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Launch: The Echo of a Noise by Pieter-Dirk Uys (13 November)

‘This is Pieter-Dirk Uys unpowdered. No props, no false eyelashes, no high heels …’

South African icon Pieter-Dirk Uys has been on stage over 7 000 times. In this funny and tender memoir, Uys reveals the person behind the persona. We meet his forbidding, musically driven Afrikaner father, his brilliant but troubled mother, and Sannie Abader, his Cape Flats ma who raised him in Pinelands, Cape Town.

Filled with photographs from the family album and 40 years of satire, The Echo of a Noise also features Pieter’s Paarlse ouma, his strudel-baking German Oma, his devotion to Sophia Loren, the invention of Evita Bezuidenhout, and the joys and sorrows of a remarkable life.

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Book Bites: 4 November

Published in the Sunday Times

The Wife’s Tale ****
Aida Edemariam, HarperCollins, R285

Aida Edemariam retells the story of her grandmother’s life in Ethiopia in a gentle portrait that starts off in a feudal monarchy and ends in a Marxist dictatorship. We learn that her gran, Yetemegnu, was married before she was 10 years old. Surrounded by priests and soldiers, Yetemegnu’s life was filled with challenges that many could not even begin to fathom. Her fight for justice after her husband’s arrest and her inherent ability to help people in desperate need gives Yetemegnu a voice that is stronger than the change her country faces. Edemariam does a magnificent job of translating her grandmother’s strength and legacy. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

Circus ****
Irma Venter Human & Rousseau, R280

Adriana van der Hoon is a teenager growing up in ’80s Johannesburg. Unbeknown to her, her father, the Dutchman, has been bringing donor money into the country for the ANC. He’s shot dead in a fake robbery and she’s forced by a security police handler to take over her father’s “job” at the Education Trust, and track down where the money was coming from. The headstrong 18-year-old goes to Berlin on her first covert mission, where she works at a club as a knife-thrower. She starts a relationship with the club owner who supplies the money she is to take back to SA. But Adriana soon finds out he is a pimp, a money launderer and a murderer. Clean and simply written, this is a refreshing and thrilling read. Gabriella Bekes @gabrikwa

Things Even Gonzalez Can’t Fix ****
Christy Chilimigras, MF Books Joburg, R225

In this fast-paced, debut memoir about growing up in Joburg’s northern suburbs as the child of two addicts, Christy Chilimigras has crafted a book that explores the impact on her life of a flawed family. If you think that sounds depressing, it’s not, particularly as the writer and her sister emerge from the chaos of their childhood as powerful young women who take a stand. The book is full of humour and vivid descriptions, and would appeal to both older teens, young adults and older folk. I look forward to her second book. Samantha Enslin

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Launch - Louis Botha: A Man Apart by Richard Steyn (1 November)

In A Man Apart Richard Steyn once again brings to life a South African icon.

Louis Botha was the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, a union he did much to create in the decade after the devastation of the Anglo-Boer War.

During the war Botha was a brilliant young Boer general who through his battlefield strategy won significant victories over the British in the early stages of the war. When the weight of British arms overhelmed the Boers, Botha along with Smuts did much to encourage peace between English and Afrikaner and led the country to Union in 1910 and dominion status.

Botha was a big-hearted and generous man who showed magnanimity in his dealings with all, including former enemies.

He led the South African troops to victory and the capture of German South West Africa – prior to this he had to put down a revolt of pro-German Afrikaners. At the Peace of Versailles, representing South Africa, he pleaded unsuccessfully for magnanimity towards the Germans.

Botha was a globally respected figure – he and Smuts effectively operated as a double act in South Africa and on the international stage before Botha’s untimely death in August 1919 at only 57. In A Man Apart this tragically short life is illuminated in full.

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"Just stick to cricket, Shane." Good ol' Warney has been indulged once more in this tedious biography, writes Archie Henderson

Published in the Sunday Times

No Spin: My Autobiography **
Shane Warne with Mark Nicholas, Penguin Random House, R320

Shane Warne deserves a good biography.

This is not it, even with Mark Nicholas as his amanuensis.

Nicholas, an accomplished broadcaster and writer, played a marathon innings, listening to his subject, recording him, transcribing their conversations and bringing some coherence to the garrulous Warne’s ramblings.

He fails to rein in Warne and a book of almost 400 pages (including seven of fascinating statistics) could have been half the length, enough to accommodate the best part of the book, the cricket.

Warne was a great cricketer – many aficionados believe he was one of the greatest – but he can also be a great bore.

His peccadillos with a variety of women and his affair with film star Liz Hurley are tedious.

His obsequiousness toward the rich (Kerry Packer et al) is embarrassing, especially his blatant pleading to be invited to Johann Rupert’s next golf outing at St Andrews.

And his participation during a TV reality show in the “jungle” near the Kruger Park is ludicrous and irrelevant.

Stick to cricket, a strong captain – Steve Waugh, perhaps, whom Warne loathes – might have advised.

But good ol’ Warney has been indulged once more.

When he does stick to cricket, he redeems himself and his book.

He is a deep thinker on the game, was a brilliant exponent of the difficult art of leg-spin bowling and would have made a very good Australian captain.

