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Archive for the ‘Penguin’ Category

And our sunshine noir author for July is … Karin Brynard!

A new month calls for a new sunshine noir author sending shivers down the spines of local thriller fans…

This month, the co-author of the popular Detective Kubu series, Michael Sears, had the opportunity to interview Karin Brynard for The Big Thrill – the magazine for international thriller writers.

Karin Brynard, author of Our Fathers. ©Penguin Random House.

 
 
 
Here’s what the two thriller aficionados chatted about:

Karin Brynard grew up in the Northern Cape and many of her books are set in that dramatic, semi-arid landscape. She was a journalist and editor for several of South Africa’s major newspapers before she became freelance to concentrate on her writing.

Her novels – originally written in Afrikaans – have been translated into several languages, and she has won a variety of literary and crime fiction prizes. Her next book, Tuisland (the Afrikaans version of Homeland), shot up to number one on the South African best seller list when it was released in 2016.

We chatted about Our Fathers, her latest book available outside South Africa.

Our Fathers is a book that tackles big themes in South Africa – the decay of family units, alienation by place as well as race, and different views from different groups as to the relationship between races in the country. Did you set out to address these, or are they the issues that will almost inevitably arise in contemporary South African crime fiction?

If you try and shadow one ordinary cop in the South African Police Service for a day, you will most likely stumble across every one of the “big themes” of this country.

Cops stand at the coal face of all the realities of life here, ranging from racism to the rape of babies and beyond. And that’s where my stories happen too, so addressing the “issues” becomes sort of inevitable.

The question everybody keeps asking is why. Why do we see so much violence, so much brutality accompanying crime? We realize that this is a deeply complex society and that we’re continuously grappling with major challenges, ranging from poverty to greed, massive urbanization and the accompanying disintegration of cultures and belief systems. It is a society constantly under pressure, exposing all the cracks.

It would be almost impossible to ignore these issues. But: in the midst of all this, there is always redemption: relief in the beauty of the place and of the unexpected warmth of the diverse people who live here, their creativity and vibrant cultures.

What better background for storytelling, especially crime? The bad, the ugly, and the good all in one go.

You ask about “alienation by place as well as race.” Placing Sergeant Johannes Ghaap, a man of Griqua origin, in a predominantly black city like Soweto gave me the opportunity to showcase some of the diversity of our society and how challenging it can be on the personal level. It was such a rewarding exercise doing so, and allowed for wonderful suspense through Ghaap’s stumbling about.

The idea for Our Fathers arose from an interview I did with a man whose son had been accused of murder – bludgeoning his gorgeous girlfriend to death with a hammer.

She was a promising student at the University of Stellenbosch and he a handsome postgraduate with an open, youthful face. It became a sensational case and the family of both the victim and the accused refused to talk to the press.

I tried very hard to get an interview. And then got lucky.

The father of the young man agreed cautiously to talk. We met on a cold winter night and talked for hours. I will never forget the man’s despairing tears as he told me how he was torn from his bed in the middle of the night with the terrible news, and of his feelings of powerlessness as the investigation became a nightmare, his growing frustration with not being able to protect his son from this horror.

After the interview, driving back through the dark, wet streets of this beautiful student town, I thought how lucky this young boy was to have a father such as this.

Which set me to thinking about the role of fathers in the life of a family – and for that matter in the bigger family of a society. In psychological terms, the father is the constant guard at the gate, often sacrificing himself to protect his family and to provide for them. He keeps things stable, provides reason, reflection, order and wisdom, according to the myths of old.

What happens in a household where the fathers are absent? Research shows that more than half of SA children grow up without fathers. It also shows the detrimental effects on the psychological health of those kids, how it impacts on male violence, on suicide, promiscuity, even academic performance.

As the writing of this story progressed, this theme in particular, grew in importance.

Continue reading their conversation here.
 

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Tiah Beautement interviews Rahla Xenopoulous on her new novel

Published in the Sunday Times

Season of Glass is Rahla Xenopoulus’s third book. Picture: Joanne Olivier.

 
The Season of Glass *****
Rahla Xenopoulos (Umuzi, R250)

It is difficult to believe that we have Chanel lipstick and the TV series American Horror Story to thank for the epic novel, The Season of Glass, but life works in mysterious ways. Xenopoulos first refused to watch the series, but her best friend bribed her to do so – with lipsticks.

