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Man Booker Prize 2017 shortlist announced

The six authors shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize have been announced. First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is recognised as the leading prize for high quality literary fiction written in English. Its list of winners includes many of the giants of the last four decades, from Salman Rushdie to Hilary Mantel, Iris Murdoch to Ian McEwan. The prize has also recognised many authors early in their careers, including Eleanor Catton, Aravind Adiga and Ben Okri.

As per the Man Booker’s website release:

Paul Auster, Emily Fridlund, Mohsin Hamid, Fiona Mozley, George Saunders and Ali Smith are today announced as the six shortlisted authors for the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Their names were announced by 2017 Chair of judges, Lola, Baroness Young, at a press conference at the offices of Man Group, the prize sponsor.

The judges remarked that the novels, each in its own way, challenge and subtly shift our preconceptions — about the nature of love, about the experience of time, about questions of identity and even death.

The shortlist, which features three women and three men, covers a wide range of subjects, from the struggle of a family trying to retain its self-sufficiency in rural England to a love story between two refugees seeking to flee an unnamed city in the throes of civil war.

In the fourth year that the prize has been open to writers of any nationality, the shortlist is made up of two British, one British-Pakistani and three American writers.

Two novels from independent publishers, Faber & Faber and Bloomsbury, are shortlisted, alongside two from Penguin Random House imprint Hamish Hamilton and two from Hachette imprints, Weidenfeld & Nicolson and JM Originals.

The 2017 shortlist of six novels is:

4 3 2 14321 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)

Listen to Michele Magwood’s interview with Auster on 4321 here
History of WolvesHistory of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit WestExit West by Mohsin Hamid (UK-Pakistan) (Hamish Hamilton)
ElmetElmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
Lincoln in the BardoLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lola, Baroness Young comments:

With six unique and intrepid books that collectively push against the borders of convention, this year’s shortlist both acknowledges established authors and introduces new voices to the literary stage. Playful, sincere, unsettling, fierce: here is a group of novels grown from tradition but also radical and contemporary. The emotional, cultural, political and intellectual range of these books is remarkable, and the ways in which they challenge our thinking is a testament to the power of literature.

Ali Smith makes the Man Booker shortlist for the fourth time (she was previously shortlisted for Hotel World in 2001, The Accidental in 2005 and How to Be Both in 2014). This year also sees a repeat shortlisting for Mohsin Hamid, who made the list in 2007 with The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Hachette imprint JM Originals makes the shortlist for the first time with Fiona Mozley’s Elmet, which was the first ever acquisition of assistant editor Becky Walsh. Mozley is also the youngest author on the shortlist, aged 29, and one of two debut writers to make the list – the other being 38 year-old American Emily Fridlund with History of Wolves.

The other two American authors on the shortlist are Paul Auster and George Saunders. 4321 by Auster, who turned 70 this year, is the longest novel on the shortlist at 866 pages and, according to the author, took three and a half years, working 6 and a half days a week, to write. Lincoln in the Bardo, the first full-length novel by Saunders — an acclaimed short story writer and Folio Prize winner — completes the list.

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:

Congratulations to each of the authors who have been shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. The list represents a celebration of exceptional literary talent, ranging from established novelists to debut writers, that we are honoured to support. As well as playing an important role in recognising literary endeavour, the prize’s charitable activities underscore Man Group’s charitable focus on literacy and education and our commitment to creativity and excellence.

The judging panel, chaired by Lola, Baroness Young, consists of: the literary critic, Lila Azam Zanganeh; the Man Booker Prize shortlisted novelist, Sarah Hall; the artist, Tom Phillips CBE RA; and the travel writer and novelist, Colin Thubron CBE.

The 2017 winner will be announced on Tuesday 17 October in London’s Guildhall, at a dinner that brings together the shortlisted authors and well-known figures from the literary world. The ceremony will be broadcast by the BBC.

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Enter the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Deadline: 1 November

Entries for the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize have opened!

This prestigious prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished fiction (2000 – 5000 words) in English. Regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000.

Translated entries are also eligible, as are stories written in the original Bengali, Chinese, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan and Tamil.

The competition is free to enter.

Click here for the submission guidelines.

