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An Unnatural History: Hedley Twidle Reviews Henrietta Rose-Innes' Green Lion

Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Gareth Langdon Reviews This Day by Tiah Beautement

This DayVerdict: carrot with criticism

The novel is redeemed by its honesty, though. It confronts a harsh tragedy unashamedly, with a sense of bold confidence. The closing provides an excellent climax to the struggles of Ella’s day and we for the first time see her true pain revealed.

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Pieter Kruger resenseer Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa deur Dean Allen

Empire, War and Cricket in South AfricaUitspraak: wortel

Gelukkig het Dean Allen in sy pragboek die waarheid ontbloot oor die borrelende kookpot waarin Logan hom tussen 1877 en 1920 in Suid-Afrika bevind het.

Die skrywer het die boek intensief nagevors, dit is propvol pragfoto’s en is keurig geskryf.

Allen het juis sy doktorale proefskrif in 2008 gegrond op sy belangstelling in die geskiedenis van krieket en Matjiesfontein se ryke verlede.

Hoe dieper jy in Logan se lewensverhaal delf, hoe meer besef jy dat die destydse cowboy-politiek, rykdom en hebsug, onsmaaklikhede oor die toekenning van kontrakte, inmengery in die kies van krieketspanne en alles wat gedoen is vir eie gewin, steeds in 2015 plaasvind.


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JB Roux resenseer Mara deur Lisette van de Heg, vertaal deur Daniel Hugo

MaraUitspraak: wortel

Mara is ’n pragtige boek, vol verdriet en wroeging, maar nie sonder humor nie. Alles wat mooi en goed is, is tussen dié bladsye te vind: versoening, begrip van en vergifnis vir die self, aanvaarding, liefde. En veral: ’n vredesluiting met God, want dit is eindelik waaroor die boek gaan: een mens se struweling met ’n onverstaanbare God en eindelike aanvaarding van Sy onvoorwaardelike liefde – teen wil en dank.

Dis ’n boek wat uit die hemel geval het; ’n heilige, geseënde verhaal …


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Carole Bloch, Ntombizanele Mahobe and Malusi Ntoyapi Accept PRAESA’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in Stockholm

Our Story MagicOscar Wilde's The Happy PrinceInterviews with Neville AlexanderThe Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) has been awarded the 2015 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award at a cermony in Stockholm, Sweden.

The announcement was made in early April.

PRAESA is an independent research and development unit affiliated with the University of Cape Town. It was established by the late Neville Alexander in 1992.

See: PRAESA Wins 2015 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award – World’s Largest Award for Children’s and YA Literature

At the ceremony, director Carole Bloch gave a speech thanking the Swedish Arts Council for bestowing the award on PRAESA. Training coordinator Ntombizanele Mahobe and programmes support officer Malusi Ntoyapi joined her to receive the award.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was founded in honour of the late author of Pippi Longstocking books. It is intended to promote youth literature that demonstrates valuing democracy and human rights.

PRAESA is the first ALMA recipient from Africa, and one of only two organisations to have won the award.

Press Release

Strong feelings when PRAESA received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2015

It was an emotional moment when Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) was presented to the South African reading promotion PRAESA by Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke. PRAESA, Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa, is the first laureate ever from the African continent.

At the Stockholm Concert Hall PRAESA was represented by Director Carole Bloch, Training Coordinator Ntombizanele Mahobe and Programmes Support Officer Malusi Ntoyapi. In her speech Carole Bloch emphasised how stories actually can change children’s and young people’s lives:

“We believe that the stories we tell, write and read can change lives. Sharing stories inspire us all to struggle against becoming overwhelmed by the challenges we meet each day in our fractured and profoundly unequal society. This is also the impetus behind the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign PRAESA runs.”

The Minister for Culture and Democracy, Alice Bah Kuhnke, underlined the importance of culture for democracy:

“For me as a minister of both culture and democracy it is very encouraging to see PRAESA’s successful work using culture to strengthen democracy. A wide range of culture, arts and literature that reaches both adults and children is a prerequisite for democratic development and for preserving democracy.”

Artist Kristina Amparo performed her own songs during the evening, and Swedish rap artist Petter performed his own text Fäller en tår. The program also included a street dance performance inspired by the South African Kwaito music style.

Host for the evening was Ingemar Fasth, Head of Literature and Libraries at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern.


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2015 Hermanus FynArts Festival Brings Authors from Across All Genres to the Whale Coast (5 – 16 June)

The Hermanus FynArts Festival is a unique celebration of South African arts organised by Hermanus Tourism. The 2015 edition, taking place from 5 to 16 June in venues across the beautiful Whale Coast town, sees a wide variety of authors on the programme.

