Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

2017 Brittle Paper Literary Awards winners announced

The winners of the 2017 Brittle Papers Literary Awards has been announced! The awards recognise the “finest, original pieces of literature by Africans available online for free.”

As per the announcement:

We announced it to mark our seventh anniversary. Its five categories—Fiction ($200), Poetry ($200), Creative Nonfiction/Memoir ($200), Essays/Think Pieces ($200), and the Anniversary Award ($300) for writing published by us—reflect our efforts to capture the range and variations of literary dialogue on the continent. Across these five categories, 48 pieces of writing, each beautifully crafted and thought-provoking, were shortlisted based on their quality, significance and impact.


Read: The Brittle Paper Award for Essays/Think Pieces: Meet the Nominees

From a class of essays and think pieces that situate the African writer’s work within global conversations, we chose Sisonke Msimang’s brilliant commentary on black women as figures of intellectual power, “All Your Faves Are Problematic: A Brief History of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Stanning and #BlackGirlMagic.”

Msimang explores, with the eye of the scholar and pop culture critic, the forces that have contributed to Chimamanda Adichie’s dominance in the global imagination. The piece may be about Adichie in subject, but it is also driven by larger questions about how we produce knowledge in the age of social media. Drawing from a wide array of discursive fields – literature, feminism, politics, and fashio – Msimang offers a hard and searing look at how questions of race intersect with global intellectual iconography and social media culture.

“All Your Faves Are Problematic” is published by Africa is a Country, a remarkable intellectual project that has contributed immensely to changing the rules, practices, and conventions on how we produce knowledge about the continent.


Read: The Brittle Paper Award for Fiction: Meet the Nominees

From a box of ten short stories that range from the startling to the tragic, we chose Megan Ross’s aching romance, “Farang.” A study of intimacy and companionship set in Thailand and South Africa, a reflection on love and language, on foreknowledge and inevitability, “Farang” is wrought in visual prose so lyrical and controlled it moves like a spring. In “Farang,” we witness a dialogue among subject, style, and aesthetic experimentation, but one that is accessible in its complexity.

It is time, also, to salute the unrivaled work that Short Story Day Africa Prize is doing for short fiction on the continent. The prize’s top three entries for 2016, from the collective’s most recent anthology, Migrations, all made our shortlist. The collective has left its mark on the 2010s literary scene, and we are all the better for it.


Read: The Brittle Paper Award for Poetry: Meet the Nominees

From a pool of ten poems that range from stylistic daringness to psychological acuity, we chose J.K. Anowe’s thematically deviant, Self-centric “Credo to Leave.” An interrogation of psychological make-up, delivered in a voice grounded in vulnerability and deep existential pain, “Credo to Leave” is an entry point to an emerging sub-tradition in the poetry of Nigeria’s new generation. It is a sub-tradition preoccupied with the visceral, personal, and psychological—internal void, suicidal tendencies, masturbation, sex—with digging into the Self. Pegged in the psyche, its introspection—the focus on speaking into oneself rather than speaking out to the world—is an outlet for a confessional generation not afraid to voice its internal struggles and flaws, to make art of it. Given the emotional and psychological state of its voice, the wording of “Credo to Leave,” the abrupt clarity of it, demonstrates psychological acuity, clinical depression unadorned. “Credo to Leave” is a revolt.

“Credo to Leave” is published by Expound, a magazine that is often a conduit for the development of new talent, but J.K. Anowe’s emergence began from Praxis magazine’s poetry chapbook series. We recognize and applaud here the priceless work that homegrown platforms put in to usher in new voices, particularly as these platforms are themselves run by new voices.


Read: The Brittle Paper Award for Creative Nonfiction/Memoir: Meet the Nominees

From a collection of eight creative nonfiction pieces that range from the explosive to the breathtakingly innovative, we chose Hawa Jande Golakai’s witty rebuttal to stereotypes, “Fugee.” An affecting interrogation of the Ebola crisis in Liberia, as well as of identity and the life of an artist-cum-clinical scientist, “Fugee” is delivered in a beguiling blend of humorous, quotable, often-lyrical sentences. Golakai documents one of the most precarious moments for the African continent with the seriousness it deserves but also the private, subjective dimension it requires. The essay is the perfect modulation of distance and nearness, pain and humor, social commentary and the confessional. In many ways, “Fugee” exemplifies, in the deftness of its composition and the humaneness of its delivery, Ellah Allfrey’s notion of a “specifically African genre of creative nonfiction.”

