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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

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Tales of the Metric System

 
 
 

The Whispering Trees

 
 
 

Season of Crimson Blossoms

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

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Call it a Difficult Night

 
 
 

Sharp Edges

 
 
 

Tokoloshe Song

 
 
 

Questions for the Sea

 

Redakteur van Taalgenoot deel sy 10 gunsteling-boeke

Johan Jack Smith, die redakteur van Taalgenoot, het onlangs geskryf dat hy deesdae baie meer waardering het vir boeke wat hy destyds op skool gelees het, en hoe sy voorliefde vir lees deur R.R. Ryger se Beertjie en sy Boytjies geprikkel is.

Vandag kyk ek anders na Kringe in ’n Bos, Fiela se Kind en Die jaar toe my ma begin sing het. Ek het meer waardering. Maar as tiener was ek keelvol vir tragiese verhale, diere wat uitsterf en die hartseer en foltering van die Afrikaner. Dit het my nie oortuig om vakansietye televisie, video’s en videospeletjies vir ’n boek op te gee nie.

Smith is tot vandag toe nog ‘n groot liefhebber van Afrikaanse letterkunde, maar hy voeg by dat hy ook maar probeer om meer Engels te lees.

Klik hier vir Smith se lys van top 10 gunsteling boeke, hoekom dit ietwat moeilik is om vir ‘n peuter aan boeke te voorstel, en hoe ‘n naweek wat hy in die hospitaal moes deurbring hom aan’t die lees gekry het…
 

Beertjie en sy Boytjies

 
 
 

Fiela se KindBook details

 
 
 
Kringe in 'n Bos

 
 
 

Die jaar toe my ma begin sing het

Shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize 2017 announced

The Man Booker International Prize revealed the shortlist of six books in contention for the 2017 prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world.

Each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000. The £50,000 prize for the winning book will also be divided equally between its author and translator.

The author, translator, and title of the shortlisted novel, as decided upon by the panel, are as follows:

Mathias Enard (France), Charlotte Mandell, Compass (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

David Grossman (Israel), Jessica Cohen, A Horse Walks Into a Bar (Jonathan Cape)

Roy Jacobsen (Norway), Don Bartlett, Don Shaw, The Unseen (Maclehose)

Dorthe Nors (Denmark), Misha Hoekstra, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (Pushkin Press)

Amos Oz (Israel), Nicholas de Lange, Judas (Chatto & Windus)

Samanta Schweblin (Argentina), Megan McDowell, Fever Dream (Oneworld)

The list includes one writer who was previously a finalist for the prize in 2007, Amos Oz. He is one of two writers from Israel (the other is David Grossman) who have been shortlisted, along with a writer from South America, Samanta Schweblin, and three from Europe: two Scandinavians, Roy Jacobsen and Dorthe Nors and a Prix Goncourt winner, Mathias Enard from France.

The settings range from an Israeli comedy club to contemporary Copenhagen, from a sleepless night in Vienna to a troubled delirium in Argentina. The list is dominated by contemporary settings but also features a divided Jerusalem of 1959 and a remote island in Norway in the early 20th century.

The translators are all established practitioners of their craft: this is the 17th novel by Oz that Nicholas de Lange has translated and Roy Jacobsen’s co-translators Don Bartlett and Don Shaw have worked together many times before.

The shortlist includes three independent publishers, Pushkin, Oneworld and Fitzcarraldo. Penguin Random House has two novels through the imprints Chatto & Windus and Jonathan Cape, while Quercus’s imprint Maclehose has the final place on the list.

Nick Barley, chair of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize judging panel, comments:

Our shortlist spans the epic and the everyday. From fevered dreams to sleepless nights, from remote islands to overwhelming cities, these wonderful novels shine a light on compelling individuals struggling to make sense of their place in a complex world.

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:

Many congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and translators. We are very proud to sponsor the Man Booker International Prize as it continues to celebrate talent from all over the world. The prize plays a very important role in promoting literary excellence on a global scale, as well as underscoring Man Group’s charitable focus on literacy and education, and our commitment to creativity and excellence.

The shortlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, 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.

The winner of the 2017 Prize will be announced on 14 June at a formal dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, with the £50,000 prize being divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning entry.

