Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Umuzi’ Category

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

Book details

 
 
Tales of the Metric System

 
 
 

The Whispering Trees

 
 
 

Season of Crimson Blossoms


» read article

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

Book details

 

Call it a Difficult Night

 
 
 

Sharp Edges

 
 
 

Tokoloshe Song

 
 
 

Questions for the Sea

 


» read article

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.)

Moxyland

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.

Coconut

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.

Americanah

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.

Book details


» read article

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.

Book details


» read article

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:

Book details


» read article

Jacket Notes: David Cornwell on using ‘common language in uncommon ways’ in his debut novel Like It Matters

Published in the Sunday Times

‘Grittily realistic and acutely observed’ – Damon Galgut on Like It Matters, the debut novel from David Cornwell (Plus: Excerpt!)

 
Like It MattersLike It Matters
David Cornwell (Umuzi)

Like It Matters was, in a sense, born out of a collection of short stories I wrote while studying a Masters in Creative Writing at UCT in 2011. The timbre and the sad, but optimistic, quality of Ed’s voice I had originally discovered in a story called “Movers”, while (a version of) the central event of the novel first appeared in a published story from that collection called “Honey Truck”. In the beginning, before Ed’s story got a life of its own and my job came to feel, gloriously, like transcription – as though I was simply writing down the story Ed was telling me – this is how I proceeded: with the sound of Ed’s voice, and a concrete narrative situation to drive towards.

Stylistically, the book is influenced – as it must be – by my literary heroes, many of whom belong to the “Dirty Realism” school of American fiction. I hope – if you like Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, Denis Johnson, et al. – that you will recognise similarly gritty and acutely-observed narrative detail in my work, and will experience the same curious joy of witnessing common language used in uncommon, surprising, at times poetic ways.

What I hope will be distinct, however, is the irreducible South Africanness of Ed’s voice. It was my greatest labour with this book: how to write a voice that was capable of being lyrical, while always preserving inside it the real sounds, textures and rhythms of South African English. There are not many literary forebears in this regard. I was about two chapters in when I discovered that experimenting with the punctuation of the narrative – specifically, the use of run-on lines – seemed an effective way to manipulate the “reading rhythm” of the story. I am lucky to have a publisher brave enough to print the book with this eccentric punctuation in tact, and I hope the result is that anyone who reads the book will have to do it with a South African twang.

Why this preoccupation? I’m not sure I can explain it, so much as aver that it was there throughout the construction of Like It Matters. Stephen Watson’s essay “A Version of Melancholy” has been profoundly influential on my thinking: perhaps, in some way, everything I write – novels, plays, songs, films – is a form of response to his thoughts on the “thinness” of (particularly English-speaking) white South African culture. I should probably also acknowledge that I read a lot of Kierkegaard and Camus trying to get to the crux of what’s eating at Ed, and the book’s central philosophy – a kind of world-weary argument against fatalism – owes much to the thinking of these two men.

Finally, I will always be grateful to Damon Galgut for editing the book. I have learned so much from Damon over the last five years (he also supervised my MA dissertation), but he was finally able to teach me the most valuable lesson of all during the lengthy revision and rewriting stages of Like It Matters: never to be afraid of better ideas. It’s difficult advice, requiring honesty, devotion and persistence, but it is lapidary all the same. Never be afraid of better ideas.

 
Related stories:

Book details


» read article

Authors and dates announced for the 2016 Lowveld Book Festival

Invitation to the launch of 2016 Lowveld Book Festival

 
The 2016 Lowveld Book Festival will take place from 5-7 August this year in Mpumalanga.

Click here for the full 2016 Lowveld Book Festival programme!