Golakai’s piece is available to read for free on, but it was originally published in Safe House, a groundbreaking nonfiction collection edited by Ellah Allfrey.


Read: The Brittle Paper Anniversary Award: Meet the Nominees

From a mix of twelve conversation-driving fiction, poetry and nonfiction published on our site, we chose Chibuihe Obi’s brave, impactful “We’re Queer, We’re Here.” A query into the paucity of Nigerian literature about queerness and an expatiation of the immediate violence that so empowers homophobia, Obi’s work is all the more important given the unfortunate circumstance of his kidnapping – which only strengthens his work’s premise. Published, in a weird coincidence, on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the essay racked up 2,000 views in its first week, and more than 6,000 views in its first five weeks and, five months later, is inching towards 8,000 views, at a rate that might move it into our top-20 most-viewed posts within months.

Congratulations to Sisonke Msimang, Megan Ross, J.K. Anowe, Hawa Jande Golakai and Chibuihe Obi.

» read article

Floating on words and beauty

Published in the Sunday Times

Nirox Words provides a space where the spoken word is presented as an art form, writes Kate Sidley.

You know those relaxation exercises where you’re told to imagine you are in your beautiful, happy place? Well, if the new Nirox Words festival is as good as its programme promises, it’ll be just like what I imagine my happy place to be – in a gorgeous garden, sipping something delicious, with brilliant conversation, and the burble of a river and strains of guitar in the air.

Nirox Words is a festival themed around words, their meaning, their beauty and their power to move and transform us and our world.

“Words traverse all the arts, all genres,” says Benji Liebmann, founder of the Nirox Foundation, and the man behind the festival. “They are integral to music, to performance art, to literature and to visual arts. This festival fully integrates literature with all the other arts.”

The aim is to weave the genres together, says Batya Bricker, who co-ordinates the book-related programme: “Books exist in the entertainment and art space, as opposed to the purely literary space.”

Music, sculpture, poetry, film, conversations, food, sometimes in combination – food with books, books with music. Words are there in every incarnation: written, spoken and sung – informing, questioning, entertaining and enlightening. The programme is diverse and surprising.


In the music line-up, for instance, there’s something called “Words in Memoriam”, recreating the words – and music – of visionaries and activists who are no longer around. Shotgun Tori sings Leonard Cohen, Tidal Waves plays Bob Marley classics. Urban Village pays tribute to Miriam Makeba’s music, and Chris Chameleon performs Ingrid Jonker’s poems.

Nirox itself is a drawcard – 15ha of parkland, meticulously landscaped to look like a vision of natural beauty – sweeping green lawns, winding pathways and hidden corners. The outside venue has informed the choice and format of events – relaxed, and more conversation than presentation. So the bookish chats will take place in fresh air, and be more about conversation than presentation.

The landscape also showcases the visual arts programme, which centres around sculptor Willem Boshoff, the recent winner of the Villa Extraordinary Award for Sculpture 2017/18. “Words are a fascination of his and have been a thread running through his work. He uses words of all kinds, including Braille, in a mischievous kind of way,” says Liebmann.

There are a number of firsts and one-offs on the programme. Excerpts from Mazisi Kunene’s epic poem Emperor Shaka the Great will be presented in SA for the first time, performed by his daughter, Lamakhosi, and others, in English and Zulu, and accompanied by Mazisi’s brother Madala Kunene, renowned Zulu guitarist. You can also catch a screening of Inxeba (The Wound), SA’s Oscar hopeful, with a preceding talk by director John Trengove.


There’s poetry, curated by poet-in-residence and Sol Plaatje Poetry Award Winner Atholl Williams. Bring your own (or someone else’s) words to the open mic Poet Tree (Poet Tree/poetry, geddit?). And there’s a kids’ programme, which includes Gcina Mhlope, everyone’s favourite storyteller.