A book synopses and biography of the authors, as per the press release:


Compass

Mathias Enard
Translated by Charlotte Mandell
Published by Fitzcarraldo Editions

Compass

As night falls over Vienna, Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, takes to his sickbed with an unspecified illness and spends a restless night drifting between dreams and memories, revisiting the important chapters of his life: his ongoing fascination with the Middle East and his numerous travels to Istanbul, Aleppo, Damascus, and Tehran, as well as the various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers who populate this vast dreamscape. At the centre of these memories is his elusive, unrequited love, Sarah, a fiercely intelligent French scholar caught in the intricate tension between Europe and the Middle East. An immersive, nocturnal, musical novel, full of generous erudition and bittersweet humour, Compass is a journey and a declaration of admiration, a quest for the otherness inside us all and a hand reaching out – like a bridge between West and East, yesterday and tomorrow.

Mathias Enard, born in 1972 in Niort, France, studied Persian and Arabic and spent long periods in the Middle East. He has lived in Barcelona for about 15 years, interrupted in 2013 by a writing residency in Berlin. He won several awards for Zone, including the Prix du Livre Inter and the Prix Décembre, and won the Liste Goncourt/Le Choix de l’Orient, the Prix littéraire de la Porte Dorée, and the Prix du Roman-News for Street of Thieves. He won the 2015 Prix Goncourt for Compass.

Charlotte Mandell has translated fiction, poetry, and philosophy from the French, including works by Proust, Flaubert, Genet, Maupassant, Blanchot, and many other distinguished authors. She has received many accolades and awards for her translations, including a Literature Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for Zone. Born in Hartford Connecticut in 1968, she lives in New York State.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar
David Grossman
Translated by Jessica Cohen

Published by Jonathan Cape

A Horse Walks Into a Bar

The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling before their eyes as a matter of choice. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell.
Dovale Gee, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – 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.

David Grossman is the bestselling author of numerous works, which have been translated into 36 languages. His most recent novels are To the End of the Land, described by British academic Jacqueline Rose as ‘without question one of the most powerful and moving novels I have ever read’, and Falling Out of Time. He is the recipient of the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the 2010 Frankfurt Peace Prize. He was born in Jerusalem, where he currently resides, in 1954.

Jessica Cohen is a freelance translator born in England in 1973, raised in Israel, and living in Denver. Her translations include David Grossman’s critically acclaimed To the End of the Land, and works by major Israeli writers including Etgar Keret, Rutu Modan, Dorit Rabinyan, Ronit Matalon, Amir Gutfreund and Tom Segev, as well as Golden Globe-winning director Ari Folman. She is a past board member of the American Literary Translators Association and has served as a judge for the National Translation Award.

The Unseen
Roy Jacobsen
Translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw

Published by Maclehose

The Unseen

Ingrid Barrøy is born on an island that bears her name – a holdfast for a single family, their livestock, their crops, their hopes and dreams. Her father dreams of building a jetty that will connect them to the mainland, but closer ties to the wider world come at a price. Her mother has her own dreams – more children, a smaller island, a different life – and there is one question Ingrid must never ask her. Island life is hard, a living scratched from the dirt or trawled from the sea, so when Ingrid comes of age, she is sent to the mainland to work for one of the wealthy families on the coast. But Norway too is waking up to a wider world, a modern world that is capricious and can be cruel. Tragedy strikes, and Ingrid must fight to protect the home she thought she had left behind.

Roy Jacobsen has twice been nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literary Award: for Seierherrene in 1991 and Frost in 2003. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Dublin Impac Award for his novel The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles. He was born in Oslo in 1961, where he currently resides.

Don Bartlett lives in Norfolk, UK and works as a freelance translator of Scandinavian literature. He has translated, or co-translated, Norwegian novels by Karl Ove Knausgård, Lars Saabye Christensen, Roy Jacobsen, Ingvar Ambjornsen, Kjell Ola Dahl, Gunnar Staalesen, Pernille Rygg, and Jo Nesbo. He was born in Norfolk in 1948.

Don Shaw is a teacher of Danish and author of the standard Danish–Thai/Thai–Danish dictionaries. He has worked with Don Bartlett on translating Erland Loe.

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal
Dorthe Nors
Translated by Misha Hoekstra

Published by Pushkin Press

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal

Sonja is an intelligent single woman in her 40s whose life lacks focus. The situation must change – but where to start? By learning to drive, perhaps. After all, how hard can it be? Very, as it turns out. Six months in, Sonja is still baffled by the basics and her instructor is eccentric. Sonja is also struggling with an acute case of vertigo, a sister who won’t talk to her, and a masseuse who is determined to solve her spiritual problems. Frenetic city life is a constant reminder that every man (and woman) is an island: she misses her rural childhood where ceilings were high and the sky was endless. Shifting gears is not proving easy.

