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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

Jacket Note: Rafique Gangat on his book Bending the Rules

Published in the Sunday Times

Bending the RulesBending The Rules: From De Klerk to Mandela – Stories of a Pioneering Diplomat
Rafique Gangat (Kwela)
Bending the rules, challenging the system, finding common ground, making a difference – and sometimes paying the price for it – has been the story of my life. I have many stories to tell, and always wanted to share them, but I had no idea where to begin.

A few years back, it started as a selection of short stories that could have only happened in South Africa. I was South Africa’s first diplomat of colour – I worked for Foreign Affairs under the National Party and then for the ANC government, straddling the transition.

This book documents my battles against bigotry and prejudice, but also includes stories from my travels – which then gave it an entirely different complexion. Finally, they assumed a life of their own as they threaded themselves into a memoir of short stories.

The manuscript went into hibernation until a meeting with Professor Brian Polkinghorn of Salisbury University. He was teaching a course on conflict resolution and mitigation at Tel Aviv University and was accompanied by a group of his Israeli and Palestinian students. I met them to discuss the role I had played as a talkshow host on a radio station, facilitating dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. A project that was untimely curtailed.

I mentioned to Brian that I had written a collection of short stories. He expressed an interest and I e-mailed them. He responded: “What an interesting set of stories! I can’t help but think you are a ‘character’ that has made it through some incredibly tough and historic times due to the sheer intellectual prowess and guts one needs to pull off some of the things you have accomplished. I think these short stories act as bursts of insight on all matters social. Love, drugs, music, morals, immorality, oppression, racism, sports, pulling fast ones, working with historical figures, and, in all of that, seeing the irony, innocence and contradiction.” That encouraged me to seek a publisher.

Later, he even honoured me by inviting me to Salisbury to be their keynote speaker on their annual theme – ‘One person can make made a difference’. To the theme, I added, ‘By Bending the Rules’. That’s where the title of the book came from.

And then I met JM Coetzee at PALFEST, a festival of literature in Palestine, and I was bowled over by a note he sent: “This is just a note to thank you for Bending the Rules, which I read during the flight back to Australia and enjoyed very much.” – Rafique Gangat

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Applications for ANFASA Grant Scheme for Authors now open

ANFASA, the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors’ Association of South Africa, announces the next round of the grant scheme to benefit authors of academic and general non-fiction works

What is a “general non-fiction work”? Just as an example, it could be a biography or an autobiography; a history of a town or a region or a religion; a book about music or sport or theatre; a political or social analysis; an account of everyday life in a township; a book about nursing, or cooking, or fashion, or fishes, or traditional medicines, or cars – those are just a few of the many topics supported by the ANFASA grant scheme in the past.

If you are currently working on a scholarly or a general non-fiction work, you are eligible to apply. However, although we accept applications from authors whether or not they are ANFASA members, only ANFASA members may actually receive an award. The grants are intended to provide a sum of around R20 000 to R25 000 to be used for an author to “buy time” – to take leave, for instance, and devote herself or himself to writing; or to travel in order to conduct research. The grants are for research and writing and do not cover the cost of publishing the manuscript.

An independent committee will assess the applications and select the most deserving. The selection committee aims to offer awards to a wide-ranging group of authors and subjects, and the selection process will respect the need to treat new and experienced authors equally; to bear in mind authors writing in rural as well as urban locations; and to consider authors at all levels of education from the untutored to the degreed. The ANFASA grant scheme especially encourages writing by new authors. Applications for books written in all the official languages will be equally considered.

Go to to apply online or send an e-mail to The closing date for applications is 30 September, and the successful applications will be announced in December.

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“Hamba kahle, Emma!” Doyenne of South Africa’s trade union movement passes away

Prominent trade union veteran, women’s and human rights activist, and former Restitution of Land Rights Commissioner Emma Mashinini has passed away in her home in Pretoria at midnight last night at the age 87.

Mrs Mashinini is regarded as the doyenne of the trade union movement in South Africa, serving as a shop steward on the National Union of Clothing Workers (NUCW) and a founder of the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) in 1975. She was integrally involved in the establishment of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in 1985.

Mrs Mashinini played several prominent roles in the transition to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s.

Funeral arrangements are being finalised and details will be communicated in due course.