Authors involved in the festival this year include Jayne Bauling, Mabonchi Goodwill Motimele, Joanne Macgregor, Cynthia Robertson, Arja Salafranca, Bontle Senne, Kiran Coetzee, Linzé Brandon, Fiona Snyckers, Jacquie Gauthier, Tony Park, Sindiwe Magona, Wynie Strydom, Melanie Reeder-Powell, Samkela Stamper, Pamela Power, Onkgopotse JJ Tabane, Alita Steenkamp, Paul-Constant Smit, Eric Miyeni, Siphesihle Shabalala, Jessica Pitchford.

The programme will be announced soon.

Event Details

  • Date: Friday, 5 August to Sunday, 7 August 2015
  • Venue: Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre
    White River
    Mpumalanga | Map
  • Email: lowveldbookfestival@gmail.com
  • Phone: 071 134 8172

 

Soccer SecretsKe a hwa, ke a ikepelaFault LinesUitsonderlike liefdeBeyond TouchPowers of the Knife
Now Following YouThe Gift of an ElephantAn Empty CoastChasing The Tails of My Father’s CattleWynie - My bloed is blouA Sangoma's Story
Ms ConceptionLet's Talk FranklyLoui FishGold Never RustsHere Comes the Snake in the GrassSwitched At Birth

Book details


» read article

The best African books

The best African books

 

To celebrate Africa Day, we asked our Books LIVE community what their favourite African books were.

You can suggest contemporary books or classics, fiction or non-fiction. The list is a work in progress. If you feel something is missing, let us know on Twitter @BooksLIVESA or Facebook.com/BooksLIVESA.

Without further ado, the best African books – as chosen by you!
 
 
Do Not Go GentleDo Not Go Gentle by Futhi Ntshingila
Book homepage
EAN: 9781920590505
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sweet MedicineSweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi
EAN: 9781928337126
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

MalikhanyeMalikhanye by Mxolisi Nyezwa
Book homepage
EAN: 9780958491594
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Born on a TuesdayBorn on a Tuesday by Elnathan John
EAN: 9781911115021
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Season of Crimson BlossomsSeason of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Book homepage
EAN: 9781911115007
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Easy Motion TouristEasy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle
EAN: 9781911115069
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Lazarus EffectThe Lazarus Effect by H J Golakai
Book homepage
EAN: 9780795703195
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Half of a Yellow Sun Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Book homepage
EAN: 9780007200283
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Say You're One of ThemSay You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan
Book homepage
EAN: 9780349120645
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In Corner BIn Corner B by Es’kia Mphahlele
EAN: 9780143106029
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lost and Found in JohannesburgLost and Found in Johannesburg by Mark Gevisser
Book homepage
EAN: 9781868425884
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
Buy the ebook!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We Need New NamesWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
EAN: 9780099581888
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Portrait with KeysPortrait with Keys: Joburg and what-what by Ivan Vladislavic
Book homepage
EAN: 9781415200209
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nervous ConditionsNervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
EAN: 9780954702335
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purple HibiscusPurple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Book homepage
EAN: 9780007189885
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

UnimportanceUnimportance by Thando Mgqolozana
Book homepage
EAN: 9781431409525
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The ReactiveThe Reactive by Masande Ntshanga
Book homepage
EAN: 9781415207192
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
African DelightsAfrican Delights by Siphiwo Mahala
Book homepage
EAN: 9781431402519
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Half of a Yellow Sun Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Book homepage
EAN: 9780007200283
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Under the Udala TreesUnder the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Book homepage
EAN: 9781847088369
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Book of MemoryThe Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
Book homepage
EAN: 9780571249626
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
AffluenzaAffluenza by Niq Mhlongo
Book homepage
EAN: 9780795706967
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

What Will People SayWhat Will People Say by Rehana Rossouw
Book homepage
EAN: 9781431420247
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The FishermenThe Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
EAN: 9780957548862
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Woman Next DoorThe Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
EAN: 9781784740344
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

EfuruEfuru by Flora Nwapa
EAN: 9780435900267
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Second Class CitizenSecond Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta
EAN: 9780807610664
Find this book with BOOK Finder!


