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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Jacket Notes: Maxine Case tells of why she needed to write about her ancestors and their lives as slaves in a Softness of the Lime

Published in the Sunday Times

Softness of the LimeSoftness of the Lime
Maxine Case, Umuzi

As a descendant of slaves, this was a story I always wanted to write. My grandmother’s grandmother was born to a slave and her master. “But theirs was a real relationship,” Ma, my grandmother, insisted. “He loved her.” Even though I was quite young when I first heard the story, I always wondered about this. I wondered further when Ma admitted that this master had a wife, and children from that marriage.

“She grew up in their home,” Ma offered, as if this was proof. “The family was quite fond of her.”

“Then why didn’t they free her?” I demanded.

“Those were different times then,” Ma said. “They took care of her, even after the old man died.”

From Ma and her cousins, I heard how the family supported my great-grandmother Johanna financially. Ma or one of her cousins would call at the house in Wynberg to collect their grandmother’s living allowance. The building burnt down years later, and all I had was Ma and her cousins’ word.

But there was something else – real proof of his love for her and her descendants, according to Ma and others in the family who repeated the tale. The proof was inscribed into the cover of a yellowwood Bible and later, in the form of a newspaper cutting from the Sunday Times of September 2, 1973.

According to this article, “Bantjes millions: now Coloureds stake claim”, this man had placed a fortune in gold to be inherited by his descendants 100 years after his death.

The article confirmed my family’s claim. It confirmed that with many of her children living as white under apartheid, Johanna destroyed all evidence pointing to this slave heritage.

I often wondered why Ma held her slave ancestry in such high esteem – especially when so many people, South African or not, denied theirs. From Ma’s stories, I too became proud of my slave heritage.

Shoving that yellowing Sunday Times cutting at me from time to time, and telling me where to look, Ma encouraged me to write the “real” story of Lena and Geert, insisting that we were born out of love and not abuse, as is commonly believed. But could it be love?

Researching this book, I don’t believe so. As much proof as I found to substantiate Ma’s claims, much was negated. So, while in writing this book I took the liberties of fiction, I hope that ultimately, by reimagining their worlds, I’ve succeeded in portraying what life under slavery at the Cape might have been like.

Sadly, Ma didn’t live to see this book published.

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‘Have you ever wondered how a man becomes a rapist?’ – An excerpt from Khwezi

Published in the Sunday Times

KhweziKhwezi: The Remarkable Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo
Redi Thlabi

She changed the topic and left me a series of voice messages. I have listened to them regularly since her death. They break my heart every time. It is strange how we interpret words. When I first listened to the messages, they did not seem like a cry for help – just Fez talking as she usually did about how she felt. Now that she is gone, they have taken on a different meaning, a poignancy. I replay her words, detailing how overcome she was by pain, how she could not decide what to do with her life but that ‘that decision will take care of itself’. She was often overwhelmed by life, but would quickly bounce back, saying, ‘Anyway dear, I will take it one fool at a time.’ This time, she said, ‘I will just go with the flow.’

And then she got serious, describing her condition. ‘I am not feeling so hot. It’s just … um. I think I am just still going through a rough patch and I must go with it, go with the flow. I don’t know what is going on.’

I expected that, in typical Fezekile fashion, she would describe, in detail, everything that was happening to her, everything she was feeling. I assumed she was only talking about her emotional state. Even though she had been off her ARVs for a while, it did not occur to me that the physical deterioration had started. Apart from a case of shingles earlier in the year, the first time she had ever suffered from an HIV-related illness, she seemed to be in relatively good health. She was religious about her vegan diet, supplements and meditation, but clearly something was missing.

She proceeded to inform me that she had been in bed for more than a week because her left leg was swollen. But that she was trying to move her body, because ‘My dear friend says it is important that I elevate my leg but also keep my body moving, and my heart moving. She has given me this exercise. Some yoga stunt.’ Several times a day, with the help of her mother she would get off her bed, lie on her back on the floor, elevate her legs and push her feet against the wall.

