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The winner of the 2014 @City_Press Tafelburg Nonfiction Award is Vashthi Nepaul! #openbook2014 @OpenBookFest

Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Mike Carey, Dave de Burgh and Raymond E Feist on the Pure Joy of Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Open Book 2014: Fox and Raven Presents: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Rocks!
The Girl with All the GiftsBetrayal's ShadowMagician's End

The second evening of the 2014 Open Book Festival brought a lively panel, billed Sci-Fi/Fantasy Rocks, to The Fugard Theatre where an energetic crowd waited eagerly to hear that writing can be an enormous amount of fun.

And, as promised on the programme, Mike Carey (The Girl with all the Gifts), Dave de Burgh (Betrayal’s Shadow) and Raymond E Feist (Magician’s End) told Marius du Plessis just how much they loved their jobs. Not one of the authors could disguise their glee and the enthusiastic response from the audience, which contained many local writers and aficionados of the genre, was clearly enjoyed by the authors too.

The discussion was led by Du Plessis, the owner of Fox & Raven, and lived up to its promise, delivering a veritable festival of joy like few others. The authors disclosed their secrets to getting started and keeping going. They revealed the tricks they use to navigate writerly challenges and shared their unmitigated delight in the work they do. Their pride and enjoyment was palpable as they talked about the quirks and vagaries of writing science fiction and fantasy. The venue rang with laughter and a motivated and inspired audience departed, encouraged and supported to follow their own dreams and writerly ambitions.

Feist reflected on the dramatic changes in the spec-fic scene since he started writing in the early 1980s. He said two variables are business and the cultural societal evolution of fanboys and -girls. “For one it makes a lot more money now, in books, comics, film and TV games. Societally it has become so rich that there are number sub-genres to it,” he said. He recalled writer conventions of the ’80s when there were maybe 600 guys in bad T-shirts with cardboard boxes of comics in the basement of a sad hotel getting excited to see a woman writer.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said, “we all look at what came before and figure out how to do it differently. It’s got richer, and better, and there’s way more variety!” He emphasised that there were more opportunities than ever before for genre writers.

Mike Carey spoke about his background in comic book writing and how he got dumped in the deep-end as a writer for the X-Men. It was difficult to get into it because there was such a vast repository of comic books, something like 5 000. As all the cool characters had basically been taken, that freed him to take the characters that were not as popular, giving him terrific freedom to create their backstory and do some world-building. Publishers sent him rejection letters that were extended hilarity. Learning to write for comics, Carey said, helped him structure his stories for the later novels. It was a great learning encounter.

De Burgh shared his early engagement with the novels of David Eddings and Steven Erikson, that meant When he became a bookseller he could speak passionately with the customers. “That changed everything. When I give them a Steven Erickson. If you love it you’re going to hate me because you’ll keep coming back for more! I want to make people want to go back to the books, to make them ask when the next one is coming out.”

Feist affirmed him saying: “That little voice that says you’re better? You are! You are better at writing what you love than anybody else on the planet and you have to hold on to that!”

Echoing the sentiments Sefi Atta, Fiona Leonard and Zukiswa Wanner displayed in their panel, that reading is the most import thing a writer can do, De Burgh turned the conversation to writers who don’t read. He said writers need their writing to be informed by what they read. This is how you learn about writing, via the different kinds of books you read. He said, “Everything I know about writing, I got from reading. The more widely read you are, the more it unlocks your author’s voice … if you don’t read, the only socks you’re going to blow off are the ones you throw in the washing basket!”

Liesl Jobson tweeted live from the discussion:


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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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Sefi Atta, Felicitas Hoppe and Philip Hensher Explain Why Translation is About More than Words

Open Book 2014: Translating
A Bit of DifferenceScenes From Early LifeThe Emperor WaltzHoppe

Sefi Atta, author of A Bit of Difference, Philip Hensher, author of Scenes From Early Life and The Emperor Waltz, and Felicitas Hoppe, author of Hoppe, spoke to Derrick Higgenbotham about the art of translation.

Higginbotham started the conversation with an explanation of the sensitivities related to translation. Hoppe, one of Germany’s greatest authors, said a book which is translated becomes a very different book. She said both writing and reading are ways of translating.

