Alert! Marlon James has won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his book, A Brief History of Seven Killings.
The 2015 winner was announced by chair of judges Michael Wood in London’s Guildhall at a black-tie dinner this evening.
James was presented with his prize by the Duchess of Cornwall. The 44-year-old author is the first Jamaican to win the prize since it was established in 1969. A Brief History of Seven Killings is his third novel.
James, who currently lives in Minneapolis, US, was handed a cheque for £50 000 (about R1 030 000), but the real benefit will be the dramatic boost in sales following his win. Last year’s winner, the Australian writer Richard Flanagan, sold over 10 000 hardback copies of his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North in the week that followed his win, a 3 141 percent sales increase on the week before. Sales of the novel eclipsed the total number of books Flanagan had sold in the previous decade.
A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fictional account of an attempt to take Bob Marley’s life. Wood said: “This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami.
“It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.”
The Man Booker Prize opened entries to English-language writers of all nationalities two years ago, after previously being restricted to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth.
This year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist was Tom McCarthy (UK, Satin Island),
Marlon James (Jamaica, A Brief History of Seven Killings), Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria, The Fishermen), Sunjeev Sahota (UK, The Year of the Runaways), Anne Tyler (US, A Spool of Blue Thread) and Hanya Yanagihara (US, A Little Life).
Man Booker Prize longlist details
Image courtesy of The Guardian
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The winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize will be announced at the Guildhall in London, UK, tonight. Here is all you need to know ahead of the ceremony.
This year’s prestigious prize will be chosen from the following six books:
The bookmakers have tipped American author Hanya Yanagihara as the favourite to win this year’s prize since the July longlist announcement. Her novel A Little Life, is over 700 pages long, and was called a “relentlessly harrowing human epic” by The Guardian, while The New Yorker praised its “subversive brilliance”. The New Statesman, however, believes the novel “explores abuse but sheds little new light on her subject”.
The Man Booker Prize opened entries to English-language writers of all nationalities two years ago, after previously being restricted to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth. Last year’s winner was Australia’s Richard Flanagan, for The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
The shortlisted authors all received £2 500 (about R51 000), while the winner is handed a cheque for £50 000 (about R1 030 000).
This judging panel is chaired by author and academic Michael Wood, who is joined by critic, broadcaster and editor Ellah Allfrey, novelist John Burnside, The Spectator’s literary editor Sam Leith, and author Frances Osborne.
Obioma was recently announced as the winner of the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Fiction Award, and at 28 he is the youngest author on the Booker Prize shortlist.
“It’s crazy, really, but it’s very humbling too,” he told BBC Radio 4. “Finally my dream has been fulfilled. I’ve always wanted to have a book that people will actually read.”
Listen to the podcast, which begins with an interview with Marlon James, the first writer from Jamaica to make the shortlist in the prize’s 47-year history:
Obioma explained the genesis of his novel for The Guardian:
In 2009, I was away from Nigeria, in Cyprus, and I was homesick. I had a call from my dad one day, and during the conversation he mentioned my two oldest brothers who used to have a sibling rivalry growing up that would sometimes spiral into violence. My dad mentioned that they were so close now, in their early 30s. After the conversation, I started to reflect on what was the worst that could have happened during those days when they would beat each other up. Also, around that time I was reading a book by Will Durant titled The Story of Civilisation, in which he stresses that a civilisation cannot be destroyed from the outside, but from within. The idea of writing a story about a close-knit family came up, and then I wanted to explore the idea of an external force that would come from the outside and destroy a united family.
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You are invited to join My World of Tomorrow, a three-day technology and lifestyle event that will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre from Thursday, 22 October, to Saturday, 23 October.
My World of Tomorrow incorporates a three-day expo as well as a conference that runs for the first two days of the expo. Tickets to the expo cost between R50 and R100 per person per day, and conference tickets, which include access to the expo, cost R3 500.
At the conference Arthur Goldstuck, head of World Wide Worx and co-author of Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World (Bookstorm), will be giving a talk entitled “The Mobile and Data Revolution has only begun”.
