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The winner of the 2014 @City_Press Tafelburg Nonfiction Award is Vashthi Nepaul! #openbook2014 @OpenBookFest fb.me/3fYW6ZeJ3

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Donald Paul Reviews Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle by Richard Poplak

Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political JungleVerdict: carrot

The great joy of being on the campaign trail with Poplak though is not only the insights into Julius Malema but also the side characters. Take Kenny Kunene and his Patriotic Alliance Party. Poplak reminds us ofthe fact that Kunene “isn’t the biggest piece of shit in South Africa” and that his talk about “helping children as often as Michael Jackson did, which, I’ll admit, is always a cause for worry” are not really the issues. What is the issue is that “no one knows what he does” since he stopped his life of crime and “got into the Brave New South African economy of producing nothing”. (He “won tenders” apparently.)

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Book Bites: 28 September 2014

We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent’s Tale)
****
Book buff
Rosemary still grieves over her beloved “twin” sister, who was mysteriously sent away when they were five and hasn’t been seen since. Sibling memories and minor mysteries abound in what seems like a lively but ordinary family tale – until a big reveal on page 77. There’s no way to review this book without spoiling a fantastic twist. Let’s just say that despite an outlandish premise, the book isn’t cutesy at all: it is smart, juicy, moving and funny, delving into family, animal rights, guilt, delusions and the big question that suffuses many engrossing books – who we are and how we came to be.
– Kate Sidley @KateSidley

Missing YouMissing You
Harlan Coben (Orion)
****
Book thrill
This time Coban’s subject is online dating: once the province of losers or predators, connecting this way has become the norm. NYPD detective Kat Donovan is reluctant at first, but when she finds a photograph of her ex-fiancé Jeff, who broke her heart and disappeared 18 years ago, she clicks. The only problem is he is using a different name and when she contacts him, does not seem to remember her … twists, turns, red herrings romance and murder are served with the dry humour and witty panache we expect from Coban in this edge-of-your-seat standalone.
– Aubrey Paton

Until Julius ComesUntil Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle
Richard Poplak (NB Publishers)
****
Book buff
A raucous, on-the-ground account of the wild times preceding this May’s national elections, in which Poplak serves up the thoughts of angry beer drinkers in Bekkersdal, BEE Black Diamonds in Bryanston, the residents of tornado-torn Sasolberg and many others. Helen “Braveheart” Zille, Mmusi “Barack” Maimane and Julius “Teletubby” Malema are memorably taken on, and Poplak’s overall message becomes clear: We the people of SA should declare for all our country and the world to know that we are a crazy bunch. Own it!
– Vuyo Mzini @vuyomzini

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The Place of Storytelling in Social Activism: Writers Get Real at Open Book 2014

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Northern GirlsProfits of DoomDo Not Go Gentle

Sheng Keyi, Antony Loewenstein and Futhi Ntshingila spoke to Mervyn Sloman about the responsibility of the writer on the final afternoon of the Open Book Festival.

The international panel went into the intended and inspected responsibility of the author, as well as the place of storytelling in social responsibility and activism. The panelists also investigated the impact of writing on the reader.

Books LIVE’s Helené Prinsloo provided in-depth coverage of the discussion:


 

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Fantasy vs Crime Fiction, Political Cartooning and The Buckfever Underground at Open Book 2014

Open Book 2014: Crime Fiction and Fantasy
Magician's EndTokoloshe SongCobra

Raymond E Feist, Andrew Salomon, and Deon Meyer spoke to Greg Fried about fantasy and crime fiction, and how the two genres interact, at the Open Book Festival this weekend.

Salomon said the wonderful thing about fantasy is that everything can be larger than life, while Feist believes the reader will accept the impossible before they will accept the improbable.

Meyer said that real world crime has no relation to crime fiction because crime fiction is meant to entertain.

The writers spoke about their interaction with readers, their research process, and collaborations between authors.

Books LIVE’s Lindsay Callaghan covered the conversation:


 

Open Book 2014: Buckfever Underground
South AfricaSolank verlange die sweep swaaiDie Alibi Klub

Legendary music group The Buckfever Underground performed during a Poetica session on Saturday, and poets Toast Coetzer, Danie Marais, Shirmoney Rhode, Bibi Slippers, and Jaco van Schalkwyk performed their works.

Books LIVE’s Helené Prinsloo tweeted snippets and snaps:


 

Open Book 2014: Comic Fest
DemoCrazyJerm WarfareJust for Kicks!Don't Joke

Andy Mason spoke to Zapiro, Jeremy Nell and John Curtis about two decades of political cartooning and controversy.

