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The illumination of truthfulness: Zakes Mda's Sunday Times Literary Awards keynote address

Published in the Sunday Times

The Sunday Times editor, Mr Bongani Siqoko, tells me “illumination of truthfulness” is the main criterion of the Alan Paton Award, which was established in 1989 for non-fiction works. He believes it applies to fiction as well, and quotes Albert Camus, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”

I thank him for inviting me to give this talk. I think the topic is quite apt in this age of truthiness (1), post-truth (2) and alternative facts (3).

I must begin by saluting the Sunday Times for establishing these awards and for maintaining them for so many years. I am honored that I was the first writer to win the inaugural Sunday Times Fiction Prize with my third novel, The Heart of Redness, some 16 years ago.

I must also salute the Sunday Times for its sterling work in journalism, particularly its investigative reporting. You, and your colleagues have added value to our young democracy by taking your watchdog role seriously. Democracy cannot function without freedom of expression in general and of the media in particular.

Some of you might know of Lorraine Adams, who first caused literary waves with her debut novel, Harbor. She wrote this work of fiction after spending years reporting on Afghanistan and Iran for the Washington Post and winning a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism. In her journalism, she is reputed to have dug out hidden stories on crucial issues such as xenophobia, immigration and terrorism. It was therefore a major surprise when she decided to quit the profession. There was even greater astonishment when she revealed she was leaving journalism for fiction so that she could write the truth. She explained that it was only with fiction that she could address the truth behind the facts. Whereas the journalist views truth in terms of witnessable and observable scenes, she added, the novelist pierces into a privacy where the truth resides.

She is correct. Journalism answers the simple question: what happened? It is the same question that is answered by most forms of non-fiction, including history. What happened? Of course, there are attendant questions such as how and why it happened, but the key story lies in the event.

Fiction on the other hand goes much further, and answers the question: what was it really like to be in what happened?

Talking of the genesis of her fine book on a bitter rivalry of two women who are neighbors, The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso tells an NPR interviewer, “I was really looking at what is it like, particularly for the Marion character, to have been someone during the apartheid days who didn’t necessarily resist apartheid, disagree with it, but kind of went along. What is it like now, you know, post-apartheid.” [emphasis mine]

What is it like? I am sure it is the same question that Kopano Matlwa attempts to answer with her suspenseful prose as we follow the young doctor, Masechaba, trying to reclaim her life in Period Pain, or Bronwyn Law-Viljoen’s The Printmaker as we search for an answer to the enigma of the printmaker’s solitary life. What was it like to be Hennie, an Afrikaner teenager in the Orange Free State of the 1980s, who has to escape his abusive father, and embark on a remarkable journey in search of his sister? We experience Hennie’s life with him in Mark Winkler’s The Safest Place You Know.

What was it like to be in what happened? It is a question whose answer gives us a sensory experience of the event. Fiction is experiential because it is transportational and vice versa.

To address this transporting question the writers create fully-realized characters – protagonists and antagonists and their allies – struggling to achieve their objectives and overcome obstacles in a compelling narrative arc. These characters may be based on real-life people the writer has known, or may be composites of same. They may even claim to have emerged from imagination. But we remember that the line of demarcation between imagination and memory is very blurred. We imagine from what we know; in other words, what we remember. Memory itself is essentially fictive. And since we are what we remember, our work creates us as we create it.

Into whatever we create as artists we bring the baggage that is our own biographies, whether we are conscious of that or not. A lot of what we create in a character is drawn from us, the creators, and from our experiences. We are always writing ourselves in the same way that we are always writing the same book.

The important thing about conventional fictional characters is that they do not function in any credible manner until their actions are motivated. The few exceptions that defy this convention are such postmodern narrative modes as magical realism. In traditional fiction, there is a practical “why” behind a character’s objectives and behaviors. Her actions are not only motivated but justified as well. This means she is who she is because of her life-experience, of her history. Fiction is very big on causality. Her actions are therefore psychologically (not necessarily morally) justified. This tells you that every writer of fiction worth her salt is a psychologist, a keen observer of human behavior and mental processes.

It is small wonder, therefore, that Sigmund Freud drew most of his groundbreaking conclusions – resulting in psychotherapy, “the talking cure” – from studying characters in novels rather than from analyzing live subjects. A whole new branch of psychiatry known as psychoanalysis was founded by analyzing fiction.

