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Archive for the ‘Umuzi’ Category

Greg Marinovich and Zakes Mda win the 2017 Sunday Times Literary Awards

Little Suns
Murder at Small Koppie

Greg Marinovich and Zakes Mda have been announced as the winners of the prestigious Sunday Times Literary Awards.

The winners were announced at a black tie event at the Sunday Times’ office. Apart from receiving the celebrated Sunday Times Literary Awards accolade, each author is also awarded prize money of R100,000.

Acclaimed novelist Zakes Mda was awarded the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize for his book Little Suns, published by Umuzi.

Greg Marinovich received the Alan Paton Award for his book Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre, published by Penguin Books.

2017 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize shortlist
2017 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award shortlist

The Barry Ronge Fiction Prize was judged this year by Rehana Rossouw (chair), Africa Melane and Kate Rogan.

The Alan Paton Award judging panel was chaired by Pippa Green, supported by judges Tinyiko Maluleke and Johann Kriegler.

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Barry Ronge Fiction Prize shortlist: Zakes Mda discusses the origins of his novel Little Suns

Published in the Sunday Times

Little SunsLittle Suns
Zakes Mda (Umuzi)

My grandfather, Charles Mda, had a horse named Gobongwane. I remember my grandfather in his brown riding boots and breeches coming in from a tour of his orchard at his estate that covered a large part of Dyarhom Mountain on the Eastern Cape side of the border of Lesotho with South Africa. He loved his horse and I can still hear in my mind’s ear his weather-beaten tenor singing in praise of his horse: “Nanko ke, nanko k’uGobondwane.”
He told us the melody was based on a song that his grandfather, Mhlontlo, sang to his own horse called Gcazimbane. Then the stories would flow from him about Mhlontlo, the king of amaMpondomise, who was a great medicine man that could turn the white man’s bullets into water. My imagination would run wild at this magic and I would imagine crystal clear water flowing from the barrel of the guns of the Red Coats, as the British soldiers were called.
My uncle, Robert Mda, would sometimes visit and add to these stories. He would tell us how Mhlontlo was accused of assassinating Hamilton Hope, a British magistrate assigned to his district in Qumbu, Eastern Cape, and how he (Mhlontlo) and a group of his followers were exiled to Lesotho. Though he was recaptured after 20 years, many of his followers remained in Lesotho as they had then established themselves in that country with their families. That is why to this day there are all those Mdas who are sheep farmers in Lesotho’s Mantsonyane Mountains and horsemen in Taung.
Years later I came across praise poetry that mentioned Mhlontlo in a book by Lesotho historian, Mosebi Damane, and years after that, I stumbled into a book on Mhlontlo by Clifton Crais, an Ohio historian. Suddenly Mhlontlo was no longer just a creature of magic, myth and legend. He was a historical man of flesh and blood. I searched for primary sources, court records, newspaper articles, and the oral tradition to recreate his life and times. And because I love love, I decided to place the historical events in a fictional love story. That’s how Little Suns was born. Though I am a staunch republican and do not believe in the anachronistic institution of royalty which in my view is a relic of feudalism, the fact remains that it exists in parts of South Africa and people love and support it.
It is therefore untenable to me that amaMpondomise lost their own kingship solely because they stood firm and fought against colonialism, while neighbouring national groups (as they were at the time) continue to have their kings only because they supported the colonial war machine against amaMpondomise during the War of Hope. A free South Africa reinforced this injustice through its Nhlapho Commission which continued to deny amaMpondomise their rights. It was important for me then to bring the history of amaMpondomise to light.