Watch the video below, created by the Commonwealth Writers YouTube channel, for both insight and inspiration:

"Hair can really shake things up" - a Q&A with Trade Secrets contributor, Sally Ann Murray

Though not a sentimental person, Sally Ann Murray loves her family and her dogs. (She hates the expression ‘her loved ones’.) She is the recipient of prizes such as the Sanlam Literary Award for poetry, and the M-Net and the Herman Charles Bosman prizes, for her novel Small Moving Parts. She likes to create things. By nature (when time and heat allow) she is a gardener. Mostly, what she does is chair the English Department at Stellenbosch University, working with a group of excellent colleagues. Here Sally Ann and Joanne Hichens, the curator of the Short.Sharp.Awards discuss her Trade Secrets entry, how hair can really shake things up, and challenging The Authority…

You have mentioned that your story, ‘Clippings’, derives from quite a tangle of ‘clippings’. What was the initial inspiration for your story?

When I worked at UKZN, I once praised a colleague’s sleek, chic hairstyle. Actually, she said, she lived with the wound of another self, a girl with rampant, springy curls. She told me of a girlhood experience: standing in her very red school uniform, with her very red, embarrassed face, enduring her mother’s furious complaints about having to deal with that bushy hair. This snippet was the imaginative kernel of ‘Clippings’, though red hair, per se, was nowhere in evidence. I had to wait for the idea to take fuller shape…

Was this ‘fuller shape’ influenced by the fact that issues around ‘hair’ seem always to be in the news?

…mmm. Remember the outrage around hair in girls’ schools: black hair, afro hair, big hair; hair that needed to be controlled? In that racist climate, I was prompted to imagine a scenario in which ‘hair’, under the narrows of apartheid, could manifest as a gendered provocation. And let’s not forget that at the time I was supervising a PhD on the representation of sexualities in African fiction…

Certainly ‘hair’ and identity are closely linked… in general, why is ‘hair’ so loaded?

I’m not sure. Maybe because it’s so intimately changeable, so difficult to control? For some people, ‘hair’ is a border which marks race, or gender. I mean, in terms of schools, say: ‘hair’ is a site over which The Authorities are used to exerting petty control, and securing obedient subordination. All those young boys with their vulnerable, exposed necks, and bak-ore. Girls who must rein in their wildness, and be biddable. I am not my hair. But I love the fact that hair can really shake things up. Now it’s this style, and colour. Then suddenly it’s blue, or a man-bun. For all those old-style ladies who habitually went to get their ‘hair set’, well, hair doesn’t settle. It doesn’t stay put, either.

With all the contemporary focus on ‘hair’, why choose to set the story in the past?

Not because I’m nostalgic! Maybe because I’m interested in history? And definitely because I was chary about entering the current debates. From whose point of view would I be able write? Some uptight white school authority. That’s not me. But nor did I feel legit voicing the experiences of a young black woman, caught in the racist debacle. Sure, I think a writer should be free to write into experiences beyond her own, that’s part of the imaginative skill. But I didn’t figure I had the right deftness to handle it, never mind the right. And anyway, I really did want to offer an angle in which the emphasis on race, in apartheid SA, was turned towards other, more occluded, complexities.

Ruby’s mother, with all her anxieties and burdens of family – in one form or another – hovers in the background as young Ruby is attended to in the salon ‘A Cut Above’ by the stylist, Richard, who has his own issues around being gay, and certainly the state of the country… Are these the kind of complexities you speak of?

Maybe the story is tussling with the complex forms of authority, and power over person, through which personhood nevertheless grows into being? ‘Clippings’ tries to lead beyond the obvious surface, so that a reader’s allegiances and empathies are repeatedly unsettled. The mother annoys the hell out of me, with her dogmatic insistence, her apparently self-satisfied absorption in style… and then something in me, as a writer, found a node of connection, and the story coaxed me to discover this woman’s own sorrows, her living sadness and alienation. And Mr Richard. He’s a gay man, and often in a style that veers towards affirming the flamboyant, received expectation – that’s possibly in keeping with the historical setting of the narrative (as are the slurs used by the husband, Mr Bosch). And yet Mr Richard’s highly expressive, animated queerness is also subversive, resistant, a powerful means to challenge the narrows of the town in which he works, the politics of the country as a whole. And then yet again, as his dealings with Ila (his co-stylist) suggest, his queerness cannot suddenly be burdened with the demand of representing progressive, alternative masculinities. Just because he’s queerly different, should we expect him to be more tolerant, more accepting, of Ila’s messy life? That ain’t necessarily how things work!