Power PlayJimfishBare and BreakingJustice DeniedDylan LewisSouth Africa: A Long Walk to a Free RideIndia: Lost & Found

The 12-day festival will be filled with exhibitions, music, literature, food and wine, talks, workshops and presentations. You can look forward to discussions with Mike Nicol, Christopher Hope, Michele Magwood, Karin Schimke, David Klatzow, Dylan Lewis, David Grier, Nik Rabinowitz and many more.

Don’t miss it!


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Images courtesy of Hermanus FynArts

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Apartheid … Again! – Join Niq Mhlongo, Sihle Khumalo and Fiona Snyckers for a Talk on Writers’ Roles in Society

Niq Mhlongo, Sihle Khumalo and Fiona Snyckers
AffluenzaAlmost Sleeping My Way to TimbuktuTeam Trinity

Alliance Française would like to invite you to a literary project by the French School Jules Verne entitled “Apartheid … Again!”

Authors Niq Mhlongo, Sihle Khumalo and Fiona Snyckers and freelance journalist Ester Levinrad will discuss the role of writers and civilians in society. They will engage with the French School students and attempt to answers complex questions such as: “What stories can be told about South Africa, still scarred by its past?”

The event will take place at Alliance Française on Saturday, 6 June, and will run from 11 AM to 1 PM.

Don’t miss it!

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A Stitch in Time: 2015 Alan Paton Award Shortlistee Maria Phalime Discusses Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away

Published in the Sunday Times

What prompted you to write Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away?
When I left medical practice in 2004 I was determined to shut the door on that chapter of my life and to start my professional life over. Yet I couldn’t forget the experiences of my medical training and practice. I kept asking myself whether I had made the correct decision; I wondered what had happened to the ideals I had when I was a medical student. So in a sense I felt compelled to write the book; I needed to turn down the noise of those unanswered questions.

What drew you to medicine in the first place?
I wanted to make a difference, and medicine felt like the best way for me to do that.

When did your disillusion take root?
When I was working in the public health system I was very aware of the mismatch between what we were taught at medical school and what we could actually do on the ground. Often patients presented with social and economic problems, issues I wasn’t equipped to deal with. Furthermore, we were dealing with the upsurge in the HIV pandemic, during a time when our government was still denying that there was a link between HIV and Aids.

Was there a final straw for you, or more a creeping sense of helplessness?
The realisation was gradual and subtle. Thankfully, I had enough self-awareness to realise that the conditions under which I was working were negatively impacting my life. It was when I saw the kind of person I was becoming – irritable, impatient, disconnected – that I knew it was time to walk away.

You write “It was tough, it was sad, and then I left. That’s all.” Do you miss practising medicine?
I don’t miss practicing medicine, and I’m clear that I made the right decision. For many years after I left I felt very guilty, so it is gratifying for me now to know that my book is helping to shed light on the dysfunction in our health system. So in a sense I am continuing to “heal”, only in a different way to what I had initially envisaged.

What advice would you give a young person wanting to become a doctor?
Young people need to be clear what they are getting themselves into. Medicine has always had an elite status in our society, and this status isn’t helped by television dramas like Grey’s Anatomy, which glamourise the profession. The reality is that working as a doctor is tough, particularly where the health system is dysfunctional. I also think it’s important that young people are prepared to play more of an advocacy role as doctors. There is a lot of work to be done; the challenges are huge.

What advice would you give to the Minister of Health?
I would ask the Health Minister to read my book in order to understand what doctors on the ground are going through. The practice of medicine has changed since he was working as a doctor; the challenges are far greater. The fact that the majority of doctors who graduate from our medical schools end up leaving public service – either to go into the private sector, overseas or to non-medical professions – should serve as an indication that all is not well.

Did the book cause controversy in the profession? Or have you received support from other doctors?
I was initially concerned that there would be a backlash from the medical profession, but that hasn’t happened. In fact, I am often thanked by doctors for sharing my story and for raising a long-overdue discussion about their daily struggles.

What are your best – and worst – memories of practising?
I loved studying medicine and I have many fond memories of practising as a doctor, particularly the times I spent with children at Red Cross Hospital. By far the worst experiences were in the community health centres where people came in desperation, looking to doctors to solve their social, economic and health problems.

Full 2015 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award shortlist

Full 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize shortlist

PostmortemBook details

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The Outsiders in My Head: 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize Shortlistee Elaine Proctor on Writing The Savage Hour

Published in the Sunday Times

The Savage Hour, or at least its content, its flesh, bones and spirit, have been waiting in the shadows of my writing life for a long time. I was aware of it gathering density as I lived and learnt, as my mother aged, children grew, as the writing lessons from my first novel prepared me for this more challenging book.

When publisher, time and space aligned and the waiting material was let loose, it was a question of wrestling the story out of it. Of surfing the currents of feeling it presented and applying a muscular and solid narrative structure to ease its way.

This is my homecoming book and the idea of telling the story of my country has been with me a long time. By that I mean the country of my imagination and the people of my inner landscape. It’s not a literally autobiographical book, but it began at the point of my most intimate engagement with the place. The land, real and unsentimental, and the people who wash up on it like shipwrecks.