In the academy these days fiction is used to teach many other subjects, not only in psychology, history and philosophy, because fiction pierces into the truth behind the facts. Sipho Noko, an LL.B. student, told me on Twitter the other day that he had never read an African novel before until my novel, Black Diamond, was prescribed at the University of Pretoria Law School for a topic titled “Law from Below”. When I wrote that novel – a layman in the field of law – I never imagined it could be a law school textbook. Another lawyer, Advocate Maru Moremogolo, wrote to me about Little Suns, “Your book brings context to judicial powers of traditional leaders, a perfect timing #Dalindyebo – how the King wanted some of his judicial powers returned from the magistrate.”

He thought I was being prophetic, I thought I was just telling a story.

I was once astounded when I learned that Ways of Dying was prescribed at an architecture school in the United Kingdom. When I wrote that novel I never imagined I was writing about architecture. Yewande Omotoso, who is an architect in another life, once tried to explain how the novel relates to architecture, a field I know nothing about. But I forget now what she said.

The ability of fiction to operate so comfortably across all these diverse disciplines lies not only in its descriptive powers or its capacity to delineate structural problems, but in its facility to examine interiorities. The interior experience is absent in journalism, as it is in most non-fiction. The search of the interior experience has resulted in the emergence of Narrative Journalism in recent times (and of New Journalism in the last century), where the practitioners try to apply the techniques of fiction such as point of view and plot and various other narrative devices to journalism. You have seen this practiced quite successfully in the New Yorker and to some extent in Granta.

One notable non-fiction genre that has mastered the intricacies of hybridity is memoir. Memoir, unlike biography/autobiography, uses the tools of fiction to capture the essence of an aspect of the author’s life. Like fiction it explores interiorities.

The publishing industry in the Western world has set distinguishing features between memoir and traditional autobiography to which it adheres faithfully. Of course, writers always experiment and transgress genres. An autobiography is about the writer. She is the subject in a historical chronicle of her life and the events that shaped it – from the time she was born to a determined period. A memoir, on the other hand, is not about the writer but about something else as experienced by the writer or those close to her. A memoir therefore must have a subject because the writer is not the subject. For instance, the subject may be Alzheimer. A memoir must have a central theme: for example, on the author’s struggles to cope with a husband who is gradually losing his memory. A true memoirist works from memory – hence the name of the genre – because she is not a chronicler of history. She mines her memory and tries to capture the feelings and emotions she had at the time of the event. Her account is enriched by the distortions of time, by obliviousness, by faulty recall, by amnesia. The fidelity is to the emotion rather than to historical accuracy. That is why you can conflate characters in a memoir and re-invent new contexts etc. to capture and represent to the reader the feeling and sometimes the philosophy. The emphasis is on emotional truth.

History, like journalism, answers the question: what happened? We write historical fiction to take history to the level of: what was it like to be in what happened? The story of Mhlontlo that I write in Little Suns was well-known to me from the time I was a toddler. It is part of family lore. Even after I had researched its historical aspects, it still remained a series of anecdotes – surface stories lacking subtlety. It was only when I was writing it as a work of fiction, exploring what it was really like to be Mhlontlo by recreating his exterior and interior worlds, and the worlds of those who surrounded him, protagonists and antagonists, their loves, their losses, their gains, victories and defeats, that the emotional import hit me. Anger swelled in my chest. To my embarrassment I was caught screaming one day, “Damn, this is what they did to my great grandfather.”

The injustices done to amaMpondomise by the British endure to this day under the ANC regime. The amaMpondomise continue to be punished for having stood against British colonialism.
Like most writers of historical novels, I write historical fiction to grapple with the present. Great historical fiction is more about the present than it is about the past. That is why the lawyer could relate the past I was re-imagining to present contestations. The past is always a strong presence in our present.

Traditional historians believe that history is objective reality. For me history does not have an objective existence. It exists only as an absence. We don’t have direct access to the past; we cannot scientifically and objectively observe its facts. We experience history through words, through storytelling and through chronicles of events and dates. Therefore, history is textual; our attempts at separating it from literature are tenuous.

History is as subjective as journalism. I know, you think you’re objective. Observe how The New Age on one hand and the Sunday Times on the other report on the same event. It is bound to read like two different events. The value-laden words, the incidents selected or left out, and the angles that the reporters take will surely reflect their subjectivities. If contemporary journalism cannot be objective about contemporary events, what more of history which is shaped by its necessary textuality?