‘It is just Ma and I in the house so getting off the bed is a challenge. I almost, almost fell on her and she is confused, doesn’t follow instructions properly, and not too strong and doesn’t quite know what we are doing. It was hilarious, actually … huuu! Almost like a circus.’ She was laughing in her voice message, but her laughter was the sound of the vanquished – as if she has come to terms with the never-ending cycle of suffering that has become her life. By this I do not mean that she had come to terms with her death, but just accepted the frequency of her chapters of drama and sadness. She still believed – at that time, at least, a week before she died – that she would get well. She was delicate, animated and self-deprecating, drawing me in so that I could almost picture her and her mom, wrestling on the floor, trying to get Fezekile back on her feet.

I asked if she needed anything, how I could help.

‘Oh dear, where do I start. It is what it is.’

I checked on her every day, especially after the message she left me in which she expressed a desperation to visit her father’s grave.

In the next message, she told me she was going to send me all her passwords. This did not seem strange to me at all, given that I was writing her book; I had become used to her innocence and trusting nature. I figured she was giving me access to some of her writings and musings.

I did not have a chance to acknowledge this message before she sent another one immediately: ‘Today I miss my father Diza. Isn’t that strange? It feels like he never left. I see him everywhere. Yet I miss him terribly. Am I weird?’

‘Not at all,’ I messaged back. ‘I have been there. I think about my father often. But my heart no longer aches. The world was dark when he left it, though … but I am living.’

‘Oh. All sounds so familiar. It just flipped over. But when I am asked how I cope with life, I say it is those foundation years. It always hurts, though. Sometimes at the most inopportune time. Even now.’

‘What is hurting you the most, when you think about him?’

‘I feel robbed, dear. Just robbed. I look at the comrades and how they live, and I feel robbed. Diza would not recognise so many of them.’

‘Which ones in particular?’

‘Ah, the looters, the corrupt, the arrogant, the rapists.’

We don’t speak for a couple of hours; then, in the evening, she asks me, ‘Have you ever wondered how a man becomes a rapist? Do you think they wake up and decide, today, I am going to be an arsehole to a woman? I mean, are they born rapists, do they become rapists, do they think about it or, you know, spur of the moment? That’s been on my mind. What do you think, dear?’

On 2 October, she left me a voice message that she was coming to Johannesburg on the fifth. She was breathing heavily, her pauses just too long between each word. ‘I am just sick and tired and I do not know what is next. Anyway there is something in Joburg, on the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, this holistic healing thing. Ummm, anyway dear, I don’t know how I am going to get on an aeroplane.’ She had told me that her leg was swollen ‘from [her] bum to [her] toe’. She took a deep breath. ‘But it is important that I go. And Auntie Bunie believes that I, I’ll be better when I get there. So, let’s see, it is in two parts. The spiritual and the physical.’

‘What do you need?’

‘I have tried everything, meditation, acupuncture, so let’s see how this will work.’

Somehow, with her swollen leg – a suspected thrombosis – she arrived in Johannesburg. By this time, she was no longer answering her phone or replying to messages. The last message I sent her
was on the fifth, the day she said she was starting her healing course. I told her that I had finally finished reading the transcript of the trial, and that I was proud of her: ‘A bit broken, but I break many times over this subject. The system is entrenched. The point of my writing is exactly how the questions posed to you further entrench patriarchal and sexist views.’

The message remained unread; she deteriorated further. After all the battles she had fought and won – and fought and lost – she would not survive this one. When death came knocking at her door, I imagine her answering the door with her signature, ‘One fool at a time, please.’ I was deeply saddened, especially since her last messages were still full of hope.

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Private tragedy is now national tragedy: Salman Rushdie tells Michele Magwood why he wrote his latest novel The Golden House

Michele Magwood finds Salman Rushdie on fine and furious form in his latest novel. The Golden House is a glorious fusion of knowing social commentary and compelling mystery, packed with wit and cultural references. She spoke to him in New York.

The Golden HouseThe Golden House
Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Cape
*****

In Salman Rushdie’s previous novel, the antic, phantasmagorical Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, the city of New York is overcome by “strangenesses” – lightning crackles from fingers, a gentle old gardener begins to levitate, an abandoned baby causes boils to erupt on the faces of anyone who is corrupt. In his new novel, however, there is none of his trademark supernatural fancies or magical realism. Instead he has written an up-to-the-minute, drenched-in-zeitgeist panorama of New York and America. This time, the strangeness is real.