I was interested in a community of people who were not powerful, who were somewhat shut out of the new opportunities presented to the various elites. In this way I guess I was working with class as well as all the other identifiers. The Zimbabwean farm labourer, the beautiful but ruined young woman in hiding from the Cape gangs, the burdened police chief, the fading matriarch, the gay detective – all are us and we are them.

I hope this will surface. There’s more where it came from. I’m thrilled to be on the shortlist, it helps to bring the work, done in such a solitary way, into the communal conversation. I’m grateful.

* * * * *

Excerpt from The Savage Hour:

Groot Samuel is the first to fill his hand with earth and throw it into the grave. It hits the wooden casket louder than hail on a tin roof. Aletta is next, then Frans, Delilah, Gogo and Jannie.

Handful by handful, the mourners fill the grave with earth. The air becomes dense with red dust cast high on the wind by many, many hands.

Jannie watches the red cloud grow. The sun behind doubles the density of the haze and endows this leave-taking with a powerful otherworldliness.

He sees Pieter slip away up the driveway without seeking leave and wonders at his hunched shoulders, bent with grief. He watches Groot Samuel herd the family together into a sort of receiving line. He sees Cheetah and Klein Samuel shuffle awkwardly towards it, unsure of this practice.

Isle offers her hand to Cheetah when her turn comes. Jannie sees horror settle on Ilse’s face as Cheetah refuses it. Instead, the farm girl puts her fingers to either side of her head to make ears, like a … like a what. And she pants. Like a dog! She pants like a dog.


Cheetah is being Ouma’s canine shadow. Her friend. Her constant.

Jannie almost stumbles in this moment of revelation.

Where is Suffering?

The question sends the blood rushing to the vein in his temple.

Gone. The dog is gone.

And so the last meagre strip of fact lays itself down on all the others that have come before and is, finally, denser than the air around it. He moves from suspicion to certainty with the help of Cheetah’s gesture.

Jannie searches out Delilah to share this revelation but sees she is engulfed by mourners who reach for her, as Ouma’s youngest, to commiserate and weep. He can see the rising cherry-red patches on her cheekbones that reveal her growing discomfort. Why is it that in the giving of their insistent comfort, the mourners take more than they leave? Jannie is pulled away from Delilah’s plight by the demands of his discovery and he must follow where it leads. He knows that had Suffering been there on that fateful morning, as he always was, he would have barked until someone came to Ouma’s rescue. He would have woken them from their slumber, he would have bared his teeth and howled until they answered his call.

Jannie knows then that somebody made damn sure he was not. He knows it in his body. Absolutely.

Ouma did not slip.

* * * * *

Full 2015 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award shortlist

Full 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize shortlist

The Savage HourBook details

Image courtesy of Tim Burrough

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Shaun de Waal Reviews JM Coetzee and the Life of Writing by David Attwell

JM Coetzee and the Life of WritingVerdict: carrot

Attwell is the perfect person to conduct this sort of study, to “read the life and the work of its subject … together” and to examine “the life of the writing” or the “life in the writing”. With Coetzee he produced Doubling the Point, the first collection of Coetzee’s essays and academic work, interviewing Coetzee on his intellectual development – and relating that to his ongoing fiction writing – as a way to link the pieces and provide some context. He also wrote what probably remains the best single study of Coetzee’s first six novels.

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“You Feel Like A Dancing Monkey” – Zakes Mda on Predominantly White Literary Festivals

Rachel’s BlueUnimportanceZakes Mda has added his voice to the debate around South Africa’s “white literary system” that was initiated recently by Thando Mgqolozana at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

In an interview with Charl Blignaut for City Press, Mda expresses solidarity with Mgqolozana, saying that the FLF replicates the feelings generated by European literary festivals: “You feel like you are a dancing monkey.” He says he will “never go back” to Franschhoek, although he says his reasons differ slightly, and are more to do with irrelevant discussions.

Mda says that although it is white people who perpetuate this kind of exclusion, black leaders are somewhat at fault for allowing it to happen.

Mda’s most recent novel is Rachel’s Blue, and he has a children’s book coming out soon.

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Regarding a similar lack of transformation around the inclusion of black African novels in school curriculums, Mda said: “Who’s in charge of the syllabus? It’s us. Thando should be angry with us mostly. Because we run this country now and we’ve been running it for 21 years. If there’s anything wrong here, we should have changed it. You don’t hear me going around saying whites this and whites that. If whites are doing that it’s because we have allowed them to do it. That is why my criticism is directed at the people I have employed to change that situation. The people I elected and then also us who must work towards changing it.”

A word of caution: it seems that Mda believes that the headline of the above article, “Blame black leaders, not white thieves,” misrepresents his stance on the matter, as he tweeted:

Related links:


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