Emma Sadleir, co-author of Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex: and Other Legal Advice For the Age of Social Media (Penguin), will be discussing the legal, disciplinary and reputational risks of social media.
Dion Chang, Flux Trends guru and author of The State We’re In (Pan Macmillan), will present “From Preaching in Tweets to Digital Intimacy: The Impact of Technology on Humanity”.
The conference includes many other interesting and enlightening speakers, and there is much to explore at the expo.
Don’t miss out!
- Date: Thursday, 22 October, to Saturday, 24 October 2015
- Time: 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM on Thursday and Friday, and 9 AM to 3 PM on Saturday
- Venue: Sandton Convention Centre
161 Maude Street
Sandown | Map
- Keynote Speakers: Paul Maritz and Stephen van Coller
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- Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World by Nikki Bush and Arthur Goldstuck
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Achille Mbembe has won the prestigious Geschwister Scholl-Preis for the German edition of his latest book, Critique de la raison nègre.
The prize is awarded by the Association of German Publishers and Booksellers (Bavaria) and the City of Munich, and honours a book which “testifies to intellectual independence and promotes civil liberties, moral, intellectual and aesthetic courage and to give impetus to the present awareness of responsibility”. The prize comes with an endowment of 10 000 Euros (roughly R150 000).
Glenn Greenwald won the prize last year for No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the Nsa and the Surveillance State. Other notable winners include Rolf Hochhuth, Jürgen Habermas, Peter Gay, Anna Politkovskaya and David Grossman.
The award ceremony will take place on November 30, 2015, at the University of Munich.
Mbembe is a philosopher, political scientist, and public intellectual based at WiSER (Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research) in Johannesburg.
“The award is a tribute to the work we do at WiSER and at the University of the Witwatersrand. Critique de la raison negre could not have been written anywhere else in the world,” Mbembe told WiSER. “I want it to be read as a South African book. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to South Africa, and just as many other descendants of Africa in the world, I entertain huge hopes for this country.”
The prize jury called Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft a “powerfully written book” and a “remeasurement of the history of capitalism and globalisation” that, with its proposition that global society not only moves goods and capital but also humans and labour, “comes at exactly the right time”.
Critique de la raison negre was published in German by Suhrkamp Verlag AG. An English translation of the book is in the works.
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By Michele Magwood for the Sunday Times
Jonathan Ball, synonymous with leading South African non-fiction, is closing a four-decade chapter in publishing, writes Michele Magwood
Jonathan Ball is a giant of a man – in size, in appetite, in vision, in influence. He is a bon viveur who doesn’t suffer fools, a deep reader with acute commercial nous, a gruff taskmaster and an adoring family man, lethally funny but sometimes abrupt to the point of rudeness. He is also surprisingly modest because if he is a giant of a man, he is a colossus of a publisher. And as such, he has had a profound effect on South Africa.
On a Friday afternoon in his smart, light offices in Woodstock, Ball is getting ready to travel to London, checking the speech he will be making to a gathering of the UK publishing elite. He has announced that he is stepping aside as CEO of the company he founded 40-odd years ago, and for two hours he ranges over the past, present and future of publishing, remembering lawsuits and police raids, speaking of his admiration for Helen Suzman and Thuli Madonsela, segueing between Biggles and Simon Schama and Thomas Pakenham.
“I started out as a rep for Macmillan and I travelled the entire country, Namibia and Zimbabwe too, and that was a great advantage. And then Soweto quite literally burst into flames and one was aware that there were going to be landmark changes in South Africa. I wanted to publish books about it.”
He founded Jonathan Ball Publishers at the age of 27, with the intention of publishing books “of a liberal sanity that pandered neither to the left nor to the right”. He was also determined to win the distribution rights to the lucrative UK and US agencies.