“When I finished writing Two Years I thought this probably pushes this kind of writing as far as it can go, so I thought I’d try to write a very different novel, a realist social novel about the last decade or so.”

Rushdie is speaking from his home in New York, where he has lived for the last 17 years, the city that has enabled him to live what he calls “a perfectly normal life”, after the many years of hiding in the UK with a fatwa hanging over him. He said he chose New York because it reminded him of his hometown Bombay with its noise and bustle, but also because it is a place of re-invention. “Everybody comes from somewhere else.”

In The Golden House a man arrives in the city with his three grown sons. They arrive on the day that Barack Obama is elected, a time of optimism, “when Isis was still an Egyptian mother-goddess”.

They seem to come from nowhere, or anywhere. There is no sign of a wife or mother, but it is clear they are stupefyingly wealthy. The men take outlandish new names for themselves. The father is Nero Julius Golden, the eldest son Petronius, known as Petya, the second Lucius Apuleius, or Apu, and the youngest Dionysus, or simply “D”. “Who should we say we are?” the boys ask their father. “Tell them nothing. Tell them we are snakes who shed our skins,” Nero says.

The novel may be sharply contemporary, but there is something ancient to the story. “In Greek and Roman tragic plays we know from the beginning that some terrible calamity is about to befall these characters and then it hits them. In this book the reader quite rapidly understands that this family is hiding something serious, and you know that secret is going to blow up in their faces. So in that sense it has the shape of a classical tragedy.”

Notes of foreboding are sounded early on by the narrator, a young filmmaker named René who lives in the same moneyed, sylvan enclave as the Goldens and who decides to make a film about them. Buried in the narrative, a clever mise en abyme, is his script for the documentary.

The fuse is lit when the septuagenarian Nero takes a young Russian bride, Vasilisa. Beautiful of course, just 28 years old, but with a preternatural cunning. This being Rushdie, he has her harbouring, Alien-like, the rapacious witch Baba Yaga. Nero’s sons are dismayed.

The doomed Golden sons channel the dark materials of Rushdie’s current preoccupations: Petya is a lumpen alcoholic, a shut-in savant who designs video games. Apu is a gifted artist, handsome, priapic and fashionable with the Manhattan élite, “famous on 20 blocks.” And then there is D, painfully gender-confused.

Here’s Apu loose on the town: “He followed a Canal Street Kabbalist named Idel, who was adept in the ways of the forbidden Practical Kabbalah, which sought through the use of white magic to affect and change the sphere of the divine itself… he also went eagerly… into the world of Buddhist Judaism, and meditated along with the city’s growing cohorts of ‘BuJus’ – classical composers, movies stars, yogis.”

This is Rushdie at his Dickensian best: keen-eyed, plucking shining observations from the streets like a magpie. His treatment of the troubled D is more sober, however, as he assays the field of gender identity. “The more I dug into it and talked to people I realised how much hair-splitting hostility there is between people who 99% of the time would be on the same side.”

D is depressed by the choices he is being forced to make: “You could be TG, TS, TV, CD. Whatever feels right to you.” Transgender, transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser. None feels right to him and on they go. If he doesn’t identify as male or female, there is ze, ey, hir, xe, hen, ve, ne, per, thon or Mx. As one gender worker says regretfully, “My field should be a safe, soft space for understanding and instead it’s a warzone.”

Rushdie is at his most damning, though, at the end of the book when a new president is elected. This is the age of fake news, truthiness, bawling rhetoric. It is the age of grotesques and comic characters in power – a green-haired cartoon Joker is in charge. The times are toxic.

As René says: “What does one do when the world one believes in turns out to be a paper moon and a dark planet rises and says, No, I am the world… when your fellow Americans tell you that knowing things is elitist and they hate elites, and all you have ever had is your mind and you were brought up to believe in the loveliness of knowledge… and then all of that, education, art, music, film becomes a reason for being loathed, and the creature out of Spiritus Mundi rises up and slouches toward Washington DC, to be born.”

Yes, this time Rushdie’s strangenesses are real.

“The story of the Goldens is a private tragedy surrounded by what is turning into a national tragedy,” he sighs. “I think that’s really in a way what the book is trying to say.”