Atta’s view of translation was very different to Hoppe’s. She told the audience that her first exprience of translated works was growing up in Nigeria reading Hansel and Gretel. Her approach to the translation is more controlled and she prefers to have a firmer say in the end product.

Hensher read passages from his latest novel The Emperor Waltz. The scene was inspired by a real raid on a gay bookshop. During the discussion he elaborated on the intricacies of culture when it comes to word choices.

Books LIVE’s Helené Prinsloo tweeted the conversation:


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Shaping Landscapes with Words, with Kader Abdolah, Damon Galgut, Marguerite Poland and Jacqui L’Ange

Open Book 2014: Landscape Architects
The House of the MosqueArctic SummerThe Keeper

Jacqui L’Ange chaired a fascinating discussion with Kader Abdolah, Damon Galgut, and Marguerite Poland about constructing the literary foundations of their novels at the 2014 Open Book Festival in Cape Town.

L’Ange spoke to the three authors about how they create landscape, and heard how landscapes have shaped their writing.

Abdolah is an Iranian-born writer who moved to Holland in his 30s. The House of the Mosque is an example of how Persian culture and the landscape that inspired it is transplanted to a new territory in his writing. L’Ange said the book reads like a fairytale, layered with history and poetry.

Poland says she is inspired by the rugged beauty of the Eastern Cape. Her latest book, The Keeper, is about a lighthouse on a small, desolate, windswept island. Galgut says the spark for his latest novel, Arctic Summer, came from the elusive beauty of India, which drew him to EM Forster’s writing about the country.

The conversation about how these writers shape landscapes in their words evolved into a conversation about how landscape, culture and literature became part of them as people, and shaped their writing. Abdolah said that he thought for a very long time that he was making language as a writer, but has realised that language was making him, even as the landscape and culture made the language. He said that moving away from his native land and language gave him freedom and a new way to write. Poland, who did her PhD in Nguni languages, said that acquiring another language is like acquiring a new soul. The languages she has learnt have expanded her appreciation and comprehension of the landscape of her home, and has enabled her to relate to and write it more soulfully.

In the conversation about the genesis of their books, the authors talked about their inspiration and the difficulty of transcribing it. Galgut said that Samuel Beckett’s saying “I can’t go on, I must go on” encapsulates the process of writing a novel. He believes that there is a mythology attached to writing, and if he understood it fully, it would cease to be an obsession. Poland told some stories about the strange coincidences in her research and writing process; she feels these are a consolation that her work is a small part of bearing witness to something bigger. Abdolah said that it is this reassurance that enables writers to go on writing even though it is so difficult.

Books LIVE’s Erin Devenish covered the gig:

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Overheard at Open Book 2014: Top Tweets and Photos

From drawing writing inspiration from shiny shoes, liquorice, and hand cream, to musings over the validity of forensic evidence, the second day of the Open Book Festival was jam-packed with interesting food for thought.

We bring you the tweets that moved and amused us during the day. (By “us” we mean the one Books LIVE member left in Joburg, suffering from the worst case of FOMO in the history of the world.)














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Open Book 2014: Tiah Beautement’s Latest Novel This Day Launched with Zukiswa Wanner

Open Book 2014: This Day

This DayLondon – Cape Town – JoburgTiah Beautement launched her new book, This Day, in the company of Zukiswa Wanner at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town yesterday.

Loss has left Ella Spinner alone to care for her husband, Bart, who suffers from clinical depression. Their days now echo the tides: any progress made, rolls back. Yet Ella keeps pushing against the monotony. Set in Mossel Bay, Ella’s day begins like any other. But on this day the minutes begin to crack allowing change to filter through. As we cheer on her tenacity, we’re left asking ourselves what motivates anyone to try again.

Wanner repeatedly praised This Day, Beautement’s second novel, calling it wonderful, funny and honest. The book reflects two very different yet prominent parts of life: happiness and sadness. Beautement shared that writing the book was part of coping with her personal medical challenges.