» read article

North American edition of The Reactive by Masande Ntshanga reviewed by Minneapolis Star Tribune‎

The ReactiveThe ReactiveVerdict: carrot

Even as “The Reactive” hits some story beats that readers of a certain melancholy strain of crime fiction will find familiar, it also evades them. This is as much a book about atmosphere and states of mind as it is about the activities in which Lindanathi is enmeshed. And fundamentally, it’s not so much about the dangers that Lindanathi encounters on a daily level.

 
Related stories:

Book Details


» read article

Mongrels make good watchdogs – Diane Awerbuck reviews William Dicey’s new collection of essays

By Diane Awerbuck for the Sunday Times

Mongrels make good watchdogs – Diane Awerbuck reviews William Dicey’s new collection of essays

 
Mongrel: EssaysMongrel
William Dicey (Umuzi)
*****

William Dicey has been talking about Saul Bellow’s “poor dizzy spook” since forever. That seems about right as a starting point for the collection of six lyrical essays in Mongrel, Dicey’s brilliant second book. Except for one thing: by the end of this collection, Poor Dizzy Spooks doesn’t work as a title. This is why.

Ranging from the ordinary craziness of Afrikaner nostalgia and the brutal reality of carnivorous commerce at the Hantam Meat Festival, to his own wrestling with Derrick Jensen’s nihilist, apocalyptic manifesto, the essays in Mongrel seem to detail Dicey’s own travails as a thinker. In other words, he paints himself as a poor dizzy spook.

But the act of writing is more canine than spectral: a determined unravelling of the old, unsatisfying narratives – and their reconstruction into a more coherent worldview.

Dicey’s essays have sprung from forcefully altered circumstances: of geography and culture, vocation and identity. The Portuguese have a word for the hankering after a more blessed time that probably never existed: saudade – the sad happiness left when we grasp that things have changed. Thus, the more terrifyingly existential essays, such as “No Ship Exists” and “D’Arcy and I”, discuss modern purpose and meaning. But Dicey moves through the easy despair. The real work after abandonment, loss and disappointment is to make them revolutions, not reversals, and his conclusions get the chance to do what decent philosophy and fiction should: rearrange us so we understand that we are “alive in this little corner of the world right now”.

Stylistically, Dicey has a highly developed eye and ear; he incorporates funny ha-ha and funny peculiar; he does his best work with straight reportage rather than the occasional De Botton-esque comment that insinuates itself. Here he describes perfectly a prisoner in “A Story in Which Everyone Looks Bad”: “The skin on his face was pulled tight, as if his life were pressing up hard against it.” This movement between prose and poetry is another of the “mongrel forms” that engage him.

Dicey doesn’t need epigraphs. The notions included on the front pages are par for the course. His real strength is that he deals with ideas in the specific context of this country, in order to be “straighter-backed” and “less isolated and oblivious and petty and scared and – in a low-level, bourgeois kind of a way – less evil”.

“South African Pastoral” goes on to examine what it means to be a fourth-generation white farmer as well as an engaged and liberal individual. Dicey reflects that in the rural areas, civil rights are regarded as quaint urban constructs: nice-to-haves but not strictly necessary, an observation worthy of Bertrand Russell, who asked: “If one man offers you democracy and another offers you a bag of grain, at what stage of starvation will you prefer the grain to the vote?”

Russell also said that if we wanted to know what people will do, we must know not only their material circumstances, but rather “the whole system of their desires”. Mongrel, in its honesty and philanthropic passion, examines the whole system of our desires and comes out deliberately on the side of enlightened optimism.

For sure: those of us who want change and make change must start out poor and dizzy, chock-full of shadowy conventions. But we don’t have to end up that way. We may put on the more substantial flesh of reason, worry at the bones of prejudice, embrace domestication. Mongrels make good watchdogs.

Diane Awerbuck is the author of Home Remedies

Book details


» read article