Follow @michelemagwood

Listen to Michele and Salman’s conversation here

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A palatable aftertaste: Anna Stroud reviews Ken Barris’s The Life of Worm and Other Misconceptions

Published in the Sunday Times

The Life of Worm The Life of Worm and Other Misconceptions
Ken Barris, Kwela
*****

The worlds depicted in The Life of Worm and Other Misconceptions are ordinary, mundane, bizarre and surreal, but always rooted in the beauty of language. Ken Barris is a craftsman – chiselling away at each sentence until it gleams with understated elegance. Three stand-out stories are the titular “The Life of Worm”, “The Olive Schreiner Stall” and “Poor William”. The raw emotion in each is familiar and discomfiting. In the first, we see a man imprisoned in his own paranoia. His house is a fortress and his dog is a beast; yet he still feels unsafe and simmers with rage at something as innocuous as a tree.

In the second, a victim of necklacing tries to reach out to the living from beyond the grave. He fails, in life and in death, to make connections. In “Poor William”, a man comes across a talking ape in his kitchen. This is a complex story, signalling how chance encounters can alter our perceptions forever.

The opening story, “To See the Mountain”, about a writers’ retreat in Cameroon, introduces writing as a major theme. The narrator and his friend wish to see a nearby mountain up close, and embark on a pilgrimage to get near it. Very little writing gets done, as in “The Grand Parade” when a writer sets up a makeshift office in a busy marketplace in Cape Town and witnesses the cruelty and desperation of humans, himself included.

The idea of writing as something that happens under pressure, and perhaps under siege, crescendos in “Really into Timeshare”, where readers can no longer afford to buy whole books and must settle for a few pages at a time.

The mood of the stories is at times gentle and melancholic, like a simple yet exquisite meal that lingers on your palate hours after the plates have been cleared. The collection imparts invaluable knowledge on writing, writers, history, culture, nature, relationships, and the human condition. – Anna Stroud @annawriter_

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Q&A with Nathan Hill

Published in the Sunday Times

The NixThe Nix
Nathan Hill, Pan Macmillan

If you could require our world leaders to read one book, what would it be?
For my own country’s leader, I would recommend Trump read Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, not only because of its lessons in introspection and self-knowledge, but also because, as one of the longest books in history, it might keep him occupied and away from Twitter for like a year or two.

Which books are on your bedside table?
After the success of The Nix, I’m being asked by editors and writers to “blurb” their books, which has been a great pleasure – it’s the first time in my life I’ve been able to read books before they come out! And for free! So my bedside table is filled with advance copies of novels that will be published next year.

What do you snack on when you write?
If the writing is going really well, I usually just completely detach from the world of physical things: I won’t hear the music playing, I won’t notice how long I’ve been sitting, and I won’t realise that I haven’t eaten anything in many hours. Which means that when I finish writing for the day I suddenly feel famished and cranky with hunger, which is pretty frustrating for my wife.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?
I did a lot of research for The Nix, but I’m not sure any of it would qualify as “strange”. I visited all the places where the riots of 1968 happened in Chicago. I read as many studies as I could find about the neurobiology of video game addiction. I watched YouTube video of American soldiers in Iraq traveling inside Bradley Fighting Vehicles. I found a certain Atari game from the ’80s so I could describe the noises it makes while you play it. I figured out the bureaucratic process by which the government places a person on the “no-fly list”. I walked around the campus of the University of Chicago for a whole day just to be able to accurately describe how terrible its architecture is. Things like that.

Has a book ever changed your mind about something?
This happens to me all the time, and I hope it happens to a lot of other readers too. I think it’s a requirement for being a good reader, that you have a mind that’s open enough for change. Otherwise, you’re just reading things you pre-agree with, which would be pretty boring.

You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?
I like to laugh over dinner, so I’d probably invite my favorite funny writers: Zadie Smith, whose White Teeth is not only brilliant but also hilarious; BJ Novak, who wrote a hysterical story collection called One More Thing, and also wrote a pretty funny TV show called The Office; and David Sedaris, who’s just as fun to listen to as to read.

What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?
When I was young, my parents found this set of books at a garage sale, which included reprints of books like 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea, Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island, The Call of the Wild, Lord of the Flies, even Moby Dick. I wouldn’t say that reading any one of those books in particular made me want to be a writer. Instead, it was the thrill of reading all of them – all the adventures I had, all the friends I made, in my head, in those pages – that made me want to write.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
Once on Christmas I received John Irving’s A Widow for One Year, and I finished it before New Year’s.

