the Department of Arts and Culture in 2005, with the twin aims of paying tribute to writers who have “distinguished themselves as ground-breaking producers and creators of literature” and celebrating literary excellence “in the depiction and sharing of South Africa’s histories, value systems and philosophies”, in all the languages of South Africa.

Ride the TortoiseRunning Almost Sleeping My Way to TimbuktuThe Spiral House The Blacks of Cape TownThe Turtle Dove Told MeLove InterruptedCall It DogRiskThe Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the GodsFractured LivesDystopia

Nominees this year include Makhosazana Xaba, who was also today announced as a Mbokodo Awards nominee, Books LIVE correspondent Liesl Jobson, Sihle Khumalo, Claire Robertson, who won this year’s Sunday Times Fiction Prize, and Carol-Ann Davids.

Nuruddin Farah and Njabulo Ndebele are up for Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The winners will be announced on Friday, 7 November.


Poetry Award

Themba Patrick Magaisa, Mihloti ya Tingana (Xitsonga, published by TP Magaisa)
Khulile Nxumalo, Fhedzi (English, Dye Hard Press)
Kobus Moolman, Left Over (English, Dye Hard Press)
Thandi Sliepen, The Turtle Dove Told Me (English, Modjaji Books)

Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award

Gary Cummiskey, Off-ramp (English, Dye Hard Press)
Makhosazana Xaba, Running and Other Stories (English, Modjaji books)
Reneilwe Malatji, Love Interrupted (English, Modjaji Books)
Liesl Jobson, Ride the Tortoise (English, Jacana Media)

K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award (For Young Writers)

Marli Roode, Call it Dog (English, Penguin Books)
Jason Staggie, Risk (English, Umuzi Publishers)
Jamala Safari, The Great Agony and Pure laughter of the Gods (English, Umuzi Publishing)

Creative Non-Fiction Award

Sihle Khumalo, Almost Sleeping My Way to Timbuktu (English, Umuzi Publishers)
Toni Strasburg, Fractured Lives (English, Modjaji Books)

First-time Published Author Award

Claire Robertson, The Spiral House (English, Umuzi Publishers)
Carol-Ann Davids, The Blacks of Cape Town (English, Modjaji Books)
James Siddall, Dystopia (English, Jacana Media)

Lifetime Achievement Literary Award

Nuruddin Farah
Njabulo Ndebele

Literary Translators Award

Nhlanhla Maake, Malefane (Sesotho/English, Ekaam Books)

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Mia Couto and Mandla Langa to Discuss New Narratives in Contemporary African Literatures at Goethe-Institut

Award-winning Mozambican author Mia Couto will be in Johannesburg on Tuesday 8 April to join Mandla Langa for a discussion at the Goethe-Institut.

Under the FrangipaniThe Tuner of SilencesSleepwalking LandVoices Made NightThe Lost Colours of the Chameleon

Couto, who most recently won the prestigious 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and Langa, the author of The Lost Colours of the Chameleon, will address the topic “Words Without Borders – New Narratives in Contemporary African Literatures?” at the event starting at 7 PM.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

New South African Voices goes international and is very delighted to host Mia Couto from Mozambique, one of the most prominent African writers, together with South Africa´s well known author, Mandla Langa.

Mia Couto’s writing, that won major awards all around the world, seems deeply rooted in African tradition and in a very unique form of magical realism. The literary critique Anderson Tepper calls it “Couto´s own African spiritual realism”. Couto`s literary landscape is inhabited by spirits, as well as by landmines; the experience of dispossession, war, violence, trauma and modernity is interwoven with traditional roots and individual fates. Couto´s stories span both African and European worlds and deal with issues of race and identity, the legacies of colonialism and the civil war in his country.

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Wallander Author Henning Mankell Has Cancer, Shares His Plans to Write About It

A Treacherous ParadiseSwedish crime writer Henning Mankell, who divides his time between Sweden and Mozambique, has written a column sharing the news that he was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago. He writes that he has one tumour in the back of his neck and one in his left lung and he is now undergoing further exams before the doctors decide which treatments to use.