Mason said Zapiro has spoken truth to power over a long period of time, and argued that being a cartoon artist is about building community. Zapiro said, “We were challenging. We had tremendous freedom.”

The conversation centred around freedom of expression, the rights of the cartoonist, perceived racism, and shooting the messenger.

Books LIVE’s Liesl Jobson covered the gig:


 

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Bootstraps Beat bullets: Ray Hartley Reviews Why States Recover by Greg Mills

By Ray Hartley for the Sunday Times

Why States RecoverWhy States Recover – Changing Walking Societies into Winning Nations – from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe
Greg Mills (Picador Africa)
****

Weighing in at an even 689 pages (including the index), Greg Mills’ Why States Recover is in publishing’s heavyweight division. But is it a heavyweight champion.

The book seeks to answer perhaps the most important question facing a fractured world: what does it take to bring progress to states that are teetering on the edge of failure because of war, economic disaster and poor governance?

Mills gives the answer in the very first sentence of his introduction: “But outsiders cannot fix state failure. Insiders are largely as responsible for their recovery as for their decline, since it is local politics, customs and rules that overwhelmingly shape their choices and thus their destiny.”

It is a bold and surprising answer. Mills simply doesn’t buy the cliché that failing states need some sort of foreign intervention or rescue package. Aid and development finance is the only part of the solution. What Mills is advocating is the political equivalent of tough-love.

Until the key actors in a society stand up, take responsibility and make tough decisions, there is no way that outsiders can bring about progress. They will simply be feeding a fatally wounded beast with investor money “simply another faucet for redistribution and a free ride for party hacks”.

Mills’ day-job as head of the Oppenhemiers’ Brenthurst Foundation has seen him travelling the world to meet with presidents, bankers, businessmen and military leaders as an advisor.

What he accomplishes with this book is to take you along for the ride, giving you the sense that you are at his side as he tries to understand the challenges placed on the table by those along the “spectrum of fragility” he meets with.

In Argentina – Mills coins the term “Cristianista” to describe the supporters of president Cristina Kirchner – where hope of recover is being undone by rampant consumerism and low investment and what he describes as “stop-go, boom-bust political short-termism”, Mills blames the voters for the country’s malaise because they have elected leaders who have accelerated dysfunction.

In Afghanistan, Mills writes of his experience travelling on a truck in a convoy of 19 carrying 45 000 litres of fuel from Spin to Kandahar under the title “A little bit of ammo and a few other things” – the reply he gets when he asks his military escort what’s in a heavy bag behind the seat. It was a dangerous thing to do, but it gave Mills insight into the basic logistical problems and plenty of colour: “Pakistani music crackled on the cheap stereo, our load was never far from the mind, heightened by the cigarette always dangling from Sherafzal’s lips, and the gloep-gloep sloshing noise behind us.”

Where did it go wrong for Africa? “The easy answer is that many African countries have, by comparison to Southeast Asia, made poor policy choices, and often because this has been a way of ensuring control, power and wealth.”

He goes further: “In some respects, not least due to a relative lack of destruction that accompanied the continent’s anti-colonial struggle, African countries were better off than their Asian counterparts at independence. Few African countries, after all, can claim the bitter cost and damage wrought by the wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.”

His advocacy, in his final chapter of a “buy, hold, fix” leadership which does not seek power at all costs, but owns its problems and makes the right choices is very difficult to argue with.

His book is, in the end, an astonishing work that is based on years of on-the-ground research that no-one who seriously wishes for a brighter future for Africa and the developing world can afford to ignore.

Follow @hartleyr

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Wa Afrika, Loewenstein and Zibi at Open Book 2014: “The State of the Press Globally has Never Been Worse”

Open Book 2014: State of the Media
Nothing Left to StealProfits of DoomRaising the Bar

Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Antony Loewenstein, and Songezo Zibi spoke to Charles King about the state of the media on Saturday afternoon at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town.

King started the conversation by reading from Zibi’s Raising the Bar. Zibi said there is a crisis in the media today to respond and to remain relevant.

Mzilikazi, author of Nothing Left to Steal, said, “I think as media houses and journalists, we have managed to sustain against threats and intimidation.”

Profits of Doom author Loewenstein said “the state of the press globally has never been worse”. He said journalists are being killed as part of propaganda campaigns.

The three veterans spoke about the challenges of journalism, the changing nature of newsrooms, and the influence of citizen journalism.

Books LIVE’s Erin Devenish covered the conversation:

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Firm Friends Make Fierce Critics: Mark Gevisser and Jonny Steinberg

Open Book 2014: My First Reader
Notes from a Fractured CountryA Man of Good HopeLost and Found in JohannesburgThabo Mbeki

Jonny Steinberg, whose new book is A Man of Good Hope, and Mark Gevisser, author of Lost and Found in Johannesburg and Thabo Mbeki, told Mervyn Sloman about their relationship as friends and fellow writers at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town.