As Xenopoulos white-knuckled her way through, she was fascinated by the way the series recycles settings, themes, and unfinished business, which returns until properly resolved. This re-emergence left her pondering reincarnation. She explains: “The first rule of physics is that nothing can completely disappear. Everything becomes something else, so then what happens to a person, who lives and loves and learns and walks this earth interacting with other souls?”

What emerged from the television experience is Xenopoulos’s finest novel yet. Two souls are sent to Earth in the form of Jewish twins with the potential to change the world. The boy and girl appear in the cruellest of times, and it is humanity’s actions that dictate whether they will succeed. While the twins are drastically different people in each new life, their souls remain the same: the boy a grounded protector, the girl possessing every story ever told in the past, present and future.

Declared a “modern Scheherazade’s tale”, the story spans the ages from ancient Ethiopia to the Spanish Inquisition, to the brink of Austria on the eve of World War II, to times we have yet to live. There are pirates, warrior princesses, rabbis, artists, and monstrous giant mantises. Each section is a new story.

Every section displays humanity at its worst, while still filled with hope. “Perhaps the greatest goal a writer can have is that their work brings hope and love,” Xenopoulos says.

She explains: “All ages are cruel. What’s different about this age is that things are happening exponentially faster, and there are no filters, it’s all thrown in our faces. That’s why I think faith and spirituality are so important, and why we have to take breaks from the screens to smell the roses, listen to music, read a book, hold someone’s hand. We need to detach ourselves from the chaos and take stock. What’s important is kindness, and laughter, and how we treat our neighbour.”

Unsurprisingly, The Season of Glass required an enormous amount of research to write. What some may not realise, however, is that this was necessary even for the section that is set in the future. “Science fiction can seem so outlandish,” Xenopoulos says, “the reality is that these things have and are coming to pass.”

Throughout the story, love and physical human connections are shown to be vital to our humanity. Not an easy balance to achieve at the same time as existing on social media, Xenopoulos admits, as she herself used Facebook to help guide her through the research. But she is adamant we must continue to seek out the good in each other and in ourselves, and that cannot be accomplished if we don’t step away from screens. This theme is what ties the story together, at the end.

She explains: “If we’d been alive during the 14th century the headline of every newspaper, if they had had newspapers, would have been about war and a tyrant. But the important thing happening was in a small town in Germany where a man called Johannes Gutenberg was developing the printing press. People create war, we use religion the way we use money and other resources as an excuse to fight, but that isn’t all we are doing. There are crazy, exciting and beautiful things going on out there.”

Winter can be hard on many. The Season of Glass is a wonderful way to return warmth to your soul. @ms_tiahmarie

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2018 Sunday Times Literary Awards winners announced

Johannesburg, 24 June 2018: The winners of the prestigious Sunday Times Literary Awards were announced at a gala dinner held at The Venue, Melrose Arch, on Saturday 23 June.

Bongani Ngqulunga received the Alan Paton award for non-fiction for his book, The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka Isaka Seme, while Harry Kalmer was named the recipient of the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize for his book, A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg. Both titles are published by Penguin Books.

The Sunday Times Literary Awards are considered the most prestigious literary accolade in South Africa.

“This year’s judging was tough but what was evident was the recognition of the art of writing. South Africa’s rich history and diverse stories are being rigorously explored, examined and celebrated,” says Jennifer Platt, Sunday Times Books Editor.

Now in its 29th year, the Alan Paton Award recognises exceptional non-fiction writing as displayed by Bongani Ngqulunga’s story The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka Isaka Seme.

The Alan Paton judging panel consisted of Constitutional Court judge Edwin Cameron; journalist Paddi Clay; and award-winning writer, journalist and filmmaker, Sylvia Vollenhoven.

They said Ngqulunga’s book was “a revelatory, inspiring study of a man and a movement that reverberates right up to today. It is a scholarly, well-researched book that illuminates our flawed roots and our flawed nationhood, presented through the complex and mercurial character of Seme.”

The Barry Ronge Fiction Prize panel was chaired by popular radio personality, Africa Melane, alongside Love Books owner Kate Rogan and award-winning writer Ken Barris.

“Johannesburg emerges as a fascinating beast of a city, and this is a novel way of celebrating it. The outstanding writing and innovative structure – along with memorable characters – make this an instant classic,” said the fiction prize panel of Harry Kalmer’s A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg.

Kalmer is the 18th recipient of the Sunday Times fiction prize, named for Barry Ronge, arts commentator and one of the founders of the Sunday Times Literary Awards.

Recipients of the 2018 Alan Paton Award and Barry Ronge Fiction Prize each receive R100 000.

