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2018 Media24 Books prize winners announced

Investigative journalist Jacques Pauw and Cape Town writer and poet Ken Barris were among the recipients of the 2018 Media24 Books prizes awarded in Cape Town on Thursday, 14 June 2018.

The Media24 Books prizes are awarded annually for books published by the Media24 Books division and Jonathan Ball Publishers, also part of Media24, in the preceding year. This year, prizes to a combined value of more than R200 000 were awarded in six categories.

Jacques Pauw won the Recht Malan prize for nonfiction for The President’s Keepers, published by NB Publishers under the Tafelberg imprint. According to the judges, The President’s Keepers will be remembered, along with #GuptaLeaks, for the change it brought about in South African society and the ANC. “The power of The President’s Keepers lies partly in the explosive revelations it makes, but mostly in that for the first time a broad-based narrative connected the dots between the private and public interests propping up Zuma at all costs. South Africans live in a better country today than a mere eight months ago, partly thanks to Pauw.”

The other titles on the nonfiction shortlist were How to Steal a City by Crispian Olver and Khwezi: The Story of Fezekile Kuzwayo by Redi Tlhabi.

The Herman Charles Bosman prize for English fiction went to Ken Barris for The Life of Worm and Other Misconceptions, a short story collection published by Kwela. The judges called it an extraordinary collection that combines the mundane with the surreal in illuminating but often deeply unsettling ways. It is a collection that keeps the reader “constantly intrigued, amused, repelled and acutely aware of South African realities”.

Also on the fiction shortlist were I am Pandarus by Michiel Heyns and Being Kari by Qarnita Loxton.

Novelist Eben Venter won the WA Hofmeyr prize for Afrikaans fiction for the fifth time with Groen soos die hemel daarbo, published by Tafelberg. The novel, which explores modern sexuality, intimacy and identity, was lauded by the judges for its finely honed style of writing. The other books on the shortlist were Die wêreld van Charlie Oeng by Etienne van Heerden and As in die mond by Nicole Jaekel Strauss.

Marlene van Niekerk received the Elisabeth Eybers prize for Afrikaans and English poetry for In die stille agterkamer, ekphrastic verses about the paintings of Dutch painter Jan Mankes (1889–1920). The collection, published by Human & Rousseau, was described by the judges as “a gripping yet meditative reading experience”. Also shortlisted were Nou, hier by Corné Coetzee, Radbraak by Jolyn Phillips and Alles het niet kom wôd by Nathan Trantraal.

The MER prize for youth novels was awarded to Carin Krahtz for Blou is nie ’n kleur nie (Tafelberg), while the MER prize for illustrated children’s books went to writer Rosamund Haden and illustrator Tony Pinchuck for The All Africa Wildlife Express.

The judges were: For the Recht Malan prize: Jean Meiring, Elsa van Huyssteen and Pauli van Wyk; for the Herman Charles Bosman prize: Johan Jacobs, Molly Brown and Ann Donald; for the WA Hofmeyr prize: Francois Smith, Sonja Loots and Kerneels Breytenbach; for the Elisabeth Eybers prize: Henning Pieterse, Bibi Slippers and Charl-Pierre Naudé; for the MER prize for youth novels: Nanette van Rooyen, Henriëtte Linde-Loubser and Betsie van der Westhuizen; and for the MER prize for illustrated children’s books: Piet Grobler, Marjorie van Heerden and Magdel Vorster.

The President's Keepers

Book details

How To Steal A City




The Life of Worm


I am Pandarus


Being Kari


Groen soos die hemel daarbo


Die wêreld van Charlie Oeng


As in die Mond


In die stille agterkamer


Nou, hier




Alles het niet kom wôd


Blou is nie 'n kleur nie


All Africa Wildlife Express

Launch: Homeland by Karin Brynard (21 June)

Captain Albertus Beeslaar has had enough of the Kalahari. He is about to hand in his resignation, but before doing so he is sent into the heart of an ancient San community: an elder has died after being released from police custody and the San blame the police. The small town of Witdraai borders on the world-famous Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, where the last of the Kalahari San eke out a living. A violent attack on a German tourist has unsettled the whole town – a case that is rubbing up Beeslaar’s new colleague, Colonel Koekoes Mentoor, the wrong way. She wants to turn her back on Witdraai and the bad memories the place holds for her.

As the heat rises, all hell breaks loose: a policeman is murdered; deep-seated corruption is threatening a major land-restitution plan for the San; and a mysterious killer is prowling the red dunes. Amid all the controversy, Kytie Rooi, a cleaner at a luxury guesthouse in Upington and self-appointed protector of a strange street child, is fleeing into the deadly heat of the desert with her charge. In this world, places of safety are dangerously elusive.

Homeland is the translation of the number one bestseller Tuisland, Karin Brynard’s critically acclaimed and most ambitious novel to date.