Dorthe Nors was born in 1970 in Denmark, and studied literature at the University of Aarhus. She is one of the most original voices in contemporary Danish literature. Her short stories have appeared in numerous international periodicals, including the Boston Review and Harper’s, and she is the first Danish writer ever to have a story published in the New Yorker. Nors has published four novels, in addition to a collection of stories, Karate Chop, and a novella, Minna Needs Rehearsal Space, which were published together in English by Pushkin Press. Karate Chop won the prestigious P. O. Enquist Literary Prize in 2014. She lives in rural Jutland, Denmark.

Misha Hoekstra, born in the US in 1963, has won several awards for his literary translations. He lives in Aarhus, where he works as a freelance writer and translator, in addition to writing and performing songs. He also translated Minna Needs Rehearsal Space for Pushkin Press.

Judas
Amos Oz
Translated by Nicholas de Lange

Published by Chatto & Windus

Judas

Set in the still-divided Jerusalem of 1959-60, Judas is a tragi-comic coming-of-age tale and a radical rethinking of the concept of treason. Shmuel, a young, idealistic student, is drawn to a strange house and its mysterious occupants within. As he starts to uncover the house’s tangled history, he reaches an understanding that harks back not only to the beginning of the Jewish-Arab conflict, but also to the beginning of Jerusalem itself – to Christianity, to Judaism, to Judas.

Amos Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939. He is the internationally acclaimed author of many novels and essay collections, translated into over forty languages, including his brilliant semiautobiographical work, A Tale of Love and Darkness. He has received several international awards, including the Prix Femina, the Israel Prize, the Goethe Prize, the Frankfurt Peace Prize and the 2013 Franz Kafka Prize. He lives in Israel and is considered a towering figure in world literature.

Nicholas de Lange
has been translating Amos Oz’s work since 1972, and Judas is the 17th novel by Oz that de Lange has translated. He has also translated fiction by Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and S. Yizhar. He was born in Nottingham, UK in 1944, and still lives there.

Fever Dream
Samanta Schweblin
Translated by Megan McDowell

Published by Oneworld

Fever Dream

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. The two seem anxious and, at David’s ever more insistent prompting, Amanda recounts a series of events from the apparently recent past. As David pushes her to recall whatever trauma has landed her in her terminal state, he unwittingly opens a chest of horrors, and suddenly the terrifying nature of their reality is brought into shocking focus.

Samanta Schweblin was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1978. In 2001, she was awarded first prize by both the National Fund for the Arts and the Haroldo Conti National Competition for her debut, El Núcleo del Disturbio. In 2008, she won the Casa de las Américas prize for her second collection of stories, Pájaros en la boca. Two years later, she was listed among the Best of Young Spanish Writers by Granta magazine. Her work has been translated into numerous languages and appeared in more than twenty countries. She lives in Berlin.

Megan McDowell has translated many modern and contemporary South American authors, including Alejandro Zambra, Arturo Fontaine, Carlos Busqued, Álvaro Bisama and Juan Emar. Her translations have been published in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Words Without Borders, Mandorla, and Vice, among others. Born in Mississippi in 1978, she now resides in Chile.
 
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Fiction Friday: read an excerpt from Alain Mabanckou's acclaimed Black Moses

Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses, set in the People’s Republic of Congo in 1970, is a comic tale of a man helping the helpless in an unjust society and was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. Black Moses was the only African title to appear on the longlist, but unfortunately didn’t make it to the shortlist.

Read an excerpt from the chapter “Pioneers Awake!” here:

The Director had been pulling strings to get his nephews Mfoumbou Ngoulmoumako, Bissoulou Ngoulmoumako and Dongo-Dongo Ngoulmoumako onto an ideological training course in Pointe-Noire so they could later become section leaders of the National Movement of Pioneers for our orphanage. They still remained under the control of their paternal uncle and particularly under that of two members of the USYC (Union of Socialist Youth of Congo), which was seen as the ‘nursery’ of the Congolese Workers’ Party because it was within this organisation that the government identified the young people who would go on one day to occupy positions of political responsibility in our country. The Director’s three nephews were thus promoted to a glorious future, which annoyed his three other nephews, on his mother’s side, Mpassi, Moutété and Mvoumbi, who were still stuck in their jobs as corridor wardens, though they too dreamed of becoming the orphanage’s section leaders of the National Movement of Pioneers. Unable to express their discontent to their uncle, they took it out on us instead. Their uncle had clearly favoured the paternal line over a family mix which might have calmed things down. Mpassi, Moutété and Mvoumbi felt they’d become underlings to the Director’s other nephews and we revelled in the stormy atmosphere among the wardens, which sometimes looked like spilling over into violence, until the Director intervened and threatened to replace them with northerners – which was enough to bring them to their senses…