And when you’re all out of words, head for one of the programme’s most intriguing offerings – a wordless performance of Othello in the ancient Indian tradition of Kathakali, which relies on gesture to tell the story. Because, as Liebmann says: “I’m not sure that words are always the best way to approach the world. You engage through intellect rather than emotion or instinct. So we deal with words in their absence as well as their presence.”

Enough said.

Nirox Words take place on October 21 and 22. A day ticket is R320, R480 for the weekend. For information, go to

» read article

Lincoln in the Bardo wins 2017 Man Booker Prize

The 2017 Man Booker Prize has been announced!

As per the press release:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is named winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Lincoln in the Bardo is the first full-length novel from George Saunders, internationally renowned short story writer.

The 58-year-old New York resident, born in Texas, is the second American author to win the prize in its 49-year history. He was in contention for the prize with two British, one British-Pakistani and two American writers.

Lola, Baroness Young, 2017 Chair of judges, comments:

‘The form and style of this utterly original novel, reveals a witty, intelligent, and deeply moving narrative. This tale of the haunting and haunted souls in the afterlife of Abraham Lincoln’s young son paradoxically creates a vivid and lively evocation of the characters that populate this other world. Lincoln in the Bardo is both rooted in, and plays with history, and explores the meaning and experience of empathy.’

Lincoln in the Bardo focuses on a single night in the life of Abraham Lincoln: an actual moment in 1862 when the body of his 11-year-old son was laid to rest in a Washington cemetery. Strangely and brilliantly, Saunders activates this graveyard with the spirits of its dead. The Independent described the novel as ‘completely beguiling’, praising Saunders for concocting a ‘narrative like no other: a magical, mystery tour of the bardo – the “intermediate” or transitional state between one’s death and one’s next birth, according to Tibetan Buddhism.’ Meanwhile, the Guardian wrote that, ‘the short story master’s first novel is a tale of great formal daring…[it] stands head and shoulders above most contemporary fiction, showing a writer who is expanding his universe outwards, and who clearly has many more pleasures to offer his readers.’

Saunders told TIME magazine that he didn’t really want to write about Lincoln, ‘but was so captivated by this story I’d heard years ago about him entering his son’s crypt. I thought of the book as a way of trying to instil the same reaction I’d had all those years ago.’

Lincoln in the Bardo is published by Bloomsbury, making it the third consecutive year the prize has been won by an independent publisher, following Oneworld Publications’ success in 2015 with Marlon James and 2016 with Paul Beatty. Bloomsbury has won the prize three times before, with Howard Jacobson (2010), Margaret Atwood (2000) and Michael Ondaatje (1992).

Saunders’ win comes in the month that 1989 Booker Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro was named as this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature recipient. Ishiguro follows in the footsteps of other Booker Prize-recognised authors who have gone on to win the award including: V. S. Naipaul, Nadine Gordimer, William Golding, J. M. Coetzee and Doris Lessing.

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:

‘We are pleased to congratulate George Saunders, along with each of the shortlisted authors, for his fantastic achievement this year. At Man Group, we are extremely proud to be sponsoring the world’s foremost literary prize and celebrating exceptional literary talent for a fifteenth year. We understand the importance of intellectual capital and creative thought – and indeed, the ability to view the world from different lenses matters more than ever today, in this age of rapid and inexorable change. We also believe that businesses like ours have an important duty to advance progress in education at every level: from prizes like this, which recognise global talent, to the local grassroots initiatives championed by the Booker Prize Foundation and the Man Charitable Trust, which we are honoured to support.’

Lola, Baroness Young was joined on the 2017 judging panel by the literary critic, Lila Azam Zanganeh; the Man Booker Prize shortlisted novelist, Sarah Hall; the artist, Tom Phillips CBE RA; and the travel writer and novelist, Colin Thubron CBE. The judges considered 144 submissions for this year’s prize.