Terry Morris, MD of Picador and Pan Macmillan, paid homage to this remarkable woman:

The feisty and inspirational Emma Mashinini has passed away at age 87. Emma’s memoir, Strikes Have Followed me All my Life was originally published by The Women’s Press UK in 1989 and republished by Picador Africa in South Africa in 2012 with a new foreword by Jay Naidoo.

It was a privilege to publish her book and to have her as an author on our list.

Hamba kahle Emma!

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Franschhoek Literary Festival 2017: the podcasts

The quaint Western Cape town of Franschhoek recently played host to the country’s literary greats for the eleventh annual Franschhoek Literary Festival.

In between dashing from shady spot to shady spot, consuming copious amounts of Porcupine Ridge wine and buying books, festival-goers attended panel discussions with a vast range of topics. If you couldn’t make it this year, or happened to miss a discussion, we’ve got you covered.

Click here to listen to the recordings of the 2017 discussions.

(To those of us who were there – do you now get why we had to turn our phones off…)

From victim to survivor (Old School Hall): Michelle Hattingh (I’m the Girl Who Was Raped) uncovers stories of courage, faith and perseverance in the face of opposition and adversity as told by Grizelda Grootboom (Exit), Lindiwe Hani (Being Chris Hani’s Daughter) and Shamim Meer (Memories of Love and Struggle).)


How powerful are Constitutions? (New School Hall): Tembeka Ngcukaitobi speaks to three human rights advocates – former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs, author Deborah Lipstadt and author and professor of law at University College London Philippe Sands – about the role of a country’s constitution in protecting human rights.


Rattling the cage of discrimination (Old School Hall): Sifiso Ndlovu (The Thabo Mbeki I Know), Anastacia Tomson (Always Anastacia), Griffin Shea and Marianne Thamm (Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me) interrogate the systems that divide South Africans, and how we can dismantle them.


Crossing the arts (Elephant & Barrel): ‘Polyartists’ Carol Mashigo (actor/writer), Rian Malan (writer/musician) and Sam Wilson (film producer /writer) tell Africa Melane about the crossover between their various artistic lives and what they mean to them.

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Read an excerpt from Hedley Twidle’s Firepool in the new issue of the JRB

The latest issue of the Johannesburg Review of Books is out now and contains an excerpt from Hedley Twidle’s Firepool: Experiences in an Abnormal World, a chronicle of South Africa in the ‘second transition’ – one in which the foundations of the post-apartheid settlement are being shaken and questioned in all kinds of ways.

From the complex legacy of artists like Moses Taiwa Molelekwa and JM Coetzee to the #FeesMustFall protests, from the N2 highway to the gnawing uncertainty of our nuclear future, Hedley Twidle treats serious subjects with a sense of playfulness, mischief and imagination.

Read Twidle’s essay on three South African men who contributed to the country’s music and literature scene in the 1990, yet passed away at the age of 27:

Phaswane Mpe (1970–2004)
Moses Taiwa Molelekwa (1973–2001)
K Sello Duiker (1974–2005)

Three talented men, three great hopes for a post-apartheid South African culture, gone too soon. The first an academic and novelist, author of the strange and prophetic short work Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001). The second a pianist and composer, whose major works are Finding One’s Self (1993) and Genes and Spirits (1998), with Wa Mpona (2002), Darkness Pass (2004) and several live albums released posthumously. The third, the author of two key novels of the South African transition – Thirteen Cents (2000) and The Quiet Violence of Dreams (2001) – who was working as a screenwriter at SABC1 when he took his own life.

If Molelekwa carried the hopes of South African music in the 1990s, then for literature perhaps it was Duiker and Mpe. Yet each of these talented, troubled men would be dead before the end of South Africa’s first decade as a democracy, leaving a great sense of sorrow and emptiness. For me they are bracketed together: discovered together (late). What they share (Taiwa and Sello especially): earnestness, naivety. A voice that was vulnerable, that was still in the process of working itself out. The occasional false notes that come with the ambition of trying to get somewhere else, somewhere new. Also: an unwillingness to talk about the circumstances of their deaths. Can one listen to the 1990s through their work, at a time when the 1990s seems very far away, when a period that you lived through has now become historical?


In an interview, pianist Moses Molelekwa named his three biggest influences as Abdullah Ibrahim, Herbie Hancock and Bheki Mseleku. Ibrahim for his hard-won simplicity; Herbie for the way he treats the keyboard as a site of restless experimentation; Mseleku for his merging of jazz techniques and southern African melodic lines.

