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Kwanele Sosibo Reviews Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara

Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the SaharaVerdict: carrot

Africa 39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara heaves with what Wole Soyinka, in an introduction that touches on his art of trawling for books, calls “shamelessly undialectical narratives”. But it is also a collection laden with other types of narratives, such as those recently filed under the label “tyranny of subject” by author Ben Okri.

Africa 39’s majesty, however, lies in its valiant approach to these worn themes and in the variation not only of subject matter but of form.

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Announcing the theme for the 2015 Short Story Day Africa Prize


African Wild Dogs by Brendan Whittington-Jones: Underdogs in the Face of Human Development

African Wild DogsJacana Media presents African Wild Dogs by Brendan Whittington-Jones:

450 is optimistically the number of free-ranging African wild dogs left in South Africa. If ever a charismatic, African species could be considered an underdog in the face of human development, the wild dog, Lycaon pictus is it. Available habitat is in short supply. An abundance of fences and roads cut the landscape. They are loved. They are despised. The immediate future of this dynamic, endangered, large carnivore is in the hands of a thinly spread, intensely committed network of conservationists, donors, state reserves and progressive landowners.

When an opportunity to study wild dogs through the Endangered Wildlife Trust presented itself to Whittington-Jones in 2007, he arrived in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park naïve to the challenges of real wildlife conservation. The next seven years were a flood of lessons in the complexity and fascination of wild dog management, anger management, diplomacy, optimism, as well as being a wild dog travel agent. The camaraderie of the unconventional crew of devoted field staff and researchers who dedicate so much to keep the species running was a revelation.

This book lifts the gloss and illusion off a wedge of carnivore conservation, and reveals a snapshot of characters (human and canid) and organisations which tread the murky waters of trying to ensure the species’ persistence in South Africa. There is only hope through action; and remembering a cold beer at sunset and good bloody laugh can restore a little sanity.

About the book

Brendan Whittington-Jones cut his conservation teeth in the complex habitat of suburban Cape Town. Ignoring the lure of European starlings, pine trees, frigid rocky shores, Fynbos, dogs, cats and home, he chose to follow his older brothers to Rhodes University. In the valley bushveld of the Eastern Cape he studied Zoology and Entomology with the aim of doing something vaguely similar to David Attenborough or the men who led him and fellow school pupils on an iMfolozi wilderness trail in 1993. Following a brief study stop in Pretoria, and a period living the South African-graduate-in-Britain dream of minimum wage labour and travel, he settled into a manic and life-altering three years at a private game reserve in Zululand with iMfolozi Game Reserve just 20 kilometres away.

Curiously this Zululand chapter led to a swirl of years cleaning up after zoo animals in Iraq, the USA and Afghanistan before temporarily resettling in Cape Town. When the iMfolozi temptation resurfaced in the form of a wild dog research post, he grabbed it. Seven years of indulging in game reserve life assaulted his perceptions of conservation space and success, taught him to judge people based on whether they liked wild dogs or not, and allowed him privileged access into the ecological utopia of northern KwaZulu-Natal province. He developed an addiction to pies and midday braais. He currently lives in Oman.

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Melanie Finn Presents Shame, Her Devastatingly Powerful New Novel

ShameJonathan Ball Publishers is proud to present a devastatingly powerful new novel from Orange Prize-longlisted Melanie Finn, Shame:

Most of us have a plan. Somewhere to go if something awful happens. Pilgrim Jones doesn’t. She looks up at a departures board and takes the first flight.

She alights on the edge of Africa. Over confessions and strong gin, she’s lured into a world of mercenaries and philanthropists, delusional heroes and witchdoctors in polyester suits. But what about the beating absence, the thing she’s done?

Shame is a novel about a world out of time, about magic and chance, Europe and Africa, learning to live and living to learn. It will transport you from diplomatic dinners to a land where fireflies light the sky, and a desolate, magical coastline where anything – anything – might happen.

About the author

Melanie Finn has worked as a screenwriter and a journalist, and is the founder and director of the Natron Health Project, which brings healthcare to Maasai communities in Northern Tanzania. Her first novel, Away From You, was published to great critical acclaim in 2004, and was longlisted for the Orange and IMPAC Prizes.

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Read Letters of Support to ZP Dala from Time of the Writer Authors

What About MeeraAuthors who attended the Time of the Writer Festival in Durban recently have sent messages of support to ZP Dala.

The morning after an event in which she expressed admiration for Salman Rushdie’s literary style, Dala was attacked, hit in the face with a brick, and called “Rushdie’s bitch”.

Because of the injuries and trauma she suffered, Dala was forced to postpone the launch of her debut novel, What About Meera.

Authors: If you would like to add your name to the list on the PEN South Africa open letter, please let Books LIVE know by email, on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.

Nthikeng Mohlele:

The natural state of man, that is human beings, is Freedom. Given the history of the world, all the policy instruments to safeguard, protect and promote freedom of thought and expression, by governments and multilateral organisations, media houses and religious formations, it is appalling, in the crudest and most tragic of extremes, that a fellow writer, an artist, suffered such violence and curtailing of her God-, Allah-, given liberties. The attack on ZP Dala points to concerning tendencies in our world, our nation: those of expressing dissent through intimidation and violence. It would be unfair and shortsighted to limit triggers to religion or ideological grounds – for that would be neglecting the terrible, sad and bordering on predatory aggression some men display against women and children. No one, not a soul, deserves that kind of disrespect and violation of her being. It is, in a word, simply unacceptable.

Carol Campbell:


As the days pass I still can’t quite believe what happened to you during Time of the Writer. When I came back to work after the festival everyone wanted to know about you and if you were okay. I am sure it will take time to heal and for the rest of your life the experience will linger at the back of your mind. What you must know is that every decent South African is behind you. Writers express the soul of a nation in their words, so, this is an attack on every free thinking person.