What is the last thing that you read that made you laugh out loud?
Touch by Courtney Maum, which came out in the States this summer. It’s a novel about a trend forecaster, and it has some hilarious things to say about technology.

What keeps you awake at night?
Binge-watching Game of Thrones. If I see an episode or two right before bed, I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll start obsessing about what Cersei’s up to, or start imagining assassins in the room.

What are you working on now?
I’ve been on tour for The Nix for more than a year now, and all this time the next novel has been marinating in my head. So when the tour is finished this fall, I’ll be able to get to work on this new story.

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Book Bites: 10 September 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Gather the DaughtersGather the Daughters
Jennie Melamed, Tinder Press
****
Given how long it takes to write and publish a book, it is unlikely that Jennie Melamed timed her debut novel to benefit from the popularity of the TV series based on The Handmaid’s Tale. Melamed is probably sick of having her book compared to Margaret Atwood’s. But it can’t hurt. Melamed’s fictional world, like Atwood’s, can be read as a dark allegory of patriarchy. Her central characters are children living on an island in a religious community cut off from “the wastelands” – the wider world into which only select male elders, the “wanderers”, may venture to bring back supplies and occasional fresh recruits. On the surface this is a gentle, pastoral life, but every time a girl-child is born, all the womenfolk wail and weep. The island way is to give fathers free access to their daughters until the girls reach “fruition”. Far from looking forward to the day when they can kick dad out of their beds, the daughters dread it because it signals no more summers of freedom. Until puberty bites, children run unfettered for a quarter of the year, roaming the island in naked, muddy packs. When one of these wildlings sees something she shouldn’t, it triggers a rebellion led by a 17-year-old who has staved off menstruation by starving herself. Melamed tells a stirring story in lucid, luminous language. – Sue de Groot @deGrootS1

GraceGrace
Barbara Boswell, Modjaji Books
*****
This gripping story tells of how a woman from Cape Town was subjected to abuse from her father. Later in life, Grace thinks she has overcome her hideous childhood until two people from her past make a reappearance in her life. Her suburban lifestyle is on the brink of collapse and it is only Grace that can save herself. The graphic details of the abuse that Grace endures is chilling. Her relationship with her father, and how she thinks she has “beaten” her past, makes the story so relatable and even more worthy of a reread. This book has earned every one of its five stars. – Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

Koh-i-NoorKoh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond
William Dalrymple & Anita Anand, Bloomsbury
****
The Koh-i-Noor brings out so many angry emotions, because it is at the centre of important historical issues: why is it still part of the crown jewels of England? Where does it belong? Dalrymple and Anand investigate the history, dismissing the mythology around the diamond. What they find, is what one suspected – there has been misappropriation by all sorts, along with plenty of torture and murders. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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Paradise found: Rosa Lyster reviews Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy

Published in the Sunday Times

PriestdaddyPriestdaddy
Patricia Lockwood, Allen Lane
*****
Patricia Lockwood’s career has always seemed like an exception to the rule. She is a very famous and successful poet at a time when such creatures are presumed no longer to exist. It’s not just her career, though. She has been an exception to the rule since the day she was born. The title of her memoir, Priestdaddy, is a reference to her father, a former atheist who underwent “the deepest conversion on record” after watching The Exorcist 88 times on a submarine while in the navy, became a Lutheran minister, and eventually applied for the dispensation from the Vatican which allows married ministers of another faith to become Catholic priests.

This seems like enough to be getting on with already, ie: rich autobiographical material. Married Catholic priests are rare, and Lockwood and her four siblings grew up viewing the church from an almost unique perspective. Her family is also dementedly eccentric, and Lockwood has done a great service to this world by getting them down on the page.

This isn’t even the half of it, though. I would read Lockwood describing a trip to the bank. I would read 1000 pages of her just explaining how a very boring piece of machinery worked. She is inspiredly, unforeseeably funny, and her powers of description are unmatched. She is on another planet, and her writing makes you wish you lived there also.

Priestdaddy has been described as “kooky” and “quirky” and “whimsical” – all those words used to indicate that a writer isn’t to be taken totally seriously, especially if that writer is a woman. This is rubbish, obviously. It is a very funny book, but also a serious one, about family, and religion, and how it feels to be a writer, and about learning how to understand the world.