It does not fall to everyone to become a section leader of the Union of Socialist Youth of Congo. The government sifted through the applications carefully, taking account of the ethnic origin of the candidates. As the northerners were in power – in particular the Mbochis – the leaders of the USYC were also Mbochis, an ethnic group which represented a scant 3.5 per cent of the national population. In other words, Dieudonné Ngoulmoumako had had to fight to fix the appointment of his three nephews, who were not Mbochi from the north, but Bembé from the south. In fact he had only partly got what he wanted because although they accepted his request, the political leaders of the Kouilou region suggested he go halves: his nephews could be section leaders, but under the command of the two northerners, Oyo Ngoki and Mokélé Mbembé, who in turn would be accountable to the national division at the annual congress in Brazzaville, to be attended by the President of the Republic himself.

“Those two old northerners who come every week for consciousness-raising sessions, how come they’re members of the Union of Youth, when they’re not youthful and their hair is whiter than manioc flour?”

Bonaventure was always pushing me to the limit. It was true that Oyo Ngoki and Mokélé Mbembé were the kind of adult who looked as though they’d never been young, with their dark suits, and myopic glasses. Either they spoke to us as though we were two- or three-year-olds, or they used their own special language which one of them had picked up in Moscow, the other in Romania. Mfoumbou Ngoulmoumako, Bissoulou Ngoulmoumako and Dongo-Dongo Ngoulmoumako copied their way of speaking, using the same expressions, which they didn’t understand and in which every sentence contained the word ‘dialectic’, or, as an adverb, ‘dialectically’:

“You need to consider the problem dialectically,” Bissoulou Ngoulmoumako would say.

“Dialectically speaking, our history has been written by the imperialists and their local lackeys, we must overthrow the system, the superstructure must not be allowed to outweigh the infrastructure,” Dongo-Dongo would affirm.

We never forgot, though, that before the Revolution the three former corridor wardens were just bruisers with zero intelligence. Now the Director had given them an office close to his on the first floor. They shut themselves in there to prepare Pioneers Awake!, a propaganda sheet that they posted on the wall of the hut of the National Movement of Pioneers every Monday morning. We had to read this publication before going in to class.

Continue reading here.

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Mischling reignites the debate about whether the Holocaust is a suitable subject for fiction, writes Margaret von Klemperer

This review was published in the Witness

AFFINITY Konar’s debut novel is an extraordinary piece of writing, powerfully imaginative, cleverly constructed and lyrical…but it is not an easy read. In places, it is close to unbearable.

The novel opens in 1944 with Polish identical twins Pearl and Stasha travelling to Auschwitz in a cattle truck with their mother and grandfather. On the verge of adolescence, they are immediately taken from their family and handed over to Dr Josef Mengele, whose name will resonate through time as one of the most evil people who has ever lived, and who is, of course, a man who never faced justice.

As part of Mengele’s so-called Zoo, the twins may have certain privileges not granted to other inmates of the death camp, but they will also be subjected to unspeakable horrors and experiments.

Konar, who has used many testimonies of Auschwitz survivors as source material, tells the story in alternating voices. Pearl is the gentler twin, the child who loves to dance, while Stasha is physically stronger and more imaginative.

The author controls the two streams of narrative skilfully as we read of the damage done to the children and the growing carapace of hatred that they, and particularly Stasha, grow in order to survive.
 

Then, with the end of the war coming closer, Pearl vanishes from a concert organised by Mengele. All Stasha has to cling to is the possibility that she is still alive somewhere, and when the camp is liberated, Stasha and Feliks, another surviving twin, escape from the Death March and set off on an odyssey of their own to the ruins of Warsaw with two aims in mind: to revenge themselves on Mengele and to find Pearl.

Nothing is spared of the sheer horror of the feral existence of the refugees in war-ravaged Europe, making the second half of the novel no easier to stomach than the earlier part set in Auschwitz.

This book reignites the debate about whether the Holocaust is a suitable subject for fiction. It is a debate that leaves me slightly conflicted: while Roberto Benigni’s 1997 Oscar-winning film Life is Beautiful came in for a lot of criticism for using humour to tell its story, it worked for me, but I disliked John Boyne’s manipulative, heavy-handed and implausible 2006 teen novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Certainly Affinity Konar trivialises nothing, nor does her manner of telling the story manipulate our feelings.

Whether a novel is a good way of describing the horrors of Auschwitz is something people have to decide for themselves, but this book may persuade you that fiction is a legitimate and a powerful tool to remind the world of the existence of evil. – Margaret von Klemperer

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