Sadly, part of his behaviour cost him that job. Now it’s cost him a good book.

One day, when time has created some distance for dispassion, Warne will get his deserved biography. It might even be by Gideon Haigh, the Australian who is as good a writer as Warne is a bowler and who has already compiled a series of essays on the player. In them Haigh describes Warne’s bowling action as being “both dainty and menacing, like Ernst Blofeld stroking his white cat”.

Now that’s a book that would be worth reading.

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Wits University Press book wins prestigious ASSAf Humanities Book Award

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) has announced that the winner of its biennial Humanities Book Award is N Chabani Manganyi’s Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist: A Memoir. The book was published in 2016 by Wits University Press.


N. Chabani Manganyi signs a copy of his book at the launch of his memoir, Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist: A Memoir – June 2016 – CIRCA Gallery, Johannesburg. Picture: Corina van der Spoel

In its recommendation for the award ASSAF describes the book as an exceptional autobiography that tells the story of an extraordinary South African life.

Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist illuminates the history of a country through sensitive, insightful, personalised accounts of the devastating effects of rural poverty, family dislocation, migrant labour and Bantu Education on whole communities. The book on the life and times of Manganyi gains its authority as a result of the author’s formidable skills as a psychobiographer, and his remarkable restraint as a writer even as he recounts painful and recurring episodes of personal and family suffering through the course of his life.

“What is different about this is how Manganyi finds in the most oppressive circumstances – whether as a child being caned for missing school or an aspirant academic turned down for a job – opportunities for learning that advance his career; over a long period of time he refuses to yield to the many obstacles on his path as a black man and as a psychologist. This is a book on how ordinary black South Africans reached great heights in their lives and careers.”

Chabani Manganyi and Roshan Cader, commissioning editor – Wits University Press. Picture: Corina van der Spoel

The ASSAf Humanities Book Award is a biennial book award for a publication that is a scholarly, well-written work of non-fiction, published up to three years prior to its nomination. The book should be noteworthy in its contribution to developing new understanding and insight of a topic in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Performing Arts.

Veronica Klipp, publisher of Wits University Press, said: ‘We’re delighted that this important book has won such a prestigious award. Chabani Manganyi fully deserves this recognition of his immense contribution to South African scholarship. And as a long-standing member of our board he has provided wise counsel and become a great friend and supporter of the Press. Congratulations!’


Chabani Manganyi and Prof David Attwell (York University) (L); SACP secretary Blade Nzimande at the launch of Manganyi’s book (R). Pictures: Corina van der Spoel

More from the ASSAf’s recommendation:

Chosen from among 32 entries, the memoir presents a picture of the marginal man and the exilic state he experienced in his pursuit of becoming one of the first Black psychologists. The book, as reviewers have commented, weaves a rich and layered tapestry that surfaces not simply autobiographical experience; but is in fact also an autobiography of a black intellectual shaped by the psychosocial intricacies of black subjectivity (especially within the constraints of apartheid social relations).

It is in several ways not a nostalgic storytelling, but a poignant self-reflective and self-reflexive reading (and analysis) of life, relationships, home, work, ideas, loss, alienation and identity. It is a text – while providing a retrospective account of being located in time and place in the past – at best also offers some deep analysis of issues of our time into the future. This is a compelling text that provides unprecedented depth to the current rhetoric about race, racism, and the meaning of higher education inasmuch as it is a story about the life of a remarkable psychologist, human being and intellectual.

More on N Chabani Manganyi:

Prof. N Chabani Manganyi is a clinical psychologist, writer, theorist and biographer. He was the first qualified black psychologist in South Africa. He served as Director-General in the Department of Education from 1994- 1999 and was Vice-Principal of the University of Pretoria from 2003-2006. He has published widely, notably books on artists Dumile Feni and on Gerard Sekoto (Gerard Sekoto: ‘I am an African’, Wits University Press, 2004), and on Es’kia Mphahlele, Bury me at the Marketplace, Es’kia Mphahlele and Company. Letters 1943-2006 (with David Attwell), Wits University Press, 2009).

Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist

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The shortlists for the 2017 UJ Prize have been announced!

Via the University of Johannesburg

The shortlists for the 2017 University of Johannesburg Prizes for South African writing have been announced.

The prizes are not linked to a specific literary genre. This may make the evaluation more challenging in the sense that a volume of poetry, a novel and a biographical work must be measured against one another, but the idea is to open the prize to as many forms of creative writing as possible.

Approximately 60 works were submitted this year, from which the following books were selected for the shortlist:

Main Prize:

Dancing the Death Drill by Fred Khumalo

Bird-Monk Seding by Lesego Rampolokeng

New Times by Rehana Rossouw

The Inside-Out Man by Fred Strydom

Debut Prize:

Grace by Barbara Boswell

Killing Karoline by Sara-Jayne King

The main prize is R75 000.

The debut prize is R35 000.

A formal prize-giving ceremony will be held at a function later in the year.

The adjudication panel comprised the following judges:

Sikhumbuzo Mngadi (UJ)

Ronit Frenkel (UJ)

Danyela Demir (UJ)

Rebecca Fasselt (UP)

Bridget Grogan (UJ)

Nyasha Mboti (UJ)

Thabo Tsehloane (UJ)

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