History is the story of the victor. That is what I try to correct. In doing so I make it herstory as well. South Africa presents us with a good example of the creation and imposition of a narrative that legitimizes the ruling elite of the day. The colonizers wrote history from their own perspective, always to validate their privileged position. The subaltern groups were denied a voice. They were even erased from the landscape so that when the colonizer arrived in southern Africa the lands were vast and empty and the natives non-existent. The colonialist dismissed as fanciful oral traditions that located ancient kingdoms and empires in the region dating hundreds of years before colonization. When the colonizer’s own ethno-archeologists excavated towns and settlements dating more than a thousand years ago, the proponents of “vast empty lands” created alternative narratives attributing them to alien civilizations – sometimes even from outer space. They were the victors and could therefore re-create the past in their own image.

Now a new order exists in South Africa. Like all regimes before it the new dispensation is narrating the past from its own perspective, re-creating and reshaping it to palliate the very present it continues to mismanage, erasing the contribution of some from the annals of history, and lionizing the current crooks – the harvesters of matundu ya uhuru, the fruits of freedom.

The truth of fiction can give context to and shed new insights on the stories unearthed by your investigative reporting. It gives them longevity and digestibility. Fiction is even more essential in this age when shamelessness and impunity among the ruling elite, and corruption-fatigue in the populace, are leading South Africa to perdition.

1 – Truthiness: The quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true.
2 – Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics): a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. (Wikipedia)
3 – Alternative facts: President Trump Counselor Kellyanne Conway’s phrase to describe demonstrable falsehoods that are touted as truth.

The Heart of Redness

Book details


The Woman Next Door


Period Pain


The Printmaker


The Safest Place You Know


Black Diamond


Little Suns


Ways of Dying

Wenners van Media24-boekpryse vir 2017 bekend

Die wenners van die Media24 Boeke Literêre Pryse vir 2017 is Donderdag, 22 Junie 2017 in Kaapstad bekend gemaak.

Nagenoeg 80 boeke wat in 2016 by uitgewerye in die Media24-stal verskyn het, is ingeskryf in vyf kategorieë met ’n gesamentlike prysgeld van meer as R175 000.

Die oorhandiging van die pryse het saamgeval met ’n groot mylpaal – die viering van 100 jaar van boekuitgewery binne die Naspersstal.

Die wenner van die W.A. Hofmeyr-prys vir Afrikaanse fiksie is Dan Sleigh met sy historiese roman 1795, uitgegee deur Tafelberg. Dit is die derde keer dat Sleigh hierdie belangrike prys ontvang. 1795 is deur die keurders beskryf as ’n “ambisieuse museale roman waarin Sleigh se uitsonderlike kennis van die VOC-geskiedenis indringend verhaal word. Sleigh laat oortuigend sien dat gebeure uit 1795 relevant en aktueel is, veral wanneer dit gaan om verset teen verraad en korrupsie en om opstand teen die verlies van kultuur en taal.”

Die ondersoekende joernalis en etnograaf Sean Christie het die Recht Malan-prys vir niefiksie verower met sy Under Nelson Mandela Boulevard: Life Among the Stowaways oor jong Tanzaniese skeepsverstekelinge wat onder ’n oorwegbrug op die Kaapstadse strandgebied woon. Dit is uitgegee deur Jonathan Ball Publishers. Under Nelson Mandela Boulevard is volgens die keurders ’n buitengewone prestasie en ’n verruimende leeservaring. “Met groot en uitdagende kwashale gee Sean Christie ’n verrassend vars en uitdagende blik op ’n stad wat iedereen gedink het hulle ken.”

Bibi Slippers is met die Elisabeth Eybers-prys vir poësie beloon vir haar debuutbundel Fotostaatmasjien (Tafelberg), wat deur die keurders geloof is vir die omvang en verskeidenheid van die materiaal wat tot samehang gebring word en vir sy “innovering-met-gehalte”.

Die M.E.R.-prys vir jeugromans is toegeken aan Edyth Bulbring vir Snitch, uitgegee deur Tafelberg, en die M.E.R.-prys vir geïllustreerde kinderboeke aan Ingrid Mennen en Irene Berg (illustreerder) vir Ink, ook uitgegee deur Tafelberg. Dit is die tweede keer dat Mennen en Berg hierdie prys wen.