In finding out more about Bheki Mseleku – who suffered from diabetes and bipolar affective disorder, who spent two years on retreat in a Buddhist temple and many more in exile – I learned that he had once met Alice Coltrane in Newport. Here she gave him the mouthpiece that John Coltrane had used during the recording of A Love Supreme. When Mseleku returned to South Africa in 1994, this was taken during a burglary in Johannesburg – an event which, according to his 2008 obituary, ‘seriously destabilised him’. The mouthpiece Coltrane used in the recording of ‘Prayer’ and ‘Ascent’, a mouthpiece which he bit into, and which would have carried his teeth marks – this went missing in Johannesburg, perhaps dumped in a skip or a storm drain, perhaps finding its way to an unwitting musician. For weeks I carried around this footnote, stunned, not really knowing what to do with it.


‘Does life begin at 40?’ asked an online tribute to a South African pianist and composer who died in 2001 at the age of 27: ‘That’s the time signature Moses Taiwa Molelekwa would have reached on Wednesday, 17 April 2013.’

‘Time signature’ is a musical term for the number of beats in a bar. I want to stretch it to consider the musical signature of a time – 1994 to 2004, the first ten years of South African democracy – that is by now a historical period. Now when an album like Molelekwa’s Genes and Spirits or a book like K Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams, which once seemed so contemporary, have become period pieces. So what does it mean to listen to those years, in both Molelekwa’s playing and the verbal signature of Duiker’s prose?

Continue reading here.

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Jacket Notes: Niël Barnard discusses the backstory of his book Peaceful Revolution

Published in the Sunday Times

Peaceful RevolutionPeaceful Revolution
Niël Barnard (Tafelberg)

There was no shortage of inspiration for this book, a sequel to Secret Revolution (Tafelberg, 2015). In fact, here and there I was asked to tone down my “enthusiasm” for some politicians and their not-so-admirable ways.

From a young age I never shied from the heat at the proverbial coalface. To be honest, I was attracted to it – not for the sake of sensation but for the opportunity to make a contribution where and when it really mattered.

While lecturing in political science at the age of 30, I was asked to head the National Intelligence Service. A defining part of my stint there was the secret talks, started in May 1988, which I held with Nelson Mandela while he was still in prison. This led to his release, the unbanning of the liberation movements and almost four years of tense transitional negotiations – the topic of Peaceful Revolution. For good reason the subtitle speaks of the “war room” at the negotiations. Fight, we surely did, and not only with political opponents but also among ourselves on the government’s side. So much was at stake: a lasting conflict or prospects for peace, for starters.

I try to shed light on the real issues, the personalities and the forces that determined the outcome of the peace process. As a member of the government’s negotiating team and having had the experience of (informally) negotiating with Mandela, I was in a unique position to observe, take part in and assess the momentous events leading to April 27 1994.

Acquaintances will know that I am a straight-talker who doesn’t mince words. I see no reason to spare ex-president FW de Klerk or his security czar, Kobie Coetsee, any criticism – the former for his wavering and lacklustre leadership and the latter for his baffling manoeuvres. The same applies to the obstinate Mangosuthu Buthelezi (often equalled by Cyril Ramaphosa) and the sometimes petulant Mandela.

But despite the heated debates and public posturing on all sides we shared a deep commitment to work towards peace and prosperity.

On numerous occasions this patriotic spirit provided the glue which kept the process on track.

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Here’s to misbehaving: the launch of Malebo Sephodi’s Miss Behave

Over a hundred people grouped together on the third floor. Straightforward conversations about the clitoris. An author rocking red lipstick and a bad-ass pair of Converses. Rosebank Mall was never ready for the launch of Malebo Sephodi’s Miss Behave, a memoir chronicling the life of a remarkable, outspoken, and witty woman.

The festivities – yes, this launch was a celebration and not just a congregation of bibliophiles honouring a writer’s work – kicked off with a decolonised version of our national anthem. Panel members and attendees alike joined in. And what a panel it was. Consisting of Cheeky Natives duo Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane and Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele, performance poet Natalia Molebatsi, and, of course, Malebo herself.

See for yourself:

BlackBird Books publisher Thabiso Mahlape delivered a heartfelt speech, tearing up whilst saying how in her many years in the publishing industry she has never been more proud of a book and the strong female presence at the launch.