The young protagonist, Ruby, is quirky, could be described as difficult in some respects, as was the ‘daughter’ in another of your stories, ‘How to Carry On’, published by Short.Sharp.Stories in Incredible Journey. Does writing this sort of character appeal to you? Do you have a preference for the ‘family’ drama?

I do like writing girl children. Especially their potent power, in the space of girlhood, when they have not yet been formalised and contained. They’re wonderfully ambiguous. So full of feistiness and fragility. I mean, really, the terrifying, inescapable thought that you will grow up to be a woman! And as for family dramas – what else is there? In terms of engaging fiction, the family is the seat of so much tension and possibility, always socially situated. Tolstoy was on to something, even if you don’t utterly agree: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

How did you imagine yourself in the shoes of this child?

It’s not easy, even if sometimes the ideas do slip beautifully into place. When it comes to kids (people in general), I’m a hoarder of sidelong glances and words overheard – those help to get the story right. But it’s a difficult line to work, not overstepping the child’s view with that of the adult author. Especially since the kind of kids I find imaginatively appealing, for story material, tend to be the precocious, sassy, smart-mouthed kind, already too big for their boots, some adults would think. And who yet are tender and breakable.

I’m sure your personal experience of the ‘hair salon’ (I presume there have been visits!) influenced your threaded narrative?

…salons. I’m awkward in the hands of stylists. I pull back from spaces which entail revealing intimacies, among strangers. My hair is a happy mess which I (un)happily used to hack myself, until my family suggested I ought to relinquish inept control. But I know quite a bit about hip barbers, really, since our idiosyncratic daughter likes a buzz cut, etched with distinctive ‘vinyls’.

As a consummate ‘pro’, please would you share a writing Trade Secret (or few…)?

I’d rather be given The Secret myself! But, ok: don’t wait too long to get started. Don’t think of yourself as a reader, not a writer: the two are closely connected. Develop a thick skin, for those days when nothing goes right. (Rejections. They happen. And happen.) And then as soon as possible make yourself vulnerable again; thin your skin to the world because that’s what you need to make the writing better.

Trade Secrets

Book details

Trade Secrets contributor Kamil Naicker on the dynamics of co-dependence, Alexandre Dumas, and the messiness of life

Kamil Naicker was born in London and moved to Cape Town with her family in 1991. She holds an MA from the University of Leeds and has just completed her PhD thesis on postcolonial crime fiction at the University of Cape Town. She is currently working on a novel about the lives of young South Africans born into exile. Joanne Hichens, curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories Award and Kamil recently spoke about her Trade Secrets entry, friendship, and the dynamics of co-dependence:

The threads of your story, ‘The Liberator’, of politics, of ageing, of looking back into the past, of personal need, are seamlessly woven into what could be described as a relationship drama. Would you agree?

I think so. I liked the idea of the main character beginning with a mission of sorts, which is gradually revealed as being the result of a very complicated relationship instead of anything overtly political. Dhaneshree is essentially recruited by Isaac, and it struck me that recruitment depends on there being some kind of unfulfilled need on both sides. Obviously this is also true of friendships and mentor relationships, albeit in a much less manipulative way, so I decided to explore a dynamic where there seems to be genuine attachment between the characters in addition to this imperative that’s carried out in the course of the story.

Was there an initial inspiration for the story? Are you personally interested in the stories of struggle heroes?

I think we all are as South Africans. It’s a great part of our cultural mythos, so it just naturally found a place in this story too. The initial inspiration was a bit more weird and ephemeral, a strip of corridor that reflected all these fluorescent lights. I pictured a character trying to walk sedately through this place that felt like a sort of creepy, submerged disco without being able to break into a run.

Your protagonist, Dhaneshree, regularly visits a care home in order to read (which could be considered her ‘trade’) to Isaac, an elderly struggle hero who has a ‘trade secret’ of his own. As the story develops, how does the close relationship between them unfold?

Their story unfolds in reverse, so we don’t see a chronological relationship as such. Isaac is a consistently difficult guy, very brusque and angry with his circumstances. As we learn more about Dhaneshree’s past it becomes clear why she appreciates Isaac. They’re both lonely, and she’s never met anyone who is willing to trade difficult truths with her instead of just pretending everything’s all right.

Then there’s also the reading itself, which kind of introduces her to a new world and different way of thinking, even though her job as a paid companion is ostensibly for his benefit. I think Isaac is also impressed that Dhaneshree doesn’t let him bully her. He senses an inner strength there.