Die keurders was: Vir die WA Hofmeyr-prys: Ena Jansen, Danie Marais en Francois Smith; vir die Recht Malan-prys: Jean Meiring, Elsa van Huyssteen en Max du Preez; vir die Elisabeth Eybers-prys: Henning Pieterse, Louise Viljoen en Marius Swart; vir die M.E.R.-prys vir jeugromans: Louise Steyn, Verushka Louw en Wendy Maartens; en vir die M.E.R.-prys vir geïllustreerde kinderboeke: Lona Gericke, Paddy Bouma en Magdel Vorster.

Die Herman Charles Bosman-prys vir Engelse fiksie is nie vanjaar toegeken nie en staan oor tot volgende jaar.


Under Nelson Mandela Boulevard - Life In Cape Town's Stowaway Underground






Alan Paton Award shortlist: Greg Marinovich talks about his book Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre

Published in the Sunday Times

Murder at Small KoppieMurder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre
Greg Marinovich (Penguin Books)

How did you go about the research for the book?
I was writing up a piece after a visit to the Koppie that was at the heart of the Lonmin strike when a photojournalist friend called to tell me that the police had opened fire with live rounds. I had no idea of the number of miners killed and weighed driving to Marikana before nightfall against getting my story in. I chose to write. When my wife and I watched the video footage later that night, we began sobbing. Thus began a journey into what happened and why. My ‘uncovering’ of the second massacre site changed the narrative that the police cover-up had been dictating. The mining community of Nkaneng shantytown knew about Small Koppie, yet the police and the state gulled the dozens of journalists there that day, and the dozens that descended later, into a narrative that misdirected their focus.

What prompted you to write a book about the Marikana massacre in South African?
This blatant cover up by those with power impelled me to keep telling the miners’ story. The propaganda had to be contradicted. The complexity of the lives of the miners and the extent of the forces trying to suppress the truth drove me to keep digging. And while the Daily Maverick was willing to run many thousands of words, it needed to be pulled into a book that could make sense of it all.

What was the most difficult part of writing it?
The most difficult part was finding out the ‘unknown unknowns’. It was really the investigations by lawyers and investigators in and around the Commission of Inquiry that allowed me to get information and insights I would never have had a clue about. My biggest frustration was the refusal by any of the Marikana cops to speak directly to me, even though one gave some information through a third party.

You write that the struggle of the poor is invisibility. In what way did Marikana make them visible?
We, the non-poor, only notice the poor when they manage to break through the invisibility shield that society sustains. That breach is achieved by transgression – when someone violates our space or property, or when a community stands up, like at Marikana. Typically, we react with panic. Yet most of us tend not to reach for the ADT panic button as our pockets are continually rifled by the robber barons of big business and political elites, white capital and tenderpreneurs. Only when people began to die at Marikana, did we take note – initially because the markets were worried about Lonmin’s stocks. Therein lies the contradiction: miners, spaza shop owners, laundry women and pit toilet diggers depend on Lonmin more than the rich investors do, yet their needs are not taken into account. This despite their votes being the currency that enables the patronage and crony capital that government depends on to extend their rule.

The Marikana massacre is a rip in the fabric of a society we thought we were mending. What do you feel is the biggest lesson we should learn about what happened?
The truth behind what happened at Marikana has rent a hole through our illusion of a just society, of South Africans as a lamp for the world. Marikana and its aftermath have revealed the venality of our leaders, the grubbiness within the swankiest boardrooms, the dull, uncaring gaze of the average South African upon cold-blooded executions by the forces of law, murder by the desperate and grasping, corruption flaunted without shame. We need to reclaim our soul.

Book details

Barry Ronge Prize shortlist: Kopano Matlwa discusses her novel Period Pain

Published in the Sunday Times

Period Pain

Period Pain
Kopano Matlwa (Jacana Media)

I write because I need to. It is through writing that I try (or at least attempt) to make sense of the world. I wrote Period Pain because I needed to, because it was through writing it that I began to work through my own disappointments with our “new South Africa” and remind myself why it is, despite the decay, I still believe in the South African dream.

Sometimes I write pages of pages of scraps without any sense of where those scraps are going, and then out of nowhere a title comes and it grips me, and I sigh a sigh of great relief because I know that I have a title and that means I’m writing a novel!

I’ve always had a fascination with how we as women relate to our bodies. I recall as a medical student or maybe someone told me the story and it made such an impression on me that I remember it as my own, I can’t be sure… It was during a rotating of an obstetrics and gynaecology module, and sitting in on a consultation between the gynaecologist on duty and a middle-age woman from one of Cape Town’s many disadvantaged communities.