Books LIVE’s Helené Prinsloo covered the event:

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Podcast: Writer’s Rage – Why Thando Mgqolozana and Zukiswa Wanner are Seriously Pissed Off

Open Book 2014: Writer's Rage
UnimportanceA Man Who is Not a ManHear Me AloneThe MadamsMen of the SouthLondon – Cape Town – Joburg

Zukiswa Wanner

In February Zukiswa Wanner wrote a blogpost titled “The Literature and Magazine/Newspaper Editor’s Rant” in which she said, among other things:

“In a country where the majority of the population is black y’all have suddenly decided that white writing is the standard? Really? There are either good or bad writers. There are no good or bad black female/male writers so stop that ‘good black’ crap, stop it.”

This blog prompted Mervyn Sloman to invite Wanner and Thando Mgqolozana, “who was one of the more vociferous contributors to the debate”, to participate in the 2014 Open Book Fesival to discuss the really important and relevant issues it brought up. In a session titled “Writer’s Rage”, Wanner and Mgqolozana addressed what’s really pissing them off:

  • When authors are referred to as “emerging” after being around for quite some time
  • When authors are expected to work for free, especially at festivals
  • The usage of the umbrella term “black” to refer to all authors who are not white while there is so much diversity in black voices
  • Being called good black writers – this is patronising and marginilasation of their work
  • Lack of recognition for efforts made
  • The expectation that their books should be “more African” – what does that even mean?
  • Being prescribed what to write about
  • Disguised racism in questions from journalists and readers, even if subconsciously
  • Not being respected as artists
  • People who refuse to read stories about other South Africa cultures
  • The thought that there is a single South African story and that there will be one “great South African novel” in the midst of so many different stories
* * * * * * * *

Listen to a podcast of the discussion:

Mervyn Sloman, Thando Mgqolozana and Zukiswa Wanner

Helené Prinsloo was there and tweeted live from the discussion:

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Oscar Pistorius’ Gun and Forensic Bungling: David Klatzow Outspoken as Usual at Open Book Festival

Open Book 2014: Justice Denied

Justice DeniedDavid Klatzow, forensic expert and author of Justice Denied, spoke to Richard Calland about the limitations of forensic science at the 2014 Open Book Festival in Cape Town.

Klatzow said he doesn’t believe in staying quiet; that evil exists because good men let it happen. He also insisted that what forensic scientists have accepted as “gospel truth” over the years has been shown to be old wives’ tales science: “science isn’t wrong, but experts are wrong about science”.

Klatzow spoke about Dr Crippen, who was proved innocent 100 years after his death, and the infamous bungling of a murder case in Franschhoek.

He also insists Judge Thokozile Masipa was wrong in her judgement of the Oscar Pistorius trial, and spoke about the gun used to kill Reeva Steenkamp.

Lindsay Callaghan covered the talk for Books LIVE:

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Touching Tributes to Nadine Gordimer, from Karina Szczurek, Margie Orford, Billy Kahora and Imraan Coovadia

Nadine Gordimer Tribute
My Son's StoryA World of StrangersJuly\'s People

Water MusicTales of the Metric SystemKwani? 05, Part 2Invisible OthersThe Gonjon Pin and Other Stories

Nadine Gordimer passed away in her home at the age of 90 this July. The Open Book Festival honoured the Nobel laureate for her dedication to her craft and her contribution to the South African literary and political landscape.

Imraan Coovadia, Billy Kahora and Margie Orford read from Nadine Gordimer’s work in an event curated by Karina M Szczurek.

Open Book: Nadine Gordimer

Kenyan author and journalist Kahora took the microphone first. Kahora, who lived for eight years in South Africa, was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing this year. He read from My Son’s Story and “Amnesty”

“Yesterday I was part of a panel called the Genius of the Short Story and a young man in the audience asked, ‘How do balance politics in your writing?’ We kind of floundered. But I think the answer I should have given is ‘Just read Nadine Gordimer’.

“This balance of politics and aesthetics is something that I’ve admired in Nadine Gordimer for a long time. I came to South Africa in 1997, I was a young man from Kenya who was aspiring to be a writer. And I read a story called “Amnesty”. It’s about this young women who is waiting for her husband, who has been incarcerated in Robben Island. And the amazing feat that Nadine Gordimer does is to get into a point of view that’s quite amazing; this young black woman who’s waiting for her husband.