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“The blood of the woman on the stoep of my father’s shop was redder than stoep polish.” Read an extract from Harry Kalmer’s A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg, shortlisted for the 2018 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

Published in the Sunday Times

“My name is Alice and I am as old as the mountains.”

Richard Ho’s grandmother spoke into Cherie Sadie’s camera.

“As old as the mine dumps. As old as Mandela. We were born in the same year. So I am not exactly sure what I imagine and what I remember. Is there a difference? Not much, if you ask me.

“Sometimes when I am in bed, I think I hear the whistle of a steam locomotive. But there haven’t been steam trains in Johannesburg for years. So the train I hear is probably only my memory. Or my imagination.

“At night in Chinatown you could hear the trains shunting at the municipal market and in the Braamfontein Yard. Steam trains. Toot-toot. Clickety-clack. But my first memory is of another place.

“My father owned a shop next to a mine. It was during a strike. There was a Boer woman. Afterwards we heard that her husband was a scab. She was on the stoep of my father’s cash store when a piece of coal hit her in the eye. Nobody knew who threw it. I’m telling you, she screamed. She dropped to her knees and cried like a baby. I remember it like it was yesterday. She was wearing a white apron and one of those kappies that the poor aunties wore in those days. Blood spurted from her eye like a fountain.

“I seldom speak Afrikaans these days. But the pretty words come back all the time. Words like ‘fontein’ and ‘lokomotief’. Not words you hear a lot any more, if you hear what I’m saying.

“Anyway, I’m losing track of my thoughts. The blood of the woman on the stoep of my father’s shop was redder than stoep polish. My parents tried to stop the bleeding with a towel. Older Brother who died last year at ninety-five … or was it the year before last? Anyway, Dad sent Older Brother to call the soldiers. They came with a tank or lorry or something like that and took the poor white woman away. I don’t know who the woman was and I never saw her again. But I clearly remember her eye spouting blood like a fountain. That’s the first thing I remember.”

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“It started off the way my projects often do; with a title.” Harry Kalmer writes about the origins of his novel, A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg, shortlisted for the 2018 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

Published in the Sunday Times

Harry Kalmer is an award-winning playwright and novelist who has authored six works of fiction and 23 plays. His novel En die lekkerste deel van dood wees was the runner-up in the 2007 Sanlam/Insig Groot Roman competition. Briewe aan ‘n rooi dak, based on the letters of Magdalena Otto, received the Anglo-Gold Aardklop award for best new drama in 2001, and was adapted for TV and broadcast. In 2014, his drama The Bram Fischer Waltz won the Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights in the Arts. He lives in Johannesburg.

It started off the way my projects often do; with a title. The title arrived on a Monday morning in 2007 outside a hardware store. At the same moment an image of a fountain with Arabic titles appeared.

The fountain I recalled from a walk in Tangiers years before. However, this image placed the fountain in a courtyard in Belgravia, the suburb that, in the 1890s was Jozi’s first walled community.

A few weeks later in Springs I waited for someone next to a pool of stagnant mine water with reeds and water fowl. I wrote what I thought was an opening line in a notebook. The line ended up on page 41 of A Thousand Tales. The fountain didn’t make it onto the page but the book was set in Belgravia and the title made it to publication.

For a long time it remained only a title. The xenophobic attacks of May 2008 and the fact that the violence spilt over into the suburb where my unwritten book was set, was a trigger. I was horrified by the proximity of the violence to my cosy middle-class existence, the brutality of the attacks and what it said about our society.

The violence became the backdrop for the novel.

A title with the words A Thousand doesn’t lend itself to a short format. I realised I needed help and enrolled in a masters in creative writing at the University of Stellenbosch. By the end of that year, thanks to my supervisors, Willem Anker and Marlene van Niekerk, I had a 300-page first draft.

I colour coded the storylines, arranged them in interesting patterns on my wall and used it as a structure for the next draft. A year and several drafts later I added the first 40 pages.

During that time I was invited to read at Africa Short Story Day – I was the only Afrikaans reader – and read a scene from my work in progress. The scene was set in the Rockey Street jazz club Rumours during the 1980s. Half the audience didn’t understand what I read. I realised that the book should also be published in English.

By 2012 I had enough of a manuscript to end up on the shortlist for the Groot Afrikaanse Romanwedstryd.

‘n Duisend Stories oor Johannesburg was finally published in 2014 and was eventually shortlisted for eight Afrikaans literary awards. I translated the book myself and Melt Myburgh and Fourie Botha at Penguin Random House said they wanted to publish it. They appointed Michael Titlestadt as editor.