Steinberg and Gevisser first met and became friends before they were writers, and told Sloman that at the time they lived 300 metres apart.

Gevisser said he’s had a lifelong respect for Steinberg’s writing –”He understood the world and could write about his understanding in different ways” – while Steinberg said Gevisser was a rare writer.

The two writers told Sloman about how they have read and interacted with each other’s work, and why they did (and didn’t) heed each other’s feedback.

For a blow-by-blow account see Books LIVE’s Liesl Jobson’s Twitter timeline:

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Open Book 2014: Highlights from Day Two (Evening Sessions)

Rape Crisis Presents: Duker & Mbalo

(Scroll down for coverage of Launch of Ragged Glory by Ray Hartley and Surprising Diversions, with Rabih Alameddine, Geoff Dyer, Deon Meyer and Henrietta Rose-Innes, chaired by Ben Williams.)

Open Book 2014: Rape Crisis
Dying in New YorkWhite WahalaDear BulletThe Ugly Duckling

Ekow Duker, author of Dying in New York and White Wahala, and Sixolile Mbalo, author of Dear Bullet: Or A Letter to My Shooter, spoke to Sindiwe Magona about the rape crisis in South Africa on the second evening of the Open Book Festival.

The writers engaged in an emotional discussion about sexual violence. Duker’s work of fiction and Mbalo’s autobiographical account both deal with the abuse of women, and the authors spoke about how the writing of their books has affected their lives and the lives of their readers.

Read Books LIVE’s Lindsay Callaghan’s tweets to follow the discussion:


 
Launch of Ragged Glory by Ray Hartley

Open Book 2014: Ragged Glory Launch

Ragged GloryRagged Glory author Ray Hartley spoke to Tony Weaver about his latest book, which examines the presidencies of Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Jacob Zuma.

Weaver said Ragged Glory reads like a political thriller. Hartley noted that where we are today is the consequence of choices made in the last 20 years. Ragged Glory explores those consequences.

Books LIVE’s Lindsay Callaghan covered the launch:


 
Surprising Diversions

Open Book 2014: Surprising Diversions
An Unnecessary WomanAnother Great Day at SeaCobraNineveh

Rabih Alameddine (An Unnecessary Woman), Geoff Dyer (Another Great Day at Sea), Deon Meyer (Cobra), and Henrietta Rose-Innes (Nineveh) told Ben Williams about their great passions (other than writing).

The conversation centred around marbles, motorcycles, ping pong, and Arsenal. There was also some mention of a drone.

Books LIVE’s Jennifer Malec tried to tweet the madness that ensued:


 

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Remembering Steve Biko, 37 Years On

Steve Biko Drum magazine

South Africans are united in celebrating the legacy of Steve Biko today, 37 years to the day after his death in police custody.

Voices of Liberation: Steve BikoI Write What I LikeSteve BikoBikoBiko Lives!The Steve Biko Memorial Lectures

The Black Consciousness activist and Struggle hero died at the age of 30 on September 12, 1977, in political detention, after being horrifically tortured.

Then apartheid minister of justice Jimmy Kruger said at the time: “I am not saddened by Biko’s death and I am not mad. His death leaves me cold.”

In a rare television interview shared on YouTube, Biko outlines his hopes for South Africa: “We see a completely non-racial society. We don’t believe for instance in the so-called guarantees for minority rights, because guaranteeing minority rights implies a division of portions of the community on a race basis.

“We believe that in our country there shall be no minority, there shall be no majority, there shall just be people. And those people will have the same status before the law and they will have the same political rights before the law. so in a sense it will be a complete non-racial egalitarian society.”

Watch the video:

YouTube Preview Image

From the Steve Biko Foundation:

In remembering Biko and drawing lessons from his legacy, a number of issues arise. First, because of their violent nature, the circumstances surrounding his death tend to be the predominant context within which he is remembered. Yet, it was in life that Biko made the most profound contribution to the liberation of South Africa.

Secondly, although Biko is often regarded as the father of Black Consciousness, his political contribution extends well beyond black society and its consciousness. By abandoning politics of comfort, Biko challenged liberal white society to revisit its own consciousness. In this way, he contributed significantly to white consciousness and thus to ploughing the ingredients of mutual respect and non-racialism.

Third, by placing emphasis on the individual as well as the collective, his legacy was far reaching in highlighting the inextricable link between history and biography between the struggles of society and the role of the individual.