The editor Alison Lowry — who became a titan of a publisher in her own right — was there at the beginning, after Ball had begged a loan and an office from his brother at his air-conditioning plant in Selby. “There were two desks, a telephone, and a cement floor and it was so cold I’d wear my slippers to work,” says Lowry. “And whenever Jon had to make an ‘important’ call, like to a publisher in the UK, I had to stop typing and keep tjoepstil so that Jon could sound like he was in the warm, big, tastefully furnished office he aspired to occupy one day … if we could only get an agency. He did, too — he got Hodder & Stoughton that way.”
In that tiny office the pair of them would conduct what they called the first-line test, reading out the first lines of manuscripts they’d received. “I’ve found that if it doesn’t start well it doesn’t become good,” he says. So Lowry would read out the first lines, “and like the Roman emperor I’d give a thumbs up or a thumbs down”.
Nick Britt was also there at the start, and he remembers the book that put JBP on the map: The Super-Afrikaners. Ball had commissioned the book from journalists Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom and the content was incendiary, an exposé of the Broederbond that would shake the National Party government. “No printer wanted to touch the book,” says Britt. Eventually Ball found a small printer to do it, and then hired a truck and drove the bookblocks to a binder himself to have them bound.
“It took a huge amount of courage, energy and sheer guts and determination to get the job done,” says Britt. These are the qualities that have established JBP as the market leader in South Africa.
Historian Charles van Onselen, who credits Ball with steering him to the subject by giving him free history books when he was penniless, says: “Jonathan has done so much to have kept high-quality history writing in front of the eyes of our very small reading public. He’s a very widely read, highly intelligent reader of history but also one who can, when necessary, see the importance of certain works that might not always produce financial gain for his company.”
It is not surprising that JBP has won more Sunday Times Alan Paton awards than any other publisher. Two of them have been won by Jonny Steinberg, who many think Ball “discovered”. He dismisses the idea gruffly. “Jonny found me. He submitted a manuscript to me and I was glad to sign him up.”
He has a nose for timeous books, though, and he has commissioned many. “Mark Gevisser was writing profiles of Thabo Mbeki for the Sunday Times and I went to see him and asked him for a biography. I don’t for one moment claim that I inspired him to write it. But I encouraged him along the way.” That turned out to be a long way: Thabo Mbeki — A Dream Deferred took eight years to write but it hung another Alan Paton award on the office walls.
He also mentions Antony Altbeker, RW Johnson and Michiel Heyns but declines to name more of his stand-out books. “Because I’ll leave someone out and make people embittered. As Voltaire said on his deathbed when he was asked to renounce the devil, ‘It’s no time to be making enemies.’”
The Voltaire quote is typical. He peppers his speech with poetry, first lines from literature, snippets of great speeches. Britt shared a digs with him once. “I’d be woken up at night by the collected speeches of Winston Churchill being played at high volume and with full audience participation,” Britt says. “That sort of showed his priorities.”
Ball smokes prodigiously, drinks fine wine, and, if his dinner guests are lucky, sings opera in a deep, well-lubricated baritone. He is, as one friend remarked, “a passionate man of Rabelaisian proportions”. He is slyly funny, such as on the subject of adult colouring books (“saddening”) and Fifty Shades shenanigans. He can also, it is said, rattle the windows when he is in a rage, but the squall blows over quickly.
Ball was one of seven siblings and it could be argued that he learnt to make himself heard at a young age. The house in Johannesburg was full of books. “My father wasn’t a man who could afford to buy new books,” he says. “He bought his books at the Toc H shop, but nevertheless they were there.” English classics, poetry, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Macaulay’s The Lays of Ancient Rome. “There was no television – you read.”
On the state of publishing he is bullish. “Electronic books are important but I’ve not for one moment thought they would actually kill the real book.” There’s a trend towards shorter books, he says, because attention spans are shortening, but he believes there will always be a market for big, well-written books.
He promises that there will be many more from JBP and for that we must be grateful. For without his books South Africa would be poorer, our understanding of ourselves diminished or dormant, our history unleavened, or worse — unrecorded. He won’t hold with that view, though. “I’m just a tradesman,” he says.
Few tradesmen can have left such an indelible mark on South African letters.
Follow Michele Magwood on Twitter @michelemagwood
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