“Much earlier in the 1990s, when I was still a teenager, I read My Son’s Story, and at the time I was simply amazed by that same feat, getting across a point of view that’s not your own. The whole idea of a kind of interracial affair between a white female activist and an ANC politician struck me as slightly seditious. But the beauty of is that even while it investigates that politics, it also goes into the son who is discovering his father is an adulterer.”

Open Book 2014: Nadine Gordimer Tribute

Coovadia said when he read Gordimer’s early work it struck him that “there was a lot of EM Forster in her”, but he decided to read from A World of Strangers, which he said had “always been his favourite”.

“The last time I saw her, Nadine Gordimer referred to us as ‘comrade writers’,” Coovadia said. “I think she was the last person who could use that expression unselfconsciously. It was one of the things I admired about her.

“She talked about writing as ‘an open secret’ when she was a kid. It was something she did that nobody noticed, and they allowed her to do it because nobody noticed it. In a way, when she died I realised that there weren’t other writers in the country who were doing what she did, and I think her genius was not a genius of the sentence or the paragraph, it’s drawing back and being able to see people’s lives against the context, and to grasp the context in which those lives are lived. It’s a very rare skill. And maybe the most valuable one.

“What else can I say about her. I don’t know. I miss her.”

Open Book 2014: Nadine Gordimer Tribute

Orford, author and president of Pen South Africa, said she was “very proud” to be reading from her one of her favourite Nadine Gordimer books, July’s People.

Nadine Gordimer was vice-president of International Pen for many, many years and a great champion all her life of freedom of expression. And her commitment to fighting the secrecy bill, as it’s known, the Protection of State Information Act, was I think her last political struggle and perhaps one of her bravest because out of that came her ability to differentiate and pull out of her great loyalty to the ANC and to the Struggle in South Africa, her commitment to principle and the foundation of democratic principle which is what she saw freedom of expression as being.”

Open Book 2014: Tribute to Nadine Gordimer

Szczurek spoke about her relationship with Gordimer, whose work was the subject of her PhD thesis.

“It is no exaggeration to say Nadine Gordimer literally changed my whole life, again and again. It was about 12 or 13 years ago when I read one of her short stories, “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off”, that she brought South Africa into my life with that wonderful short story.

“I spent six years reading the work of Nadine Gordimer and not for a second did I regret choosing her work as a subject of my thesis. Eventually her work brought me to South Africa and the country became my home. Now I have been living her for almost a decade and, also, not for a second did I regret making those choices. So I have a lot to be grateful for. Her work really means a lot to me. And as Imraan said I do miss her a lot.”

Szczurek read from Gordimer’s 1949 short story collection, Face to Face.

Life TimesLying DaysNone to Accompany MeOn the MinesTelling Times
Tales of the Metric SystemKwani? 05, Part 2The Little Red HenInvisible Others

Books LIVE’s Jennifer Malec tweeted snippets from the conversation:


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Vashthi Nepaul Delighted if Daunted After Winning 2014 City Press Nonfiction Prize

Vashthi Nepaul

PostmortemJournalist Vashthi Nepaul says she is “motivated” and “grateful” after winning the 2014 City Press Nonfiction Award last night.

The announcement was made at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town yesterday, by City Press editor-in-chief Ferial Haffajee. Nepaul received a prize of R60 000 to fund the research for her book, which will be published in 2016. It will be entitled Gift, and will focus on the difficulties faced by gifted children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“I am so very motivated by the prospect of getting this book out there, where more of my fellow South Africans can engage with it,” Nepaul says. “Our country’s children have amazing abilities and talent but many of them aren’t being given the platform to harness their giftedness. I am therefore extremely grateful to City Press and Tafelberg for allowing me to explore the very controversial subject of giftedness. I hope to do justice to the terrifying faith placed in me with this award.”

On the shortlist with Nepaul were Lydia Gittens, Liesl Louw-Vaudran and The Very Reverend Michael Weeder.

Tafelberg nonfiction publisher Annake Müller says Nepaul is a worthy winner: “In light of the fact that education is one of the key challenges facing our country, Nepaul’s proposed book on the plight of gifted children from low-income households couldn’t be more topical.”

Maria Phalime won the inaugural City Press Nonfiction Award for Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away, while Don Pinnock, the former editor of Getaway, was the winner of the 2013 award. His book on gangsterism in Cape Town will be published in 2015.

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