George Saunders’ win was announced by Lola Young at a dinner at London’s Guildhall. He was presented with a trophy from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and a £50,000 cheque by Luke Ellis, Chief Executive of Man Group. Saunders also receives a designer bound edition of his book and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted.

At the event, which was broadcast live on the BBC News Channel, actors Maxine Peake, Rhashan Stone and Olivia Williams, read extracts from the shortlisted books. All the shortlisted authors attended alongside a number of former winners.

George Saunders will take part in his first official public event as winner at a New Statesman-partnered event at Foyles Charing Cross Road on Thursday 19 October 2017.

Royal Mail is again issuing a congratulatory postmark featuring the winner’s name, which will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail nationwide on Wednesday 18 October and Friday 20 October 2017. It will say ‘Congratulations to George Saunders, winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize’.

Man Group, an active investment management firm, has sponsored the prize since 2002.

Lincoln in the Bardo

Book details

» read article

Shortlist for 2017 South African Literary Awards announced

2017 marks the highest milestone of South African Literary Awards (SALA), as the shortlist includes, for the first time, the !Xam and !Kun languages.

Listed under the Posthumous Literary Awards, five legendary contributors are drawn from Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd collection of !Xam and !Kun narratives, verses, songs, chants, drawings and other materials consisting of over 150 notebooks running in some 13 000 pages which is considered a unique cultural and literary collection which has been recognised by United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Council (UNESCO) and entered into the memory of the World Register.

The materials deal with the land, the rain, the history of the first people, the origin of the moon and stars, animals, cosmology, beliefs, ceremonies, art and information of the
individual lives of the informants who had come to Cape Town as prisoners of the British Crown and were released into Bleek’s custody at his residence in Mowbray for linguistic and cultural research.

Also interesting is the shortlist list under the Translators Literary award consisting of William Wellington Gqoba: Isizwe Esinembali, Xhosa Histories And Poetry (1873 – 1888), DLP.Yali-Manisi: Iimbali Zamanyange, Historical Poems and The Thirstland Trek: 1874 – 1881. While the Creative Non- Fiction Award has The Keeper Of The Kumm: Ancestral Longing And Belonging Of A Boesmankind, by Sylvia Vollenhoven, My Own Liberator by Judge Dikgang Moseneke and Emily Hobhouse – Geliefde Verraaier by Elsabé Brits.

The shortlist goes on to list under the Lifetime Achievement Literary Award, South Africa’s legendary Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa, who is largely respected for his predictions of world events, including the destruction of New York’s World Trade Centre in 2001, the 1976 June 16 Uprising, HIV, Chris Hani’s assassination, load shedding and the ousting of President Thabo Mbeki. Mutwa shares the category with other literary stalwarts, Aletta Matshedisð Motimele, who is revered for her Sepedi works and Etienne van Heerden, an academic and prolific Afrikaans author.

“Indeed, as its main aim, SALA continues to strive to become the most prestigious and respected literary accolades in South African literature,” says Ms Sindiswa Seakhoa, director at wRite associates, founders of SALA, in partnership with the department of Arts and Culture in 2005.

Since its inception in 2005, to date, SALA has honoured 160 authors in 11 categories in all official South African languages. SALA also boasts legacy programmes including:
- The National Poet Laureate Programme and the Keorapetse Kgositsile Lecture, in honour of the Poet Laureate, Prof Keorapetse Kgositsile.
- The Miriam Tlali Reading and Book Club, in honour of the late Miriam Tlali.
- Band of Troubadours, a publication comprising the work of the SALA recipients
- Africa Century International African Writers Conference and International African
Writers Day Lecture, established in 2012.

The conference is set to become a Mecca of who is who of the African literati, the Diaspora and the entire globe where the celebration of African letters occupies centre stage.

This historical gathering of literary intellectuals and authors from across the world, is, as the then-OAU’s Conference of African Ministers of Education and Culture (meeting in Coutonou, Benin, in 1991) resolved, “… to afford the African people a moment of pause within which to reflect on the contribution of African Writers to the development of the Continent”.

Both the 2017 South African Literary Awards ceremony and Conference will take place on the 7th November at Kgorong Building, UNISA. This is partnership by the wRite associates, the department of Arts and Culture and the Department of Afrikaans and Theory of Literature, UNISA.