“My anxiety is very profound, although by and large, I can keep it under control. At a very early stage I decided to try to write about this. I have decided to write just as it is. But I will do it from the perspective of life, not death,” Mankell writes. Richard Orange from The Guardian reports that Mankell will be writing a series of columns about his illness for Swedish newspaper, Göteborgs-Posten.

Mankell is most known for his detective series about Kurt Wallander, which has been made into British and Swedish television series. His most recent book A Treacherous Paradise tells the story of a young Swedish woman who ends up running a brothel in what is now Maputo, Mozambique.

Read Mankell’s column on his website, which was also published as the first in the series for the Göteborgs-Posten, and Young’s article on The Guardian:

A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Stockholm to see an orthopedist who had previously treated me.

I went there with a diagnosis of a painful slipped disc, hernia, in the neck.

When I went back to Gothenburg the following day I did it with a serious diagnosis of cancer.

The bestselling Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell has revealed that he has cancer, and that he plans to chronicle his battle with the disease in a newspaper column.

The 65-year-old writer, known for his popular Kurt Wallander detective novels, delivered the news in a short but moving article in Sweden’s Göteborgs-Posten newspaper.

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Image courtesy Dagbladet

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Mzilikazi wa Afrika Tweets List of African Literature Recommendations

Earlier this month Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika tweeted a lengthy list of book recommendations, using photos of their covers, which he titled “Psssss: read me please”. The list is mostly African literature with some international titles, mostly biographies and autobiographies, thrown in for good measure. Many of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s books feature on the list, while newer titles like The Grand Scam by Rob Rose and A Hill of Fools by Mtutuzeli Nyoka, are also included.

The Assassination of LumumbaMy Second InitiationFelaThabo MbekiIt's Our Turn to EatI Write What I LikeThe Shadow World
Long Walk To Freedom491 DaysRobert SobukweWizard of the CrowA Grain of WheatThe Things that Could Not be SaidCry, the Beloved Country
Petals of BloodCapitalist NiggerEight Days in September8115S is for SamoraA Grain of WheatWeep Not, Child

Although the list goes up to 100 there are several numbers in the 60s missing from his tweets.

We’ve collected all of Wa Afrika’s tweets on Storify so have a look through them for ideas on what to read next:


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The Inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature Longlist

Alert! the longlist for the 2013/14 Etisalat Prize for Literature – the “first ever pan-African prize celebrating first time writers of published fiction books” – was announced on Friday. It features names that will be well familiar to followers of SA Lit.

Etisalat is a telecommunications provider headquartered in Abu Dhabi, with business links in several parts of Africa (especially Nigeria). The winner of the prize it sponsors will receive £15 000, a book tour to three African cities and an Etisalat Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, under the mentorship of Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland. The prize itself has attracted some criticism since being launched, for not accepting translated works and for running a flash fiction competition that may have been too ambitious.

The prize’s inaugural judging panel is chaired by South Africa’s Pumla Dineo Gqola; she’s joined by Zakes Mda, Kenya’s Billy Kahora and Nigeria’s Sarah Ladipo Manyika.

Without further ado, here’s their first Etisalat longlist:

Bom BoyDaughters Who Walk This PathFinding SoutbekSarah House
The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the GodsThe Spider King's DaughterThe Spiral HouseThe Whispering TreesWe Need New Names

Hearty congratulations to all!

The books will be whittled down to a shortlist in January, and the overall winner of the prize will be announced in February.

Best of luck to those in the running – and especially to those who are particularly well-known in the world of SA Lit, namely, Yewande Omotoso, Karen Jennings, Jamala Safari, Claire Robertson and NoViolet Bulawayo!

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Roger Southall Reviews Region-building in Southern Africa

Region-building in Southern Africa : Progress, problems and prospectsVerdict: carrot

The history of “regional integration” in Southern Africa is unfortunate. Southern Rhodesia dominated Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in the Central African Federation in the 1950s; SA lorded it over the former high commission territories (Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland) in the Southern African Customs Union from 1910 to 1992; and when regional countries had formed their own bloc to counter apartheid hegemony via the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference from 1980, they encountered crude military, political and economic destabilisation by Pretoria. No wonder “regional integration” in Southern Africa has gone out of fashion, to be replaced by a much wider focus on “region building”.