I translated the book so that more people, my English-speaking family members and friends could read it. And perhaps find a few new readers.

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Lowveld Book Festival 2018: Save the date!

Via Allison Cooper

The Lowveld Book Festival is fast-becoming a not-to-be-missed event on literary calendars across South Africa!

It’s time to save the dates in your diary as this year’s festival will take place at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, in White River, on 18 and 19 August 2018, whilst the business breakfast and outreach activities will take place on Friday 17 August.

This year visitors can look forward to a host of interesting authors, including two of the youngest authors Stacey Fru (11- years-old) and Michelle Nkamankeng (10-years-old),Tony Park, Dudu Busani-Dube, Mercy Dube, Tracy Going, Amy Heydenrych, Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, Mike Mills, Gus Mills, Maruping Phepheng, James Styan, Richard Steyn, Fred Khumalo, Rehana Rossouw, Steven Sidley, Kate Sidley, Ronnie Kasrils, Dr Gerrit Haarhoff, Prof Peter Delius, Peter Harris, Menzi Mkhonza, Sandy and Tony Ferrar, Sahm Venter, Vimla Naidoo, Dr Salomon Joubert, Walter Thornhill, Adam Cruise and we are very honoured to have Archbishop Thabo Makgoba as well.

Adam Cruise will also be one of the facilitators and will be joined by Lowveld Living’s Nicky Manson and renowned local author Jayne Bauling as well as Bobo Lukhele, news editor at the SABC in Mpumalanga and Alison Lowry who is the ex-CEO of Penguin Publishers and an independent editor.

A balanced programme is on the cards, including poetry, workshops, kids’ corner and story-time for youngsters, panel discussions, historical Lowveld literature, nature lovers’ presentations, interviews with authors, youth literature, a book club segment, a cooking demonstration, a locally written and produced movie as well as the South African Music Show put on by the CMDA which will include well-known songs by some of our best loved local musicians.

South African authors will be selling and autographing their latest publications and authors will be slotted into events to ensure interesting discussions that grapple with the issues confronting South African literature and reading.

The Lowveld Book Festival is a multi-cultural event that encourages a love of reading and acknowledges the role played by writers and poets in society. The 2018 Lowveld Book Festival will again reach out to surrounding rural schools to expose children to the joy of stories and reading; encourage teenagers to read more, whether electronic or printed books; and to support local writers and illustrators through workshops hosted by published authors.

The full programme is being finalised and information about ticket sales will be available from the end of June at www.lowveldbookfestival.co.za. For more information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or email lowveldbookfestival@gmail.com.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tracy Going and Nozizwe Cynthia Jele are two authors festival goers can look forward to!


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Bongani Ngqulunga discusses his book, The Man Who Founded the ANC, shortlisted for the 2018 Alan Paton Award

Published in the Sunday Times

 Bongani Ngqulunga is a fellow at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a graduate of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he earned three degrees. He also holds a PhD from Brown University in the US.
 
 

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Pixley ka Isaka Seme, founder of the ANC, was one of South Africa’s most important leaders.

 
What sparked your interest in Pixley ka Isaka Seme?

It always puzzled me that no substantial biography had been written about Seme even though he had made major contributions to the life and politics of South Africa. Not only was he the founder of the ANC at 30 years old, he started a company that bought land for black settlement in the eastern Transvaal (Mpumalanga today). He was the second black South African to be admitted to practice as an attorney. He established a national newspaper and did many other things. And yet when he became the president-general of the ANC from 1930 to 1937 he brought it to its knees. I found the paradox of the founder of the ANC nearly killing it when he became leader interesting.

Why this book, and why now?

The book tells a fascinating story not only about the life of a man, Seme, but also about the history of this country and the hurdles we have overcome to get to where we are today. Sometimes when we look at the political problems we face today we tend to glorify the past and present it as if everything was perfect. The story of Seme demonstrates that our past is as complex as our present. And herein perhaps lies the significance of the book: it cautions us against accepting oversimplified versions of our history. The person who reads this book will be struck by the similarities between what went on in the ANC 80 years ago and what is going on now. The book cautions against what the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls the danger of a single story.

What does the past of the ANC tell us about its present and the future?