Lastly, Biko died at the tender age of thirty. Almost as many years later, his legacy continues to stand the test of intellectual inquiry, as South Africa continues to define itself as a nation. Particularly because of his young age, the substantive qualities of Biko’s legacy speak to the responsibility facing youth as custodians of our democracy, perhaps more so than with any other of the founders of our democracy.

Steve Biko is also trending on Twitter this morning, with people tweeting quotes from the man as well as rare interviews and photographs.

Click on the image to view an interactive Google Cultural Institute timeline of Biko’s life between 1965-1976:

Steve Biko

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South African Writers Take a Stand Against Surveillance in Support of Edward Snowden

Justin Fox, Margie Orford & Adré Marshall

Monday, 8 September, was International Literacy Day. It was also the day that writers, journalists, readers and public intellectuals around the world responded to the call issued by internationales literaturfestival berlin (ilb) to take a stand against surveillance in support of Edward Snowden.

In Cape Town’s AVA Gallery, the Right2Know Campaign hosted an event where a star-studded line-up of writers and activists met. These included Njabulo Ndebele, Christi Van der Westhuizen, Zackie Achmat, Zapiro, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Roberta Nation, Masello Motana, Gabrielle Lubowski, Mandla Mbothwe, Kelsey Wiens and Vinayak Bhardwa.

The Snowden FilesFalls the ShadowNo Place to HideAt Kalk Bay Books, under the auspices of SA Pen, Margie Orford welcomed a gathering of concerned South Africans who had come to hear writers Rustum Kozain, Liesl Jobson, Ken Barris, Karina Szczurek, Justin Fox, Dawn Garisch, Diane Awerbuck, Brent Meersman and Andrew Brown. The readings taking place at both events, supplied by the ilb, were sourced from interviews with Edward Snowden and from the book by Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State. They included his manifesto and related comments.

If literacy skills developed from a basic to advanced level throughout life are – as the UNESCO website states – “part of broader competencies required for critical thinking, the sense of responsibility, participatory governance, sustainable consumption and lifestyles …” then how fitting to be linking around the world to consider Snowden’s revelations on such a day.

Orford, executive president of SA Pen, said the global events honouring Snowden’s immense courage in revealing the “Orwellian” levels of surveillance had irrevocably changed his life. “Julian Assange alerted people to some of the dangers via his Wikileaks exposure, but Edward Snowden showed the extent of surveillance in the USA, as well as surveillance of people everywhere. From that, there’s been revelations of what they’re looking at and our collaboration, often unwittingly and unknowingly in our internet use and how we communicate,” she said.

Orford reflected on how Snowden’s revelations underline the malevolence of a watching state. “He has made us reconsider the notion that just because you’ve done nothing wrong it’s acceptable to be watched. This is absolutely false. A watching eye only sees that you’re good at hiding. Always, you’re hiding something more, something better. You must be guilty, ultimately, if you’re being watched.”

SA Pen stands for privacy and freedom of expression. Orford said, “It’s impossible to think and express yourself freely if you imagine that every single communication and every movement you make is being watched. Referring to the chilling revelations that emerged from the Leveson Enquiry and , she mentioned Paul McMullan’s “Privacy is for paedos” statement that implied that keeping secrets is inherently bad.

“That is not true. That area of privacy is where each of us exists as an individual and as a self. It’s politically important, but creatively it’s extremely important too,” she said. She cited the Pen American Centre’s Report on the damage done to creativity by surveillance: Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives Writers to Self-Censor. Orford acknowledged the enormous sacrifice that Snowden has made to protect us from not knowing about “Big Brother”: “We have to take that responsibility on.”

Journalist Alexandra Dodd, who organised the R2K event, spoke of the energy each reader brought to the text, enabling all present to inhabit Snowden’s ideas and words. “We could almost feel his spirit in the room,” she said, surprised by the intimate sense of Snowden’s presence in attendance. “That, for me, was one of the most thrilling aspects of the night. On the page and screen, his writing comes across as quite dry, restrained and strictly factual (by necessity, of course, considering the subject matter with which he is dealing), but somehow the readers seemed to key into a tangible sense of the man, the person – Edward Snowden – that came through between his words and between the lines.”

She remarked on the tangible sense of community and connectedness that she perceived as “a crucial antidote to the quite terrifying import of what Snowden has revealed to be true about the breadth and venality of technocratic state surveillance in our world today.”

Kelsey Wiens (@bella_velo) and Right2Know (@r2kcampaign) tweeted from the AVA Gallery using the hashtag #SnowdenReading, while Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) and Karina M Szczurek (@KarinaMSzczurek) tweeted from Kalk Bay Books using the hashtag #WorldWideReading:


 
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