Like all the peoples of the eastern region, amaMpondomise were known for their hospitality. But these particular iindwendwe were not the most welcome guests in the history of kwaMpondomise. Everyone had been dreading their arrival from the time spies reported that they had left Qumbu with a caravan made up of one wagon loaded with five hundred Martini-Henry rifles for the thousand men that Mhlontlo had promised Hamilton Hope, a Scotch cart loaded with ammunition comprising 18 000 ball cartridges, two other wagons loaded with mealies and potatoes, another Scotch cart loaded with the things of the white people, and a slew of black servants – mostly amaMpondomise and amaMpondo converts and a few amaQheya or Khoikhoi. The caravan was led by the four white men on their horses, Hope, Warren, Henman and Davis.
Qumbu was only 18 miles from Sulenkama so they had arrived the same afternoon, and had set up camp on a hill about a mile from the village. Even before they could send a messenger to Mhlontlo’s Great Place the king sent his own messenger to them, a man called Faya. The king was reiterating what he had said before; he would not lead the army to war. His army was waiting for the orders, all ready to go, and his uncle Gxumisa was ready to lead them anytime he was called upon to do so. He, Mhlontlo, King of amaMpondomise, was in mourning because his senior wife, daughter of the most revered monarch in the region, King Sarhili of amaGcaleka, also known as amaXhosa, had passed away, and according to the customs of his people he had to stay in seclusion and observe certain rituals. He could not touch weapons of war during mourning.
Of course Hamilton Hope had heard all this nonsense before. He sent Faya back to his master with a stern message: the British Empire could not be kept waiting on account of heathen customs. The war would be fought and the Pondomise warriors would be led by none other than Umhlonhlo. He, Hamilton Hope, Resident Magistrate of the District of Qumbu in the Cape Colony Government of Her Glorious Majesty Queen Victoria, was summoning the Pondomise paramount chief Umhlonhlo to come and meet him in person forthwith and take orders to march to war against the rebel Basotho chief Magwayi, failing which he would be stripped of all vestiges of chieftainship and his Pondomise tribe would be placed under chiefs of those tribes that were willing to cooperate with Her Majesty’s Government.
As Faya galloped away with the dire message, Hope fired a few shots after him to illustrate that he was serious, to the laughter of his entourage. Faya hollered all the way to the Great Place that someone should save him; the men whose ears reflected the rays of the sun – ooNdlebezikhanyilanga – were trying to kill him.
For two days Mhlontlo kept Hamilton Hope waiting. That was the stand-off that had excited the young men. At last the elders were fighting back. Finally the king was refusing to be treated like an uncircumcised boy by a couple of white people whose own penises were undoubtedly still enveloped in foreskins. In the evening they cast their eyes on the hill and saw the fires at Hamilton Hope’s camp and went on with their lives as if all was normal and the world was at peace with itself. Of course Hope was not amused.

Follow Zakes Mda @ZakesMda

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Sally Andrew on her latest novel, the significance of the Karoo, and Tannie Maria’s relationship with food…

Michael Sears, co-author of the Detective Kubu-series, recently interviewed one of South Africa’s most beloved sunshine noir authors, Sally Andrew.

Sally gained recognition for her Tannie Maria Mystery-series. Set in the Karoo, featuring fascinating characters, plenty of food and a healthy dosage of murder-solving, the first novel in the series, Recipes for Love and Murder has been described as “a triumph” by the masterful Alexander McCall Smith.

Here Sally discusses the second novel in the series, The Satanic Mechanic, the significance of the Klein Karoo, and going deeper into Tannie Maria’s PTSD symptoms:

Tannie Maria is a wonderful character. Steeped in the traditions of the Karoo, “cooking with love,” and caring, but she’s also as hard as steel when she has to be. Did you set out to understand Tannie Maria more deeply in the new book, or did she just decide to tell you?

My decisions and Tannie Maria’s decisions are usually entwined. One of us may start with an idea and the other will run with it. There were questions raised in the first book about Tannie Maria’s relationship with her late abusive husband, and how this impacted on her psychology. Many women suffer from PTSD after chronic abuse, but I was not explicit about exploring this in Recipes. In The Satanic Mechanic, I go deeper into Maria’s PTSD symptoms. I also show that there is a problematic aspect to her food-obsession (which in book one could have been interpreted merely as a passion for cooking).

The Bushman or San people feature in this book; one of their leaders is murdered and because of conflict over a number of land claims, there are a variety of culprits. What led you to the Bushmen and their tragic history?

The Karoo is filled with the spirit of the San (aka Bushmen: hunter-gatherers), their rock paintings, and their ancestors. I’ve had a long-time interest in San culture, and visited Bushman communities, and ancient Bushman sites in Southern Africa. They are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, and have been treated abominably by the territorial invaders that followed. In the central Kalahari (and other places too) they continue to do battle with government and businesses to maintain their rights to land, water, and hunter-gatherer existence. I believe their traditions and practices hold important political, environmental, and spiritual messages for us today.

Tannie Maria finds herself shadowed by a magnificent kudu bull. She realizes that it’s in her mind but it’s a metaphor for what’s going on around her. Spirits in animal form also feature in Bushman myth. What is the kudu saying to the reader?

That kudu bull I describe in my book is based on a beautiful creature that I came across on a number of early morning walks in the Karoo. In the soft light and the quiet, this was a sacred experience for me. He was so gentle, yet so strong. A peaceful, powerful beast.