The theme for the conference is “The Writer as a Drum Major of Conscience, Restoration & Transformation”, with the sub-theme being “The Establishment of the South African Writers Organization”.

Prof Zodwa Motsa, a Fulbright Scholar, a Researcher, Writer and Social Engineer, who has served as Head of the Department: English Studies (UNISA) from 2006 -2011 and currently serving as the Country Director at UNISA’s Ethiopia Centre for Graduate Studies in Addis Ababa, since 2012, will deliver the sixth International African Writers Day Lecture and Prof Nhlanhla Maake, an academician, novelist, dramatist, literary critic, and language activist will deliver the response. Prof Andries Oliphant, author, poet, literary scholar and cultural policy advisor, will lead the seminar on the establishment of South Africa’s writers’ organization.

Category: First-time Published Author Award

Amy Jephta, Kristalvlakte
Moses Shimo Seletisha, Tšhutšhumakgala
Mohale Mashigo, The Yearning

Category: k.Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award

Kopano Matlwa, Period Pain
Nthikeng Mohlele, Pleasure

Category: Poetry Award

Helen Moffett, Prunings
Ronelda S Kamfer, Hammie
Simphiwe Ali Nolutshungu, Iingcango Zentliziyo

Category: Creative Non- Fiction Award

Dikgang Moseneke, My Own Liberator
Elsabé Brits, Emily Hobhouse – Geliefde Verraaier
Sylvia Vollenhoven, The Keeper Of The Kumm

Category: Literary Journalism Award

Don Makatile: His oeuvre
Phakama Mbonambi: His oeuvre

Category: Literary Translators Award

Bridget Theron-Bushell The Thirstland Trek: 1874 – 1881 (Afrikaans to English)
Jeff Opland, Wandile Kuse and Pamela Maseko William Wellington Gqoba: Isizwe Esinembali Xhosa Histories And Poetry (1873 – 1888) (isiXhosa to English)
Jeff Opland and Pamela Maseko DLP.Yali-Manisi: Iimbali Zamanyange, Historical Poems (isiXhosa to English)

Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award

Nick Mulgrew, Stations
Roela Hattingh, Kamee

Category: Posthumous Literary Award

|A!kunta: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)
!Kabbo: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)
≠Kasin: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)
Dia!kwain: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)
|Han≠kass’o: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

Category: Lifetime Achievement Literary Award

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa: Body of work
Aletta Matshedisð Motimele: Body of work
Etienne Van Heerden: Body of work

Category: Chairperson’s Award

The recipient will be announced at the award ceremony

Book details



The Yearning


Period Pain







My Own Liberator


Emily Hobhouse


Keeper of the Kumm


The Thirstland Trek


William Wellington Gqoba: Isizwe esinembali


DLP Yali-Manisi: Iimbali Zamanyange





» read article

Andrew Salomon’s new short story collection available as free eBook until 17 October!

A PSA from Andrew Salomon!

Hello story lovers,

I’d like to let you know that my short story collection Dark Shenanigans: A collection of eleven stories is now available as a free eBook download on Amazon, until 17 October.

Here’s a blurb:
When a foreigner accused of stealing honey is brought to the police station on the Greek island of Kythnos, Sergeant Laziridis’s uneventful night is about to take a very unexpected turn. A man regains consciousness and finds himself the only diner in a strange restaurant with some remarkable staff and a dinner literally prepared to be the meal of his life. Things fall badly apart on a newly-terraformed Mars. And then there’s the pair of midwives from a secret society you never want to cross…

These tales and much more await in this weirdly wonderful speculative fiction short story collection. Dark Shenanigans includes the PEN Literary Award-winning story A Visit To Dr Mamba and the 2015 Short.Sharp.Story best story Train 124.

You can download the collection here.

So go and grab it while it’s hot off the virtual press, and until 17 October for free!

I hope you enjoy the stories, and if you do, please rate and review the collection on Amazon.