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  • Region-building in Southern Africa : Progress, problems and prospects edited by Chris Saunders, Gwinyayi A Dzinesa, Dawn Nagar
    EAN: 9781868145768
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Mia Couto is Awarded the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature

Sleepwalking LandAlert! Mia Couto has been announced as the winner of the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, making him the first Mozambican author to be nominated for and receive the prestigious award.

Couto was nominated by Gabriella Ghermandi, and his representative work is his novel Sleepwalking Land (2006), originally published as Terra Sonâmbula (1992). He had been shortlisted along with Haruki Murakami, César Aira, Duong Thu Huong, Edward P Jones, Ilya Kaminsky, Chang-rae Lee, Ghassan Zaqtan and Mauritian author Edouard Maunick.

Couto will receive prize money of $50,000, sponsored by the University of Oklahoma, the Neustadt family, and World Literature Today. In the following press release, Couto is quoted as saying: “This award is timed perfectly, as Mozambique is about to go through a difficult time. For me personally, this award is certainly a relief, a ray of sunshine, at this sad national moment.”

The Neustadt Prize is closely associated with the Nobel Prize in Literature, since the former is considered one of the top predictors as to who will win the latter.

Congratulations to Couto!

Press release

NORMAN, OKLA., Nov. 1, 2013 – Mozambican author António Emílio Leite Couto (Mia Couto) has been chosen by a jury of nine international authors to receive the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature ( The $50,000 prize is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma, the Neustadt family, and World Literature Today, the university’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture.

Jurors convened on the OU Norman campus for deliberations Oct. 31 as part of the annual Neustadt Festival for International Literature and Culture.

Gabriella Ghermandi, who nominated Couto for the Neustadt Prize, said of him, “He is an author who addresses not just his country but the entire world, all human beings.”

Couto is the first Mozambican author to be nominated for and to win the Neustadt Prize. He is considered to be one of the most important writers in Mozambique, and his works have been published in more than 20 languages.

Born in 1955 in Beira, Mozambique, Couto began his literary career in the struggle for Mozambique’s independence, during which time he edited two journals. Raiz de Orvalho, Couto’s first book of poetry, was published in 1983. His first novel and the novel that was the representative text for the Neustadt, Sleepwalking Land, was published in 1992 to great acclaim and is widely considered one of the best African books of the 20th century.

Couto is known for his use of magical realism as well as his creativity with language. In her nominating statement, Ghermandi wrote, “Some critics have called Mia Couto ‘the smuggler writer,’ a sort of Robin Hood of words who steals meanings to make them available in every tongue, forcing apparently separate worlds to communicate. Within his novels, each line is like a small poem.”

This year, Couto also received the 2013 Camões Prize for Literature, a prestigious award given to Portuguese-language writers.

WLT executive director Robert Con Davis-Undiano remarked, “Mia Couto is trying to lift the yoke of colonialism from a culture by reinvigorating its language. A master of Portuguese prose, he wants to lift that burden one word, one sentence, and one narrative at a time, and in this endeavor he has few if any peers.”

Upon hearing about his win, Couto responded, “This award is timed perfectly, as Mozambique is about to go through a difficult time. For me personally, this award is certainly a relief, a ray of sunshine, at this sad national moment.”

The Neustadt Prize is awarded every two years and represents the only international literary award for which novelists, playwrights and poets are equally eligible. Often called the “American Nobel” because of its connection to the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Neustadt Prize is considered to be one of the most important literary prizes in the world. Throughout its history, the Neustadt has boasted 30 laureates, jurors, or candidates that have gone on to receive the Nobel, including Pablo Neruda, Gabriel García Márquez, Orhan Pamuk, Mo Yan, and Alice Munro, among others.

Couto is the 23rd laureate of the Neustadt Prize and will accept the award on the OU Norman campus during the fall 2014 Neustadt Festival.

About the Neustadt International Prize for Literature

The Neustadt International Prize for Literature is a $50,000 biennial prize funded by a generous endowment from the Neustadt family of Ardmore, Okla., and Dallas. The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of its scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists and playwrights are equally eligible. The charter of the award stipulates that the Neustadt Prize be conferred solely on the basis of literary merit, and each laureate is chosen by a jury of writers that World Literature Today convenes on the University of Oklahoma campus.