I also enjoyed eating from the Kudu Stall at the Klein Karoo Arts Festival (the setting for the murder of the Bushman land rights activist), and I relate to the Bushman notion that you take in the properties of the animal you eat.

The reader will decide for themselves what the kudu means to them, but for me, it resonates with other messages in the book related to strength, gentleness and respect for the earth.

Interested in what Sally has to say about the satanic mechanic, Tannia Maria’s recipes, and the third book? Continue reading their interview here.

Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery

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The Satanic Mechanic

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Sunshine noir fans, get your monthly dosage of local thriller authors here…

Watch this space for news on the best thriller and crime fiction authors Africa has to offer.

BooksLIVE will be publishing pieces on local sunshine noir authors on a monthly basis, as featured in International Thrillers Writers’ “Africa Scene”. “Africa Scene” is the brainchild of South African thriller writer par excellence, Mike Nicol, and is available on the e-magazine, Big Thrill.

Mike Nicol


Michael Sears

Nicol initiated Africa Scene with a monthly “Newsletter from South Africa” covering local crime fiction and thrillers; author Michael Sears – who makes part of the duo Michael Stanley (with Stanley Trollip) renown for their Detective Kubu-series – took over from Nicol and broadened it to “Africa Scene”. Sears included pieces about African authors writing in other countries.

“The idea is really to showcase the excellent writers in the genre that we have here and generate more interest in Africa’s “sunshine noir” overseas,” says Sears of this new collaboration.

Intrigued? Read an excerpt from Sears’s recent interview with Nicol on his Barry Ronge Fiction Prize-longlisted Agents of the State which appeared in the Africa Scene-section of The Big Thrill:

Deon Meyer has said of Mike Nicol that his style is “by far the best in South Africa” and that he creates “deliciously complex characters.” The Pretoria News said of his previous book, Power Play, that it “proved once again that Nicol is a master of the genre.”

So when Nicol comes out with a new thriller, it’s always an event on the South African book scene. And his books are also enthusiastically received internationally, with Power Play making the Krimizeit top 10 in Germany, and being short listed for major thriller awards in Holland and France. If you like sunshine noir and haven’t read Nicol, you’re missing out.

In his latest book, Agents of the State, we meet again the lead characters in Of Cops & Robbers. There we wondered if the police and the crooks were actually on different sides. In the new book, we wonder if the agents of the state are the good guys or the bad guys. The answer is probably maybe. Nicol never has simplistic dividing lines.

Agents of the State is set in a dystopian South Africa with a “president for life” and all the trappings of the classic corrupt African dictatorship. Did you feel this extrapolation was needed to justify aspects of the story, or do you see South Africa as de facto there already?

I have to admit I’d never really thought of the background to Agents of the State as dystopian, especially if by that you mean repressive and unpleasant. Certainly, the book is set in a politically troubled time when the president is out of touch and paranoid, but for the rest, society is still a going concern: the hospitals function, the restaurants and shops are open, there are people in the streets, planes are landing at and taking off from the airports, kids are at school, there are sunbathers on the beaches, people meeting in the grand hotels for cocktails, the cellphone networks and the internet are up and running. However, there are some severely compromised government institutions, state security being one of those. But that this chaotic shadow world exists in parallel with the ordinary world seems to me a condition that has been present in most societies for centuries.

Indeed, the president fits the mold of the corrupt African dictator, which was a necessary condition of the story. As to whether South Africa is there already: no, I don’t think so. But that is not to say that we aren’t lurching about on the edge of totalitarianism what with the Secrecy Bill and the Hate Speech Bill, the rampant racism, let alone the audacious attempts by the president et al to “capture” various organs of state.

For some years now I’ve felt that the state – certainly what is referred to as the deep state, that combination of the intelligence services, the police, politicians, and organized crime – is where I should locate my crime fiction. It is where the most serious crime is being committed in this country. If the social aspect of crime fiction is about presenting society in extremis, then it seems to me that the espionage novel offers an opportunity to explore the underlying tensions in South Africa now. And there is a strong tradition in South African literature of opposition to and critique of the exigencies of our governments and leaders, again a territory ideally suited to the espionage novel.

Continue reading their interview here.

With names like Paige Nick, Leye Adenle, and Paul Mendelson to look forward to we expect each and every local thriller fan to shiver with antici…pation.

‘Til the 23rd of June!

Agents of the State

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Of Cops and Robbers

Power Play

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2017 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize Shortlist

After months of evaluation and deliberation it is finally time to reveal the shortlist for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize, in association with Porcupine Ridge. The winner, who will receive R100 000, will be announced on Saturday June 24.