Is the literature that features close to your heart, or chosen to show us more of Isaac’s ‘character’?

Both. It’s what I was reading at the time, but I like the idea of something as distant from our context as Dumas’s writing being used to understand the way we live now.

The Three Musketeers is actually about a group of extremely messed up, but oddly lovable, individuals”

What is the particular significance of The Three Musketeers?

The enduring appeal of The Three Musketeers is the fact that it’s actually about a group of extremely messed up, but oddly lovable, individuals. None of them are able to achieve any kind of stability in their personal lives, but as a fighting unit they’re unstoppable. Athos is the most daring fighter in France, in part because he actually doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. They’re able to turn their brokenness into strength, which plays back into the dynamic I was discussing earlier. Tom Burke, who acted in the recent BBC adaptation, describes the bond between the musketeers as ‘co-dependence’ rather than simply friendship, and this describes the dynamic in my story as well. It’s this relationship of great depth and extremes, but not necessarily one most therapists would approve of.

The relationship between the unlikely pair, Dhaneshree and Isaac, is also one of courage and compassion. Is this a story of redemption?

Redemption is maybe too strong a word. There’s a darkness to the story that never really goes away, an undercurrent of distrust and ethical unease. There’s no resolution as such. Courage and compassion, definitely, but it’s all very much embedded in the messiness of life. Everyone continues in their complexities rather than transcending them. At the very most, it’s a piecemeal kind of redemption. Glimmers of grace.

What writing Trade Secret would you like to share?

Can I steal one from Emily Dickinson? ‘Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.’

Trade Secrets

Book details

Six local authors shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Literary Awards


Literary website Brittle Paper has announced the shortlists for the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards. PEN SA members Petina Gappah and Sisonke Msimang were shortlisted in the Fiction and Essays / Think Pieces categories respectively. Gappah for her story “A Short History of Zaka the Zulu”, published on The New Yorker‘s website, and Msimang for her piece “All your faves are problematic: A brief history of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, stanning and the trap of #blackgirlmagic”, published on the Africa is a Country website.

Besides Sisonke, five other local authors made the cut.

The Brittle Paper Award for Fiction:
- Sibongile Fisher for her short story “A Door Ajar”, published in Short Story Day Africa: Migrations
- Megan Ross for her short story “Farang”, published in Short Story Day Africa: Migrations

The Brittle Paper Award for Essays/Think Pieces:
- “Writes of Passage, an Urban Memoir: How a Pan-African Journal and American Glossies Put Bongani Madondo on the Write Path,” by Bongani Madondo, as published in The Johannesburg Review of Books

The Brittle Paper Anniversary Award:
- “Love Is Not Apolitical,” by Andile Ndlovu (Fiction)

Koleka Putuma was shortlisted in the poetry category for her PEN SA Student Writing Prize-winning poem “Water”, published on our website here.

Congratulations and good luck to all six of them!

The press release reads:

August 1, 2017 was Brittle Paper’s seventh anniversary. In celebration of this milestone, we are launching the Brittle Paper Literary Awards, to recognize the finest, original pieces of African writing published online.

The awards come in five categories: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Essays/Think Pieces, and the Anniversary Award for works published on our blog. The winners in the fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and essays/think pieces categories will receive $200 each, while the winner of our Anniversary Award will receive $300. The winners will be announced on 23 September, 2017.

The shortlists are a result of months of meticulous hard work. The selections were made based on quality, significance, and impact. In this, we considered only works that are available online for free. For the fiction, poetry, nonfiction and essays/think pieces categories, we considered works published between 1 January, 2016 and 31 July, 2017. For our anniversary award, our consideration was limited to between 1 August, 2016 and 31 July, 2017.

Click here for the complete shortlist.


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Nick Mulgrew awarded 2016 Thomas Pringle Award for his short story '1-HR FOTO'

Nick Mulgrew has been announced as the winner of the 2016 Thomas Pringle Award for his short story ’1-HR FOTO’, published in Oppikoppi’s annual zine, Ons Klyntji (2016), and his short story anthology, Stations.

The Thomas Pringle Award is an annual award for work published in newspapers, periodicals and journals. The awards are allocated to either a book, play, film or TV review; a literary article or book review; an article on English education; one or more poems; and – in Nick’s case – a short story or one-act play.

Congrats, Nick!

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