About World Literature Today

Founded in 1927, World Literature Today is the University of Oklahoma’s bimonthly magazine of international literature and culture. The mission of WLT is to serve the international, state and university communities by achieving excellence as a literary publication, being a sponsor of literary prizes and serving as a cultural center for students. Now in its ninth decade of continuous publication, WLT has been recognized by the Swedish Academy as one of the “best edited and most informative literary publications” in the world, and was recently called “an excellent source of writings from around the globe by authors who write as if their lives depend on it” (Utne Reader, January 2005).


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Henning Mankell to Take Part in Open Book Festival 2013

A Treacherous ParadiseAlert! It has just been announced that Swedish writer Henning Mankell, who spends half his year running a theatre in Mozambique, will be taking part in this year’s Open Book Festival in Cape Town.

Mankell is best known for his detective Kurt Wallander crime novels, but after consigning Wallander to a care home in the last book in the series, Mankell’s latest novel, A Treacherous Paradise, is set in Mozambique at the beginning of the 20th century and tells the story of a Swedish woman who ends up running a brothel in Maputo.

His appearance at Open Book will certainly be one of the events not to be missed.

Press release

Internationally acclaimed author of the Wallander mysteries, Henning Mankell, has confirmed he will be attending Open Book next month.

Mankell’s work extends far beyond the Wallander series though – he is an accomplished dramatist and has published over 20 novels as well as books for children and young adults.

Audience members will have a wealth of events to chose from and authors to see over the five days of Open Book. For the complete author list as well as the programme, please visit our website. Tickets are available through Webtickets.

If you would like further details about the festival, please contact Frankie (

The Open Book Team

Open Book is organised in partnership with The Fugard Theatre, Equal Education, The District 6 Museum, The Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts, British Council, The Townhouse Hotel, Central Library, Caine Prize, The Embassy of Sweden, Medecins Sans Frontieres, PEN UK & PEN SA, Nederlands Letterfonds and sponsored by Leopard’s Leap, Absa, Highland Park Whisky, Penguin Books, Pan Macmillan, Random House Struik, NB Publishers, Jonathan Ball, Book Promotions, Fox & Raven Publishers, Granta and Oxford University Press.


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Image courtesy Tom Shess

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Mia Couto and Edouard Maunick Nominated for Neustadt International Prize for Literature 2014

Sleepwalking LandMandela dead and alive 1976�2001Alert! Mozambican author Mia Couto and Mauritian author Edouard Maunick are included in the shortlist for the prestigious Neustadt International Prize 2014, often compared to the Nobel Prize.

It is the first time in the Prize’s 44 year history that authors from both of these countries have been nominated and writers from Palestine and Ukraine also make their first appearance on the shortlist. Couto is nominated by Gabriella Ghermandi, and his representative work is his novel Sleepwalking Land (2006), originally published as Terra Sonâmbula (1992). Maunick is nominated by Ananda Devi, and his representative work is the poetry collection Mandéla mort et vif, first published in 1987 and translated into English as Mandela dead and alive 1976–2001 by South African publishers Protea Boekhuis in 2001.

Couto and Maunick will compete for the $50,000 prize with Haruki Murakami, César Aira, Duong Thu Huong, Edward P. Jones, Ilya Kaminsky, Chang-rae Lee and Ghassan Zaqtan. The winner will be announced on 1 November.

World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning international literature and culture magazine, today announced the shortlist of nominees for the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. The Neustadt Prize is the most prestigious international literary award given in the United States, often cited as “the American Nobel,” and is chosen solely on the basis of literary merit. On this year’s shortlist are César Aira, Mia Couto, Duong Thu Huong, Edward P. Jones, Ilya Kaminsky, Chang-rae Lee, Edouard Maunick, Haruki Murakami, and Ghassan Zaqtan. For the first time ever, authors have been nominated from Mauritius, Mozambique, Palestine and Ukraine. Additionally, Jones is the first male African American writer to be nominated in the 44-year history of the prize.

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