Happy reading,

» read article

Historic sale of the huge Thorold’s Bookshop collection

An interior shot of Thorold’s Bookshop. © Madelene Cronjé

Frank R. Thorold established Thorold’s Bookshop in downtown Johannesburg in 1904. It was originally a sewing shop with some books but became the oldest and most renowned bookshop in the city over the course of the 20th Century. Robyn Fryde bought the bookshop in 1962 and continued to grow the reputation of this excellent Africana, legal and general bookshop. Upon Fryde’s passing Neillen van Kraayenburg acquired, and moved, the in excess of 150 000 books to purpose made buildings on his property in Kya Sands in Randburg. (See a recent Mail & Guardian article on Thorold’s.)

Sadly, Neillen passed away two years ago. Now the entire collection of more than 30 000 general books is going on sale at Thorold’s under the auspices of Bookdealers, at ridiculously reduced prices starting at R20. The sale will held be on Friday 27, Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 from 9am to 5pm. Extra discounts on purchases of more than 10 books will be given on Saturday (10%) and Sunday (25%). A gourmet food truck will be on site offering meat and vegetarian options. Highlights include:

* CHILDREN’S BOOKS… and every other subject under the African Sun… ***

Thorold’s Bookshop
Cnr Orleans and Homestead Roads, Kya Sands, Randburg

Link to Google map:

Directions: Turn off the N1 at Malibongwe. Proceed along Malibongwe towards Olivedale and Northgate. Cross over President Fouche. Cross over Bellairs/Olievenhout Ave. Cross over Northumberland/Witkoppen road. Turn right into River road. Turn left into Bernie St which becomes Homestead road. Look out for Thorold’s on the right on the corner of Orleans road.

For more information contact:
Chris: 083 463 3989,
Doron: 082 452 1441 or Merwelene: 082 414 9829

» read article

On evil’s own trail: Michele Magwood reviews Retribution Road

Published in the Sunday Times

Retribution RoadRetribution Road
Antonin Varenne, MacLehose Press

Don’t be put off by the cowboy on the cover and the words “adventure story”. This is no cartoon Wild West tale, although guns are slung and whisky is drunk in quantity. Antonin Varenne is a French author who has won several prestigious awards in France for his noir novels. Here he travels back to the 19th century, where we meet the British mercenary Arthur Bowman, one of the East India Company’s private army of some 300 000 soldiers. He’s a vicious killer and a charismatic leader, but a mission in Burma ends up with his company captured and tortured.

Bowman barely survives and returns to the slums of London where he sinks into alcohol and opium addiction. When a corpse turns up bearing the same markings of torture that he suffered in Burma, he sets off to hunt the killer, convinced it is one of his men.

Bowman trails the man to America and follows his tracks across the vast young country. It is a pacy, vivid tale that moves at rapid speed for 500 pages and twists and turns like a thriller. Varenne breathes extraordinary life into history, from the junks on a Burmese river, to the Great Stink of London when the Thames dried up, to the gold mines of Colorado and virgin ranches of the Sierra Nevada. He captures the creak and suffocation of stagecoaches, the terror of working women protesters shot in New York, the tedium of sea crossings and the blinding vistas of the New World.

It is an intriguing blend of quest tale, detective story, Western and war drama, with an unusual love interest stirred in – but underneath it all are serious questions about the nature of courage and honour, and whether an evil man can ever be redeemed. – Michele Magwood @michelemagwood

Book details

» read article

Jacket Notes: Leopold Scholtz on why he had to tell the stories of the Charlie Squadron in Ratels on the Lomba

Published in the Sunday Times

Ratels on the LombaRatels on the Lomba
Leopold Scholtz Jonathan Ball Publishers

In certain respects, the Border War has been to many South Africans an embarrassing conflict that is best ignored. But, of course, the war is part of our history and will not simply fade away. At the end of 1987, a group of national servicemen who fought in Operation Moduler – the SADF’s campaign in southeastern Angola to aid UNITA against an Angolan offensive – were demobilised. This happened after three months in which boredom alternated with tension, fear of death and blood.

These men were let go with almost no psychological treatment. In addition, it happened after they were involved in the biggest conventional pitched battles on the African continent after the demise of the German Afrika Korps in May 1943, in which they all but obliterated an entire Angolan brigade.