The Barry Ronge Fiction Prize
In the five shortlisted books the judges highlighted writing of rare style and imagination, stories that chose the personal over the political, and themes that are fresh and provocative. “The words”, says chairperson Rehana Rossouw, “strike at the reader’s heart”.

The Printmaker, Bronwyn Law-Viljoen (Umuzi)
Law-Viljoen’s quiet, finely calibrated novel is set in Johannesburg and centres on a reclusive printmaker named March, who makes his art obsessively – and alone – for decades. When he inherits the thdies a friendousands of drawings and etchings crammed into the house and through his work sets out to understand her troubled friend. “There’s not a superfluous word in it,” said one judge. “March is still living in my head.”

Period Pain, Kopano Matlwa (Jacana Media)
The wunderkind young author shows she has a long career ahead with this acute, powerful book. Masechaba is a young woman trying to find meaning in contemporary South Africa, a country wracked by social problems. “Where are we going,” it asks, “and what have we become?” “It’s a searing, brilliant read,” said a judge.

Little Suns, Zakes Mda (Umuzi)
“Zakes Mda is on song with this book,” exclaimed a judge, “it brings people from our past gorgeously to life.” It is 1903. A frail Malangana searches for his beloved Mthwakazi, the woman he had loved 20 years earlier and who he was forced to leave. Based on true events in history, it is a poignant story of how love and perseverance can transcend exile and strife.

The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso (Chatto & Windus)
In this story of two strong-willed women, Omotoso delicately traces the racial fault lines of the rainbow land. One of the women is black, the other white, and for decades the pair have lived next door to each other in an affluent estate in Cape Town. One day, an accident brings them together. “She doesn’t pretend to have the answers,” commented one judge, “but she forces us to examine our deeply embedded racism. It’s very clever and deeply human.”

The Safest Place You Know, Mark Winkler (Umuzi)
After his father’s violent death one day in the drought- stricken Free State, a young man leaves the derelict family farm with no plan. Two people he meets on his way to the Cape will change his life forever. The story is set in the 80s, before everything changes. “I was blown away by the magnificent writing,” said a judge, “the story went straight to my heart.”
View the 2017 longlist here.

The Printmaker

Book details


Period Pain


Little Suns


The Woman Next Door


The Safest Place You Know

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Literary Crossroads with Imraan Coovadia (SA) & Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria)

Literary Crossroads is a series of talks where South African writers meet colleagues from all over the continent and from the African diaspora to discuss trends, topics and themes prevalent in their literatures today. The series is curated by Indra Wussow and Sine Buthelezi.

The guest speakers for the upcoming talk (to take place on May 16) will be Imraan Coovadia and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. The discussion will be moderated by Danyela Dimakatso Demir.

About the guests:

Imraan Coovadia is a writer and director of the creative writing programme at UCT. His most recent novel is Tales of the Metric System (2014), which appeared in the US, South Africa, India, and Germany.

He is the author of The Institute for Taxi Poetry (2012), winner of the M-Net Prize, and a collection of essays, “Transformations” (2012), which won the South African Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction. In 2010 his novel High Low In-between won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the University of Johannesburg prize. He has published a scholarly monograph with Palgrave, “Authority and Authorship in V.S. Naipaul” (2009), two earlier novels, and a number of journal articles. His fiction has been published in a number of countries, and he has written for many newspapers, journals, and magazines here and overseas, including the New York Times, N+1, Agni, the Times of India, and Threepenny Review.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a Nigerian writer and journalist. His debut collection of short stories The Whispering Trees was long-listed for the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014, with the title story shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. His debut novel Season of Crimson Blossoms was published in the UK in May 2016 by Cassava Republic Press. Abubakar is a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow (2013) and a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015). In 2014, Abubakar was named in the Hay Festival Africa39 list of the most promising writers under the age of 40 who will define future trends in African writing. Abubakar is the recipient of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award. He lives in Abuja, Nigeria.

Event Details

The Institute for Taxi Poetry

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Tales of the Metric System


The Whispering Trees


Season of Crimson Blossoms

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Shortlist for Short Sharp Stories Awards announced

The shortlist for the Short.Sharp.Stories Awards has been announced.

The Short.Sharp.Stories Awards is an annual short story competition made possible by the National Arts Festival.

This year’s theme is “Trade Secrets.”

The judges have focused in the main on how successfully the story speaks to the brief, and have chosen stories which showcase a range of South African ‘voices’.