The most important lesson, I suppose, is that the ANC has done well when it has put ordinary people at the centre of its political mission. The disasters that it faced in the 1930s were largely caused by a political leadership that was inward looking and self-serving. While the ANC leaders were caught in squabbles among themselves, they forgot about ordinary people who faced mass unemployment, landlessness and poverty. It was only when the ANC changed its strategy and focused on mobilising masses of ordinary South Africans in the 1940s and 1950s that it regained its purpose and attracted support.

What drove Seme?

Seme had extraordinary vision and intellect with insatiable ambition and energy. He cared deeply about the unity of black people and their liberation. His predilection for the finer things in life and an autocratic style of leadership were the cause of his political downfall.

Why did he become authoritarian and autocratic?

He had great faith in his intellect and political vision. He thought he alone knew what was good for the ANC and the people it led. That, largely, was the cause of his political downfall. And because he attracted so much criticism from his colleagues in the leadership of the ANC, he was alienated from them and made mistakes that could have been avoided had his leadership style been more inclusive.

How did you research his life?

Unfortunately Seme did not leave behind an archive of personal papers when he died in 1951. That in turn made researching his life challenging. Researching and writing the book while working full time complicated matters a bit. But I spent considerable time trawling through archives and reading old newspapers, some as old as 100 years! I also received assistance from archivists and librarians in South Africa, Swaziland, the US and England, countries in which Seme lived at one point or the other.

What surprised or disturbed you about Seme that you found while researching?

I did not know that he did not have a doctorate. I found it strange that a man of his accomplishments would feel the need to claim a degree he did not possess. I was also disappointed by several instances when he took advantage of desperate black people who came to him for help as their political leader and a renowned lawyer.

Was there any hindrance from others about the revelations about Seme?

No, there was no hindrance at all. Some Seme family members were unhappy about the revelations concerning the doctorate, which is understandable. But nobody tried to stop or hinder me from writing the book.

The Man Who Founded the ANC

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Open Book Festival announces first group of authors

Via Open Book Festival

Throwback to a panel discussion at Open Book Fest 2016. ©Retha Ferguson

 
The first group of authors has been announced for the eighth Open Book Festival taking place from 5 to 9 September this year.

Brought to you by the Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre, Open Book Festival offers a world-class selection of book launches, panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses, readings, performances, and more. The festival also hosts the popular Comics Fest, #cocreatePoetica and various children’s and outreach programmes. Venues for the event include the Fugard Theatre, District Six Homecoming Centre, the A4 Arts Foundation, and The Book Lounge in Cape Town, and are all within walking distance of one another. Selected events will also take place outside the city centre, such as at Elsies River Library and Molo Mhlaba School.

Open Book Festival has established itself as one of the most innovative literature festivals in South Africa. It has twice been shortlisted for the London Book Fair Excellence Awards. Last year, nearly 10 000 people attended the festival’s record 140 events, with ticket sales from previous years surpassed in the first two days. Open Book Festival is committed to creating a platform to celebrate South African writers, as well as hosting top international authors. The festival strives to instill a love of reading among young attendees, with the programme designed to engage, entertain and inspire conversations among festival goers long after the event.

“We are once again compiling a phenomenal line up of authors, across a wide range of genres, to join us at the festival,” says Festival Director Mervyn Sloman. “We’ve put together a short preview of some of the authors joining us, to help plan your reading.”

The international authors include:

Author: Lesley Arimah (Nigeria / USA)
Books include: What it Means when a Man Falls from the Sky
Why we’re excited: Lesley has been a finalist for the Caine Prize and a winner of the African Commonwealth Short Story Prize among other honors. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection What it Means when a Man Falls from the Sky won the 2017 Kirkus Prize.

Author: Jonas Bonnier (Sweden) joining us courtesy of the Swedish Embassy
Books include: The Helicopter Heist, Stockholm Odenplan
Why we’re excited: Jonas Bonnier is a novelist, screenwriter and journalist. His latest book, The Helicopter Heist is a gripping suspense thriller about the Västberga helicopter robbery. It has been sold to 34 territories.

Author: David Chariandy (Canada) joining us courtesy of Canada Council of the Arts
Books include: Brother, Soucouyant
Why we’re excited: David Chariandy won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize in 2017 for Brother. The Guardian UK described it as ‘breathtaking…compulsive, brutal and flawless’. David’s debut novel, Soucouyant, received nominations from eleven literary awards juries.

Author: Anna Dahlqvist (Sweden)
Books include: It’s Only Blood
Why we’re excited: Anna Dahlqvist is a leading voice writing about women’s and girls’ rights. She is editor-in-chief of Ottar, a Swedish magazine focusing on sexuality, politics, society and culture.

Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn (Jamaica/USA) with thanks to the University of Stellenbosch for assisting with her joining us
Books include: Here Comes the Sun
Why we’re excited: Her debut novel, Here Comes The Sun, received a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a NPR Best Books of 2016, an Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Entertainment Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016, a BuzzFeed Best Literary Debuts of 2016, among others.

Author: Guy Deslisle (Canada) joining us courtesy of Canada Council of the Arts
Books include: Hostage, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China, Burma Chronicles, Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Why we’re excited: Guy Deslisle is a cartoonist and animator, who is acclaimed for his graphic novels about his travels. His most recent book, Hostage, was longlisted for Brooklyn Public Library’s 2017 literary prize.

Author: Frankie Edozien (Nigeria/USA)
Books include: Lives of Great Men
Why we’re excited: Frankie Edozien is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of AFRrican Magazine. Lives of Great Men was shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award. The Financial Times called the book ‘a fine contribution to the important work of pursuing equality and social justice on a global scale’

Author: Mariana Enriquez (Argentina) joining us courtesy of the Embassy of Argentina
Books include: Things We Lost in the Fire
Why we’re excited: Stories by Mariana Enriquez have appeared in anthologies of Spain, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia and Germany. The New York Times Book Review called Things We Lost in the Fire, ‘[P]ropulsive and mesmerizing, laced with vivid descriptions of the grotesque…and the darkest humor’.

Author: Aminatta Forna (Scotland/Sierra Leone/USA)
Books include: Happiness, The Hired Man, The Memory of Love.
Why we’re excited: Aminatta Forna’s award-winning work has been translated into eighteen languages. Her essays have appeared in Freeman’s, Granta, The Guardian, LitHub, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, The Observer and Vogue. She has written stories for BBC radio and written and presented television documentaries.

Author: Adam Smyer (USA)
Books include: Knucklehead
Why we’re excited: Adam Smyer’s debut novel Knucklehead is a refreshingly honest, fierce, intelligent, and often hilarious read.

“By setting his novel in the ’90s, Smyer, has crafted some brutal deja vu. As Marcus reflects on Rodney King, the Million Man March and the Oklahoma City bombing, we think of Freddie Gray, Black Lives Matter and school shootings that have become a way of life… Here we are more than 20 years on, and it’s only gotten worse. We should all be furious.” San Francisco Chronicle

Author: Mariko Tamaki (Canada) joining us courtesy of the Canada Council of the Arts
Books include: Skim, Emiko Superstar, This One Summer.
Why we’re excited: Mariko Tamaki is an acclaimed graphic novelist and author. In 2016 she began writing for both Marvel and DC Comics.

“A key objective of Open Book Festival is to celebrate the wealth of South African talent,” says Sloman. “We have a selection of the most insightful minds and compelling storytellers joining us. Here are a few.”

“We are looking forward to The Last Sentence, a psychological thriller and the debut novel from Tumelo Buthelezi and also to welcoming Ijangolet S Ogwang, whose novel An Image in a Mirror, is a richly told African coming-of-age story.”

Clinton Chauke’s Born in Chains: The Diary of an Angry ‘Born Free’ is a story of hope, where, even in a sea of poverty, there are those that refuse to give up and, ultimately, succeed. Journalist Rebecca Davis, author of Best White and Other Anxious Delusions will talk about her new memoir and journey on a spiritual quest.

Sorry, Not Sorry author Haji Dawjee joins us to discuss this revealing experience of moving through post-Apartheid South Africa as a woman of colour. “We are delighted to welcome back Judith February of the Institute for Security Studies, and author Pumla Dineo Gqola, whose book Reflecting Rogue was the best selling title at last year’s Festival,” says Sloman.

Nozizwe Jele has recently released her new novel, The Ones With Purpose. Happiness is a Four-Letter Word was Jele’s debut novel and won the Best First Book category (Africa region) in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2011, as well as the 2011 M-Net Literary Award in the Film category. Playwright and theatre director Craig Higginson whose novels include The Dream House also joins the line-up to talk about his new novel, The White Room.

Siya Khumalo’s debut memoir, You Have to be Gay to Know God, is a powerful book dealing with gay identity. In Becoming Him, Landa Mabenge explores his own journey that includes being the first transgender man in South Africa to successfully force a medical aid to pay for his surgeries.

The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa sees an unraveling of the life that ambitious, social climber Bontle Tau was aiming for. Makholwa’s previous books include Black Widow Society, The 30th Candle and Red Ink. The Gold Diggers is the latest novel by Sue Nyathi (The Polygamist).It is a simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming chronicle of immigrant experiences.