They were told not to talk about what they had experienced. Besides, how do you explain the extreme violence which has scarred your psyche for life?

Having been cut off for decades after demobilisation, the men of one such unit, Charlie Squadron of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group, started making contact with each other again. Many of them had known alcohol and drugs intimately. Psychologically, many were shattered.

In 2014 they held a reunion in Bloemfontein. And out came tumbling all the stories, the hardship, the fear they shared. It was a weekend of catharsis.

There the idea started: What they went through should be documented for posterity. Some of the men had never even spoken to their wives and children about their war experiences.

One Monday in 2014, I received an e-mail from Captain (ret.) PJ Cloete, who had been the officer commanding Charlie Squadron. Would I be interested in writing a book about his unit?

I prevaricated at first. But the more I dug into the matter, the more the grassroots experiences of the 84 men in the unit fascinated me. Here you had a collection of young white men, mostly 19 years old, who had to grow up extremely fast to survive a situation where it is literally a question of kill or be killed.

But their experiences were, in effect, denied by society and criminalised. They had lost their voice. That was the purpose of my book – to give these men, now nearing their 50s, their voices back.

Book details

» read article

The Single Story Foundation Journal is launched

The editors of TSSF Journal are excited to announce the launch of its inaugural issue. Our journal is an online journal. You can read individual published pieces on our newly designed website: And, you can also read and download the entire journal too at

“The TSSF Journal is one of the new publications offering opportunities to accommodate the exploding literary culture that is sweeping the African landscape and diaspora,” Tiah Beautement, managing editor of TSSF Journal said. “We hope you enjoy the results of our team’s endeavor. ”

Our contributors include writers from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Somali and Britain, and Cameroon. They are Lauri Kubuitsile, Athol Williams, Efe Ogufere, Timi Odueso, Ahmad Holderness, O.J. Nwankwo, Taiye Ojo, Torinmo Salau, Fahima Hersi, Rešoketšwe Manenzhe, Helen Nde, Ané Breytenbach, Muwanwu Sikhitha, Ifeanyichukwu Eze, C.J. Nelson, and Carey Baraka.

We have gotten a lot of rave reviews about the aesthetic of our journal and we recommend you read the journal in its ready for print form.

About this issue: Wale Owoade, founder and publisher of EXPOUND Magazine said, “The design is stunning. TSSF Journal guys have done a great job and the cover is mind blowing.”

Tiah Beautement, Genna Gardini, and Tolu Daniel edited this issue. The TSSF Journal will be open for submissions for its second issue on January 2, 2018. For further information, please contact Tiah Beautement at

» read article

Q&A with Jack Higgins

Published in the Sunday Times

The Midnight BellThe Midnight Bell
Jack Higgins, HarperCollins

Which book changed your life?
As a child, Oliver Twist and in my teens, The Great Gatsby made me think I had to be a writer.

What music helps you write?
All types of music.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?
Exploring wrecks at depths in the Virgin Islands when researching U-boats.

Do you keep a diary?
No, but I do keep a day book which is different because it handles truth and can’t be escaped.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?
As a child, Errol Flynn. Saw his Robin Hood lately and it was still wonderful with Claude Rains as King John.

Which words do you most overuse?
Others would have to tell.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
The Harry Potter series.

Has a book ever changed your mind about something?
Quite a bit of what Winston Churchill wrote, covering the nature of war and the bravery of ordinary human beings.

You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?
Frederick Forsyth, Agatha Christie and Alistair MacLean, a genuine friend who gave me great encouragement.

Do you finish every book that you start? If you don’t, how do you decide when to stop reading?
No, I stop reading a book if it is boring the hell out of me!

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
A copy of The Distant Summer, written by my eldest daughter, Sarah Patterson, when she was 15. A World War 2 story set in a village in England close to a Lancaster bomber station where a 16-year-old vicar’s daughter falls in love with a young rear gunner whose burned hands have ruined his future. A heartbreaking, wonderful book. You’ll cry.

Book details

» read article