Congratulations to the following writers whose stories will be included in Trade Secrets and who are on the short list for this year’s awards.

2017 Short Sharp Stories Awards shortlist:

Olufemi Agunbiade
Darrel Bristow-Bovey
Jumani Clarke
Linda Daniels
Frieda-Marie De Jager
Ntsika Gogwana
Amy Heydenrych
Mishka Hoosen
Bobby Jordan
Sean Mayne
Mapule Mohulatsi
Kamil Naicker
Sally Partridge
Pravasan Pillay
Megan Ross
Andrew Salomon
Stephen Symons
Philisiwe Twijnstra
Philip Vermaas
Michael Yee

Trade Secrets will be published in June/July.

One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo

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Call it a Difficult Night


Sharp Edges


Tokoloshe Song


Questions for the Sea


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International Women’s Day: seven African woman writers you should have read by 2017

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a universal commemoration of the social, economic, political and cultural achievement of women.

The following quote by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie encapsulates both the necessity of celebrating a day committed to the empowerment of women, and how writing can aid the continuing empowerment of women worldwide:

“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

Here follows a list of African woman writers whose stories matter:

The Translator

1. Leila Aboulela: Acclaimed – one of the most suitable adjectives to describe Sudanese author Leila Aboulela. She has published five novels in 16 years, wowing literary critics with her debut The Translator, which was nominated for the Orange Prize and chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times. Her novel second novel, Minaret, also received a nomination for the Orange Prize and her third novel, Lyrics Alley made the longlist for the same prize in 2011. Lyrics Alley was awarded the Fiction Winner of Scottish Book Awards and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize. In 2000, Aboulela was awarded the coveted Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story The Museum. Aboulela’s work has been translated into 14 languages, and is predominantly influenced by the Muslim faith and her experiences of cross-culturalisation.

Nervous Conditions

2. Tsitsi Dangarembga: Zimbabwean author, poet, activist and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga was born in Bulawayao and schooled in England. Her debut, the semi-autobiographical Nervous Conditions (1988), is themed around race, colonialism, and gender in post-colonial and present-day Zimbabwe. Nervous Conditions was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989, and is still regarded as a significant contribution to African feminism and post-colonialist narratives. (PS – Dangarembga will be delivering a Women’s Day lecture in Johannesburg on whether feminism is divisive, unAfrican and anti-Black this coming Friday.)


3. Lauren Beukes: When it comes to writing about contemporary sci-fi cum fantasy cum speculative fiction, no one does it quite like Lauren Beukes. With a slew of awards behind her futuristically inclined pen, including the Arthur C. Clarke award for the perennial favourite and much-lauded Zoo City, Beukes has established herself as a South African author to be reckoned with. Her debut novel, the Cape Town-based cyberpunk Moxyland (2008) was nominated for the South African Sunday Times Fiction Prize; 2013′s time travel thriller The Shining Girls was the recipient of four prestigious South African literary awards; and – lest we forget – 2014′s Broken Monsters was commended by The Guardian for its unique adoption of the horror trope as means to explain the crazy reality we live in. And no one quite does crazy reality like Lauren Beukes…

A World of Strangers

4. Nadine Gordimer: A fearless political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature, Nadine Gordimer garnered international recognition for her work which dealt with moral and racial issues, and a constant questioning of power relations and truth during South Africa’s apartheid regime. Gordimer’s The Late Bourgeois World, A World of Strangers, Burger’s Daughter and July’s People were either banned or placed under censorship by the apartheid government, owing to the strong anti-apartheid stance and her criticism of racial division. Gordimer is not only one of the most notable literary figures to emerge from South Africa, but also one of its most notable women.


5. Kopano Matlwa: Addressing race, class and colonisation in modern-day Johannesburg, Kopano Matlwa had South African bibliophiles buzzing with her debut novel Coconut, published in 2007. Coconut was awarded the European Union Literary Award in 2006/07 and also won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2010. Her second novel, Spilt Milk (2010), published to equally great acclaim, delivers an allegorical perspective on the born-free generation. Matlwa’s recent Period Pains explores social issues from the point of view of a young female protagonist, delivering an insightful and honest look at growing up in a post-1994 South Africa.