Follow Rosa Lyster @rosalyster

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12 Quick Questions with Anthony Horowitz

Published in the Sunday Times

The Word is MurderThe Word is Murder
Anthony Horowitz, Century

Has a book ever changed your mind about something?
Yes. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari, changed the way I see the world and revised my opinion about eating meat (I now seldom do).

Who is your favourite fictional hero?
Sherlock Holmes.

What music helps you write?
Anything by composer Philip Glass.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?
I climbed up and operated a crane.

Do you keep a diary?
No, but I do keep a scrapbook.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Oversized. Exploded. And yet.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
War and Peace. Anna Karenina. I’m not good at Russian literature.

What’s more important to you: the way a book is written or what the book is about?
They are equally important. But I often read badly written books for research.

You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?
John Webster, Charles Dickens and Ian Fleming.

What book changed your life?
A Tintin book did — The Crab with the Golden Claws.

Do you finish every book that you start? If you don’t, how do you decide when to stop reading?
If I’m not enjoying the book and if I’m not gripped after about 100 pages, I often stop.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

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Book Bites: 3 September

Published in the Sunday Times

How to Stop TimeHow to Stop Time
Matt Haig, Canon
****
Book hug
Tom Hazard has anageria — a condition that causes him to age very slowly. So he might look as if he is 40 now but he is over 400 years old. Not a vampire, not a highlander — he is not immortal. There are rules though, as his mentor Henrich explains: “You are allowed to love food and music and champagne and rare sunny afternoons … but the love of people is off limits.” But Tom wants an ordinary life, one where he will find happiness, and so he chooses to live in London as a high-school history teacher. Except it reminds him of when he met Rose. Like The Time Traveler’s Wife, this works wonderfully as a modern take on a romance. It’s not too schmaltzy as Tom is a funny, dark character. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

The FriendThe Friend
Dorothy Koomson, Century
****
Book fling
Cece moves her three children to Brighton after her husband’s promotion. Her children’s new school is costly, cliquey, and has just become a crime scene. Yvonne, one of the parents, is found battered and left for dead in the school grounds. School mums Maxie, Anaya, and Hazel (Yvonne’s former friends) bring Cece into their fold. But police suspect that one or all were involved in the crime, and Cece starts to investigate her new friends. It is no easy trick to write a captivating read that bounces between the years as well as the main characters’ perspectives, but Koomson effortlessly carries it off, creating a fast-paced and absorbing read. -
Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

The Doll FuneralThe Doll Funeral
Kate Hamer, Faber & Faber
****
Book buff
There has been much anticipation for the follow-up to Kate Hamer’s extraordinary debut novel, The Girl in the Red Coat, and this meets every expectation. It centres around Ruby, who at 13 discovers that Mick and Barbara aren’t her real parents. Her search for her biological folks leads her into the forest where she discovers some children who will help solve her mysterious past. You’ll have to exercise patience and concentration; you’ll find yourself flipping back a few pages now and then for reference. However, the eventual outcome is worth every hour spent poring over this carefully crafted tale. – Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

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Angie Motshegka launches largest publication project for indigenous fiction at SABF

Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga launched the largest publication project for indigenous language fiction in South Africa’s history at this year’s SA book Fair on September 8.

The project is the brain child of publisher Via Afrika and is called WritePublishRead. It will give unpublished local writers of indigenous language fiction the chance to be published in their home language. By promoting writing in indigenous languages, the project aims to encourage South Africans to read more and invigorate the local publishing industry.

Less than 1% of books in South African libraries are in indigenous languages despite the fact that these are the home languages of 76% of the population. This lack of relevant reading materials contributes to an astounding 60% of South Africans living in a home without a single book. According to the South African Book Development Council, only 14% of South Africans read regularly so giving South Africans access to books digitally, via any mobile device, in the language of their choice, will have a massive impact on the country’s reading and literacy rates.

Similarly copyright industries contribute 4% to South Africa’s GDP. Meeting the under-serviced reading needs of 76% of the population will have a significant impact on the publishing industry. By giving black authors the tools to meet the needs of their own communities, WritePublishRead will transform the current publishing landscape and create opportunities for empowerment at an individual level.


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