Singer-songwriter and author Mohale Mashigo (The Yearning) returns to talk about her new collection, Intruders while in Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree, another festival regular Niq Mhlongo brings the complexities of Soweto to life on the page.

Zuki Wanner’s books include Men of the South which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize Africa Region for Best Book; London – Cape Town – Joburg and children’s book Refilwe. Her recent Hardly Working: A Travel Memoir of Sorts explores the politics of nations, and the ‘burden’ of travelling on an African passport.

SAPS Major General Jeremy Vearey also joins us to talk about Jeremy Vannie Elsies which chronicles his journey of growing up in Elsies River, from rough-and-tumble youngster to the head of the anti-gang unit in the Western Cape. Along the way he mastered the Communist Manifesto in Afrikaans, joined MK, and was sent to Robben Island for his role in the struggle.

The eighth Open Book Festival will take place from 5 to 9 September at the Fugard Theatre, D6 Homecoming Centre, The A4 Arts Foundation and The Book Lounge from 10:00 to 21:00 each day. For further information and the full programme, which will be available in early August, visit www.openbookfestival.co.za

Bookings can be made at Webtickets: www.webtickets.co.za

Open Book Festival is organised in partnership with the Fugard Theatre, The District 6 Museum, The A4 Arts Foundation, The Townhouse Hotel, Novus Holdings, The French Institute, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Embassy of Sweden, The Embassy of Argentina, The Dutch Foundation for Literature, UCT Creative Writing Department, University of Stellenbosch English Department and Central Library and is sponsored by Leopards Leap, Open Society Foundation, Pan Macmillan, NB Publishers, Jonathan Ball and Penguin Random House.

An Image in a Mirror

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Born in Chains

 
 
 
 
 
Best White and Other Anxious Delusions

 
 
 
 

Sorry, Not Sorry

 
 
 
 

Reflecting Rogue

 
 
 
 

The Ones With Purpose

 
 
 
 

The Blessed Girl

 
 
 
 
 
The Gold Diggers

 
 
 
 
 
The Yearning

 
 
 
 
 
Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree

 
 
 
 
Jeremy vannie Elsies


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“Barbetje had helped me with the first two births – the unsuccessful births. Motherhood had never been my desire.” Read an excerpt from Maxine Case’s Barry Ronge Prize shortlisted novel, Softness of the Lime

Published in the Sunday Times

Barbetje cleared her throat again.

“Just say what you want to say,” I told her, addressing her in English this time. My English was better than hers by then.

Barbetje ignored me and instead bustled about the kitchen while I watched her with defiant expectation. She took out two cups and saucers: not the good stuff the family used, but not the worst. She placed the sugar and a jug of milk next to them and then poured the tea that had been warming on the stove all morning into the cups. She stirred them briskly, then passed me one.

“Hot, sweet tea always makes me feel better,” she explained. I could believe it; she drank several cups a day.

“Why don’t we sit?” she suggested, pulling out a chair at the table. We seldom sat there; the table had always been reserved for the family, even once the misses left. When we worked we stood, but Barbetje was having none of that.

“My legs are sore.”

I sat down, since I knew that no one would actually tell me that I could not. Anyway, it was usually Barbetje who watched me, to make sure that I didn’t overstep my bounds, and if she told me to sit then I would sit. We sipped our tea in silence. I decided that I would not goad her to talk. Maybe I was afraid of what she’d say.

“His father was exactly the same,” Barbetje said, once I had nearly finished my tea.

I stirred the bottom of my cup, thinking that the words alone must have tasted like sugar on her tongue, but she had surprised me with the tea. Such a sweet irony, I thought, that Barbetje should be to one to show me how I too had been deluded enough to believe that a man like that would keep his word: “I will marry you one day; I will give our children my name”. That’s what he used to say on the nights he wanted to talk.

I was glad that Barbetje hadn’t required me to confirm the news of his marriage; she probably already knew, perhaps she was privy to the details. I didn’t know and I didn’t ask. I let her speak.

“Always promising one thing but doing another,” Barbetje said.

I wanted to ask her about the children she’d borne; I wanted to know what had happened to them, whether she’d thought they’d make a difference. I wanted to ask whether the old man had been able to sell his own flesh and blood. If his son was exactly like his father, I needed to know that.