We Need New Names

6. NoViolet Bulawayo: The first black African woman and the first Zimbabwean to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, NoViolet Bulawayo rose to international acclaim with her debut novel We Need New Names (2013). Born Elizabeth Thsele, Bulawayo’s literary approach towards displacement, childhood, globalisation, social class and gender delivered subtle, yet powerful commentary on the existential realities of Africa. Named a ‘five under 35′ by the National Book Foundation in 2012, the recipient of the Caine Prize Award for African Writing in 2011, and a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner for We Need New Names, there’s no stopping NoViolet Bulawayo.


7. Chimamanda Adichie: No ‘must-read-African-woman-writers-list’ will be complete without mentioning this critically acclaimed author and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient whose TEDx-talk on
feminism was appropriated in Beyoncé’s “Flawless”. Mense: take note of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. As a globally renowned writer, an advocate for gender equality, and vocal supporter of the representation of African culture in the international literary sphere, Adichie is one of the most influential authors – and women – of the 21st century. Viva, Chimamanda, viva.

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Mike Nicol’s Agents of the State announced as a ‘best recent thriller’ by The Guardian

Agents of the State

The Guardian‘s Barry Forshaw recently named Mike Nicol’s gripping Agents of the State (September 2016) as one of the seven best thrillers of the past six months.

Featured among the likes of Nordic noir superstar Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Swiss-German crime writer extraordinaire Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Nicol’s gritty, fast-paced and complex roman-à-clef is in excellent company.

Nicol’s twentieth book has all the ingredients which make for a great spy thriller: politics, rebels, assassinations, secrets, conspiracies, and vested interests intertwine in this crime novel described by Forshaw as “topical and compelling.”

Mooi skoot, Mike.

Read more here.

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Craig Higginson, Eliza Kentridge and Nkosinathi Sithole win the 2015/16 University of Johannesburg Prizes

Craig Higginson, Eliza Kentridge and Nkosinathi Sithole win the 2015/16 University of Johannesburg Prizes
The Dream HouseSigns for an ExhibitionHunger Eats a Man

Alert! Craig Higginson has been announced as the winner of the University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing in English, with the Debut Prize being shared by Eliza Kentridge and Nkosinathi Sithole.

Higginson won the Main Prize for his third novel, The Dream House, while Kentridge and Sithole shared the Debut Prize for her poetry collection Signs for an Exhibition and his novel Hunger Eats a Man.

The UJ Main Prize comes with prize money of R75 000, the Debut Prize with R30 000.

The UJ Prize for South African Writing in English is awarded to the writer of the best South African work in English published in the previous calendar year. The UJ Debut Prize is awarded to the writer of the best debut South African work in English published in the previous calendar year.

Last year’s winner of the Main Prize was Zakes Mda for Rachel’s Blue, while the Debut Prize was awarded to Penny Busetto for The Story of Anna P, As Told By Herself.

Sithole, meanwhile, was also the winner of this year’s Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.


The 2015/16 University of Johannesburg Prizes shortlists, also announced today, were:

Main Prize

The Dream House101 DetectivesThe Magistrate of Gower


Debut Prize

Signs for an ExhibitionHunger Eats a ManBest White and Other Anxious Delusions



This year’s judges were Craig MacKenzie (UJ, Chair), Karen Scherzinger (UJ), Jane Starfield (UJ), Chris Ouma (UCT) and Meg Samuelson (UCT).

The judges decided not to link the prizes to a specific genre this year, saying: “This may make the evaluation more difficult in the sense that, for example, a volume of poetry, a novel and a biographical work must be measured against one another, but the idea was to open the prize to as many forms of writing as possible.”

See the judges’ remarks, as printed in today’s Mail & Guardian:

Main Prize winner: The Dream House by Craig Higginson:

Entrancing and compellingly readable, The Dream House puts a contemporary and unconventional spin on the plaasroman (farm novel) genre, showing Craig Higginson at a new peak of his already considerable narrative powers.

Debut Prize co-winner: Signs for an Exhibition by Eliza Kentridge:

The enigmatic title of Kentridge’s collection refers to a series of numbered, autobiographical “Sign Poems” in which she gives expression to visual images from her childhood and later. It is as if the poems were written to be placed alongside paintings, to magically become word-paintings themselves.

Debut Prize co-winner: Hunger Eats a Man by Nkosinathi Sithole:

This debut novel by Nkosinathi Sithole, a lecturer in the English department at the University of Zululand, approaches the farm novel genre in a different way. It explores the debilitating effects of hunger and joblessness in a northern KwaZulu-Natal community. This powerful postmodern novel is as much about storytelling as it is about the characters inhabiting the eponymous town, Ndlalidlindoda (“hunger eats a man”).

Congratulations to the winners and their publishers!
Related news:

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