The woman kept referring to her vagina as her ‘skaamte’ i.e. her shame. I remember being so struck by that. So saddened. So angry. So embarrassed. Her shame? Why shame? Who knows where titles come? Perhaps from the same magical place novels come from. I suppose in some subconscious way the title Period Pain came from a frustration with the shadow of contempt cast upon our bodies, by society, by men, by language, by ourselves, from a frustration with our bodies being the battlefield, the scapegoat, the excuse. And then there is also, of course, the pain of the period that South Africa is in but that’s probably a whole other topic for another day…


What is it inside of us that makes us so evil? And how do we become better? Why are we capable of so much harm and badness? How do we change? And stay changed?

Nyasha says her group of new intern doctors all have weaves. Twelve girls as black as night, with mops of plastic on their heads. She is annoyed.

‘Stupid girls. Book smart, but stupid. They can tell you the nerve that innervates the stapedius muscle, but they can’t see the foolishness in walking around with heaps of self-hatred on their heads.’

She wants me to get involved.

‘Why don’t you tell them, Chaba? These are your sisters, your South African sisters. Maybe if you speak to them, you can put some sense into their heads.’

I say nothing, so she continues. ‘We know we hate ourselves as black people. That we know. But now we’re exposing ourselves to white people, too. Now we are exposing this dark stain of self-hatred on our race. We’re giving them evidence that we are indeed a foolish, self-loathing people. A thing to be pitied. How much do those weaves cost? These girls have only been working a few months and already they’re enriching the industries that strive to oppress us instead of building our communities.’

Her tirade continues, and she seems not bothered by my obvious disinterest.

‘Now I must keep these dreadlocks, even though they wear my head down, even though I’ve grown tired of them, because one of us, some of us, must have pride. We can’t all walk around like mad people. If aliens were to come from Mars, what would they make of us, Chaba?’

Nyasha wants to fight, fight, fight. She hates white people and blames them for everything. Maybe she’s right, maybe they are to blame. But it is what it is. What’s happened has happened. We can’t go back, and we certainly can’t change who we are to try to avenge the past. She says we black South Africans are too nice, too accommodating, too soft. ‘Weak’ and ‘pathetic’ are the words she uses to describe us.

‘We need to stop bending over backwards, breaking our backs to make them feel comfortable, welcome, safe. Put a white man in charge and he’ll only serve his own interests.’

Maybe, Nyasha, maybe that’s true, but maybe it isn’t. And maybe, Nyasha, we need to remember that this world is fallen. There are wars we will never win, and maybe the end game is not to triumph over fleeting kingdoms in this life, but to conquer the battle for eternity.

Of course she scoffs when I say things like that.

‘Why does your god make it so hard for us to love him, Chaba? Why play these games? Create this world, bring us here, only to watch us suffer? Why does he hide? Is he a coward? Why doesn’t he come out here and see the mess he’s made, come see how his creation is doing?’

I’m no good at arguing. I get too overwhelmed and my mind goes blank, so I say nothing.

Ma insists that my friendship with Nyasha will only result in pain. She insists that foreigners are crafty, and that Nyasha is only being my friend to steal all my knowledge and overtake me. This is what foreigners like to do, she says. They come to our country to take from us all the things we fought for.

I’ve given up trying to reason with Ma. When I go home on weekends she makes me take off my clothes at the door; she doesn’t want me coming into the house with Nyasha’s charms and black magic. It’s her way of getting back at me for leaving her and moving in with Nyasha.

If only they knew how similar they were, how much they have in common. They both want me to hate white people, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to hate foreigners, either. I don’t want to hate anybody. It’s tiring. I’m already so tired from work. It’s much more than I can deal with at the moment.

But they constantly remind me that I must. They retell old stories of deceit, of conniving, of looting, and then share new ones. I don’t want to disappoint them, make them worry that I’m unfocused, that I’ve dropped the ball. So I often just nod in agreement and hope they’ll stop. But this ball is too heavy to carry. It hurts my arms, and with it in my hands I cannot do anything else.

So I don’t tell Nyasha what I did with Francois at the Christmas party. And when he walks past me in the doctors’ parking lot and smiles, she’s immediately annoyed and goes off on one of her tirades.

‘White men think they can just smile at a black woman and she’ll oblige. They think we should be flattered that they even see us. No, not just flattered, honoured. It makes me sick. Even the morbidly obese ones, who could never summon the courage to approach one of their own, think we’ll just drop our panties at the sight of their skin.’