Barbetje had helped me with the first two births – the unsuccessful births. Motherhood had never been my desire. Not to be hurtful, but it had never been my plan. The hopeful among us saw children as negotiating instruments, a tool when we had so little with which to bargain. Others bore children to punish, a constant reminder of the sins of the fathers. All those fathers sinning so unconscionably, ardently, what was another child when compared to able hands, strong arms, feet? A baby for some was gold, and if not gold, then silver.

A baby is not a bird…

I remembered the words from Rakota’s tale; had always wondered what it meant. Those words were the first thing that came to mind when I saw the child, the first one, a girl. Birdlike bones and damp feathers of hair like a newly hatched chick.

A baby is not a bird…

Barbetje’s words disturbed my thoughts. “‘n Stywe lat het geen konsensie nie,” she said, placing a hand on my shoulder.

It was true what she said. A stiff rod had no conscience.

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“Etienne sees only one face in the twilight crowd: Axel’s.” Read an excerpt from SJ Naudé’s Barry Ronge Prize shortlisted novel, The Third Reel

Published in the Sunday Times

The opening band is called Namenlos. They play their first song: Stunde Null is waiting behind the stage. Mindless copycats, Etienne thinks. Echolalic music.

There is a single prop in the middle of the stage: a huge grey-green sound recorder. A mute piece of equipment from some government office or other, built – so it seems – to withstand a nuclear war.

Christof – “our technical boffin”, as Frederick refers to him – tracked it down somewhere in Berlin and had it delivered.

They look at each other. Then the three gazes settle on Etienne. He isn’t sure what he should read into them. A plea? A threat? How does it happen that the three of them always simultaneously make the same demands? And that – this he is only realising now – a collective chill can emanate from them as suddenly as collective warmth?

Namenlos ends their session, leaves the stage.

Smoke is pumped out of the machines, enfolds the instruments. The four of them jump light-footedly onto the stage, one by one. Screams rise from the crowd. While they saunter to their positions, the huge sound recorder’s two reels start turning, magnetic tape tautened between them. Loud, declamatory male voices can be heard: speeches by the East and West German politicians interrupting each other, talking over each other until it becomes sheer cacophony. No single voice can any longer be distinguished from the others. Etienne enters with an extended drum roll, foot on the drum hammer’s pedal. Sparks fly when he rubs steel files over each other. Frederick emerges from the smoke behind the synthesiser: an ominous note is growing, a siren straight from hell.

They play. Play. As none of the echo-bands can.

They recycle noise from the void. It merges with the sounds of cars on highways, tractor engines and power plants’ furnaces. New noise ensues, killing old noise. And then it starts all over again. They have to let go of everything – extinguish everything – that preceded the noise. There is no longer any history, nor any future. No bodies and no consciousness. Everything is sound.

The surging crowd grinds the tomato field to a pulp. Stunde Null play ‘God’s Idiots’. They play ‘The Language of Men and Machines’. There is a moment of silence; the eclipse begins.

The four of them look at each other, then start playing ‘Sonnenfinsternis’. The moon punches a hole right through the sun. Below them everybody is going into a frenzy. A black cloud shifts over the whole of Germany, making everyone deaf.

The evening air lays a lulling hand on Etienne’s forehead. But it isn’t evening; it is afternoon. They are playing to drain the sun of its warmth. At the height of the solar eclipse they keep an impossibly long and cold note. Vibration from the blood. Then they let go. They chase the moon off, bring back the light.

Etienne sees only one face in the twilight crowd: Axel’s. Around him, people are rising and falling, as if under a vast sheet. Axel isn’t wearing any sunglasses, is looking at Etienne with naked eyes. Etienne plays his drums for the tree resin dripping from Axel’s back, for the childlike scribblings on his skin. For how small he looks underneath the German sky.

Around Axel, dozens of people have stripped their clothes off. Ready to follow the music’s commands, to march straight into the flames.

It takes a while before Etienne realises he is the only one still hitting the drums. The other three are watching him in silence. Somewhere they have lost each other. They know he is now playing for Axel only.

The crowd has been wounded, Etienne thinks as he touches his painful erection. They are covered in blood and slimy scraps of flesh. Like a scene of mass surgery – an open-air operation room, patients who start wandering when the anaesthetic fails. But what is actually clinging to them, is tomato pulp.

His three friends’ eyes have become cold. They no longer know him. Etienne looks out over the heads, finds Axel’s face.

The lyrics of the last two lines of ‘Sonnenfinsternis’ linger on “Everybody knows this is Nowhere/Follow the fire and it will guide you home.”

The Third Reel

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