I hope we can meet for lunch soon – maybe at Spiga since you missed our TOW farewell party – and talk about books, kids and new friendships. Love Carol Campbell xxx

Dilman Dila:

I was with Dala at Chatsworth so I just couldn’t make sense of the attack. She didn’t say anything provocative, or anti-Islam in any way. Its a frightening that you get beaten for liking a writer, but Dala, I pray you get the strength to keep moving, to hold your head up high without fear. Don’t allow such cowardly attacks to break your spirit, for the stuff you are made of is hardcore.

Margaret von Klemperer:

On the opening night of Time of the Writer, I said that we are lucky in South Africa to have freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution. Two days later the irony of that statement and the fragility of that freedom were brutally exposed by the cowardly attack on Zainub Dala. I wish her a speedy physical recovery and the strength to carry on standing up for what we all believe in – the freedom to say and write what we wish.

Charlotte Otter:

I was with Zainub at the schools’ forum in Chatsworth when she made an innocuous, off-the-cuff remark about admiring Salman Rushdie’s literary style. Within a short time she was receiving abusive tweets and the next day we heard of the horrific physical attack. As writers it is our responsibility to be truth-tellers, something Zainub emphasised more than once at the festival, and as Ousmane Diarra said, sometimes we put ourselves at risk. However, there is a chasm between debate over a differing opinion and verbal and physical abuse. These are both shocking and unacceptable. I stand in solidarity with Zainub, and I condemn her attackers in the strongest terms.

Thando Mgqolozana:

I’m in support of fellow scribe, ZP Dala, during this difficult time. No one deserves to be hit with a brink in the face for what they love, and much less when it is punishment for the sins of others that aren’t even sins.

Futhi Ntshingila:

What happened to ZP was horrible. Resorting to violence because of a difference of opinion worsens the situation. I am concerned for her and family, especially since some of the comments are not helping but just adding fire to an already volatile situation. I also think that others are using the situation to express long-held hate against a religion that has nothing to do with those who are committing crimes.

Ekow Duker:

I never got to meet Zainub as I arrived in Durban towards the end of the festival. However, I noticed her photograph immediately at the top of the poster promoting Time of the Writer. She seemed to be looking out on the world with a disarming frankness and curiosity. I was saddened, as we all were, to learn of the attack on Zainub. Not only do such acts come from a place of deep cowardice, they entrench the muscle memory of intolerance that afflicts so many of us. Writers like Zainub dissolve that hatred with their frankness and their love. We all stand united behind her, unafraid and as curious about the world as ever.

Kirsten Miller:

Dear Zainub

You did not ask to be made an example of, either by those who hurt you, or those who have defended your right not to be hurt. When life moves on, when people forget, when freedoms are found and lost, discovered again, when others neglect to remember the name, the fear, the shape of the brick, I hope that you retain some faith in humanity, and your soft heart. I am deeply sorry for what happened to you. Wishing you strength in your recovery.

Kirsten Miller

Book details

Open Letter from PEN South Africa: Violent Intimidation of Writers Must Not be Tolerated

The savage attack on Zainub Dala shows the terror of the freedom to use words, and the desire to obliterate them.

On Wednesday March 18 author, Zainub Priya Dala was violently attacked as she left her hotel during the Time of the Writer Festival in Durban. A woman driving alone, she was harassed by three men who forced her off the road, cornered her, held a knife at her throat, smashed a brick in her face, and called her “Rushdie’s bitch”. The day before she had been asked about writers she admired: Salman Rushdie’s name had figured on a long list of others. People walked out in protest.

Writers do not fear difference of opinion. On the contrary, we thrive on difficulty, on complexity, on posing vexed questions and exploring unresolved ideas. We sketch characters with conflicting emotions, fraught relationships with their families, their lovers and their gods, we place them in troubled circumstances, sometimes offer them redemption. This is the stuff of good drama, of engaged fiction. We gravitate towards, not away from, debate and nuance, knowing that the more considered the idea the better the text.

But what we do not thrive on, and what we will not tolerate, is violent intimidation. Like us, Dala is a writer. She is a reader. She is both a consumer of and producer of words. She would not have avoided a conversation; she would not have shut down a debate. But debate, conversation and engagement are not possible in the face of violence.

And this type of violence – cowardly, sinister, designed to create fear in the moment and silence in the future – is the sort that simultaneously demonstrates its terror of words and its desire to obliterate them. In South Africa, our freedom of speech and movement is a fundamental right. Our Constitution insists on them. It is the same Constitution that protects the rights of those uncomfortable with or offended by Rushdie’s work.

The question of freedom of expression, of speech, has occupied South African writers for decades and is one that has changed shape over the years as we’ve moved from repression to democracy and into the troubling era of the “secrecy Bill”. As South Africans, as writers, we have not always experienced freedom but we have always known what we were fighting for, sometimes at a fatal cost.

We have always known that freedom of expression is, at its deepest, most profound level, the right to speak without fear. It is the knowledge that sharing an opinion with the public should at best be met with passionate engagement, at worst with disinterested dismissal. It is, in its simplest form, the right to speak. It is also the right to listen and to be heard.

There is no glory to be had in attacking an unarmed woman alone. There is nothing heroic about attempting to intimidate people into silence. This was an unconscionable and shameful act. Above all, it was criminal.

As writers, as South Africans, we wish to make this plain: we will not be silenced and intimidated by brutish thuggery. We stand in solidarity with Dala. She is one of us, and in the tradition of our country’s resistance and resilience, we say clearly and unanimously that an injury to one is an injury to all.

Authors: If you would like to add your name to the list, please let Books LIVE know by email, on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.

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