I pretend not to hear, mumble that I have pre-op bloods to take before the morning ward round, and rush off.

Book details

David Grossman wins Man Booker International Prize

A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman was announced as the winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize on Wednesday 14 June. The novel was translated by Jessica Cohen and is published in Britain by Jonathan Cape. Celebrating the finest global fiction in translation, the Man Booker International Prize awards both the winning author and translator £25,000. They have also received a further £1,000 each for being shortlisted.

Grossman is a bestselling Israeli writer of fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature, whose works have been translated into 36 languages. He has been the recipient of numerous global awards, including the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Buxtehuder Bulle in Germany, Rome’s Premio per la Pace e l’Azione Umanitaria, the Frankfurt Peace Prize, and Israel’s Emet Prize.

Cohen, who was born in Colchester, England, but raised in Jerusalem, previously translated Grossman’s critically acclaimed To the End of the Land as well as work by other major Israeli writers including Etgar Keret, Rutu Modan, Dorit Rabinyan, Ronit Matalon, Amir Gutfreund, Tom Segev, and Golden Globe-winning director Ari Folman.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar unfolds over the course of one final show by stand-up comedian, Dovaleh Gee. Charming, erratic and repellent – Dovaleh exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him. With themes that encompass betrayal between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt and redress, A Horse Walks into a Bar is a shocking and breathtaking read.

Of the book, The Guardian commented: ‘This isn’t just a book about Israel: it’s about people and societies horribly malfunctioning. Sometimes we can only apprehend these truths through story – and Grossman, like Dovaleh, has become a master of the truth-telling tale.’

The novel is announced as the 2017 winner by Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival at an exclusive dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

It was selected from 126 books by a panel of five judges, chaired by Nick Barley and consisting of: Daniel Hahn, an award-winning writer, editor and translator; Elif Shafak, a prize-winning novelist and one of the most widely read writers in Turkey; Chika Unigwe, author of four novels including On Black Sisters’ Street; and Helen Mort, a poet who has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Prize, and has won a Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award five times.

Nick Barley, chair of the 2017 judging panel, comments:

David Grossman has attempted an ambitious high-wire act of a novel, and he’s pulled it off spectacularly. A Horse Walks into a Bar shines a spotlight on the effects of grief, without any hint of sentimentality. The central character is challenging and flawed, but completely compelling. We were bowled over by Grossman’s willingness to take emotional as well as stylistic risks: every sentence counts, every word matters in this supreme example of the writer’s craft.

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:

I and my colleagues at Man Group would like to congratulate David Grossman and Jessica Cohen, along with each of the shortlisted authors and translators. The Man Booker International Prize plays a vital role in celebrating the extraordinary depth of global writing talent, opening up avenues for authors that were previously closed and recognising the unique contribution of translation. We are very proud to sponsor the Prize, and equally proud to support the grassroots of literature and literacy through the Booker Prize Foundation’s charitable activities, helping young writers and readers, and those for whom access to books is a daily challenge.

This is only the second year that the Man Booker International Prize has been awarded to a single book, with the £50,000 prize divided equally between the author and the translator. Its prior form honoured a body of work published either originally in English or available in translation in the English language, and was awarded to Ismail Kadaré in 2005, Chinua Achebe in 2007, Alice Munro in 2009, Philip Roth in 2011, Lydia Davis in 2013, and László Krasznahorkai in 2015.

The 2016 winner was The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith. According to statistics from Nielsen Book, translated fiction from Korea has grown 400% since 2016. This highlights the remarkable impact the newly evolved Man Booker International Prize has had.

The prize is sponsored by Man Group, an active investment management firm that also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Both prizes strive to recognise and reward the finest in contemporary literature.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar

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Naomi Alderman wins Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

British author Naomi Alderman has been awarded the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her science fiction novel The Power.

The Power is the first science fiction novel to win this prestigious prize. The thriller is set in a dystopian future where women and girls can kill men with a single touch.

Tessa Ross, the chair of judges, said that the book was a clear winner of the £30,000 prize: “This prize celebrates great writing and great ideas and The Power had that, but it also had urgency and resonance.”

Ross added that the judges had been impressed by Alderman’s handling of the big issues which affect humanity, from greed to power, and predicted the novel would be “a classic of the future”.

Read Efemia Chela’s review of The Power here.

The Power

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