A recurring theme in Malebo’s memoir is the necessity of defying norms. To disregard our patriarchal, heteronormative’s society inclination to police women’s bodies; women’s conduct. We’re expected to be submissive, feminine, ‘wife-material’. In short: well-behaved.

She was furthered inspired when she first came across the quote “well-behaved women seldom make history”; a quote often attributed to 1950s bombshell, Marilyn Monroe. In fact this powerful statement was coined by Harvard historian Laurel Ulrich in a 1976 academic article.

Malebo and the panelists discussed topics ranging from being the only black person in a boardroom, to discovering the inner-workings of women’s reproductive system (a whole chapter is devoted to Malebo’s discovery of her vagina); creating safe places where conversations cause discomfort, to what it means to be black; radical economical transformation, to reaching a wider audience with regards to social injustices.

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Wenners van Media24-boekpryse vir 2017 bekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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






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Greg Marinovich and Zakes Mda win the 2017 Sunday Times Literary Awards

Little Suns
Murder at Small Koppie

Greg Marinovich and Zakes Mda have been announced as the winners of the prestigious Sunday Times Literary Awards.

The winners were announced at a black tie event at the Sunday Times’ office. Apart from receiving the celebrated Sunday Times Literary Awards accolade, each author is also awarded prize money of R100,000.

Novelist Zakes Mda was awarded the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize for his book Little Suns, published by Umuzi.

Greg Marinovich received the Alan Paton Award for his book Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre, published by Penguin Books.

2017 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize shortlist
2017 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award shortlist

The Barry Ronge Fiction Prize was judged this year by Rehana Rossouw (chair), Africa Melane and Kate Rogan.

The Alan Paton Award judging panel was chaired by Pippa Green, supported by judges Tinyiko Maluleke and Johann Kriegler.

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Book Bites: 18 June 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Right Behind You
Lisa Gardner (Hodder & Stoughton)
Book thrill
Profilers Pierce Quincy and Rainie Conner have fostered a troubled youngster, Sharlah, who is traumatised by a childhood in which her drunken father murdered her mother, only to be killed himself by Sharlah’s older brother Telly, aged 9. Telly, now 17, has gone on a killing spree, starting with his foster parents: it seems he is after Sharlah, but she has little memory of the night her parents died, and no clue as to what would trigger this murderous rage. A manhunt ensues, with all the usual drama. This is the seventh book featuring Quincy and Conner and, while it works well as a standalone, is sadly forgettable. – Aubrey Paton

This Is How It Always Is
Laurie Frankel (Headline)
Book buff
The Walsh-Adams family already had four sons by the time Claude arrived. He was a bright boy, like his brothers, but different. By five Claude had renamed herself Poppy, grew out her hair, insisted on only wearing dresses and carried her lunch to school in a purse. Frankel, who wrote this novel as a tribute to her trans-daughter, gives an honest portrayal of the difficulties faced when raising a transgender child. For while the family may love and accept their child, society will have varying opinions, some of which can be deadly. Frankel’s true gift is capturing the essence of family dynamics, from the chaos to the hilarious smart remarks. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie
Live by Night
Dennis Lehane (Abacus)
Book thrill
Written, produced, directed by and starring Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, Live by Night was released last year as a major movie. A major movie disappointment, that is – comprehensively panned by the critics. Perhaps Affleck should have left the script to the original author, Lehane, one of the great American fiction writers. The tale starts in 1920s Boston, during the Prohibition years and sweeps majestically through to the eve of WW2. Joe Coughlin, a 19-year-old small-time stick-up crook, foolishly robs the casino of a big-time gangster. During the heist he becomes intrigued by one of the workers, the sassy, fearless Emma Gould. He tracks her down afterwards and falls desperately in love. But Emma is also the moll of the gangster whose casino Coughlin robbed, setting off a blood-splattered train of events that culminate in Coughlin becoming one of America’s most feared gangsters. – William Saunderson-Meyer @TheJaundicedEye

The Mermaid’s Daughter
Ann Claycomb (HarperCollins)
Book fling
This is the modernised version of The Little Mermaid – not the happy singing Disney version but the edgy Hans Christian Andersen telling. Kathleen is a young student and soprano opera singer. Her feet hurt like hell – like she is walking on broken glass all time – and her mouth pains with her tongue feeling like an alien part of her body. The fates decree that her life is a tragedy of murder. It’s an easy read and seems to be suited for younger readers but the story has a great hook and one learns quite a bit of the workings of an opera. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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