Event Details

Read an extract from Francois Smith's The Camp Whore, shortlisted for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

Published in the Sunday Times

Rock. Above me and around me. I am in a cave, I know that now. On the rockface eland are leaping over me, and between them are little black men with knobkerries in their hands. I also know what that is.

On Bosrand there was a cave with Bushman paintings. Yes, Bosrand. Now things are coming back to me. Pa had shown us. Pa. Ma. Neels. Me.

There was also a face in front of me. I remember now. And the shock. He sat on his haunches next to me, and I saw the grains of sand on his pants and on his hand. Then I saw that the hand was black. I closed my eyes. Shut them. Later on, I again tried to work out where I was but all I could see were these mud clouds and the only thing that existed was this terrible fear.

It’s also him talking now, that face.

It’s like rocks tumbling down a mountain from up high. It is a sound that I know. I understand what he is saying. Kgotso, Mofumahat-sana, he says. That is how they greet one. The good ones, that is their greeting. But he just wants me to believe that he is one of the good ones, what he really wants is a white woman to do with as he pleases.

I can see him clearly now. He sits with his knees pulled up and holds a knobkerrie between his legs. His head is turned away, but I know he is watching from the corner of his eye. Metsi. That is what I need to say. Water. I want water. He must give me water, that is all I want, and then I can die. He must just kill me quickly so that I cannot see or feel what he is doing.

He puts the knobkerrie down and stands up. I’m scared half to death. But all he does is dip his hand into a calabash next to me – I’ve only just noticed it – and brings his hand to my mouth. Cupped.

I stick out my tongue and can at least taste the water. He lets it drip. I try to swallow, but my tongue won’t move. Luckily, more comes, and then more. The water is bitter, tasting of leaves, something like aloe or sage. My whole face is wet, and so are my chin and throat.

There is something wrapped around my head, I can feel that now. Why am I lying here under a blanket? Am I naked? What has the herdsman done to me? What is he going to do to me?

O mang? That is what I should say. Who are you? But the words refuse to come out. I can’t speak. Like Ma, when she tried to pray but couldn’t find the words and stretched her hands out towards me. Lord, watch over us, and let your light shine upon us.

My lips crack when I try to open my mouth. Only prayer will prevent darkness from descending on the land. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, sayeth the Lord. There is a priest sticking his hands up in the air, straight as an arrow up at the clouds and he looks down at me, and I look away from his terrible face, away from his eyes glaring at me like a glowing furnace, seeing only evil and wretchedness. Where is that herdsman who is always sitting here, next to me, where is he? His name is Tiisetso. He doesn’t call me nooi. But then he looks away and says ke sôno. It’s a great pity, he says. He says I must sleep again so that I can become strong again. He says I was hurt badly at Balla Bosiu. With his knobkerrie he pounds the ground between his feet.

Balla Bosiu. The camp. The place where they weep at night, that is what they call it. That I do remember. The camp. That is where I have come from. I know that now. But if I close my eyes and think, then all that comes to mind is the feel of a sheep’s hoof in my hand, how hard the bone is under the skin, and the prickly wool, and the kick that jerks my arm right up my shoulder. Then I see someone pull back the head and swiftly draw a blade across the throat and cut, cut, cut as the blood bubbles and the windpipe bursts, and I cannot look away even though I want to and the man who is slaughtering looks at me, his nose is thin and skew and his lips are dry and the same colour as his skin, not red, and he says something to me, but I cannot hear what he is saying.

Instead, I keep my eyes open. But how did I get here? This man must tell me. What is he going to do with me? If only I could ask. What is he going to do with me?

Book details

"In search of plausibility, of fictional truth, I had to put myself in that woman's shoes." Francois Smith on writing The Camp Whore, shortlisted for the 2018 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

Published in the Sunday Times

Francois Smith lectures in literature and creative writing at the University of the Free State. His stories have appeared in the anthologies Bloots, Kosblik, Skarlakenkoors and Op die spoor van, and his translation of David Kramer: A Biography has been awarded a SALA Literary Prize. His debut novel, Kamphoer (2014), won the ATKV Prose Prize and the SALA for First-time Published Author. He holds a PhD in literature from the University of Cape Town.

The Camp Whore (originally Kamphoer in Afrikaans) was written as an assignment. I was freelancing as publishing editor. I helped other authors write their books, never having the time or the creative energy for my own. Then came the story that violently swished me into the writer’s chair.

A young girl was brutally raped in one of the Anglo-Boer War concentration camps and many years later – in another war in another country – encountered one of her rapists. This story, proclaimed to be true, was discovered by Nico Moolman, who self-published it as The Boer Whore. Tafelberg Publishers bought the rights to the story from Moolman. I regularly worked for them and they wanted an Afrikaans version of it.

Initially I thought they had a translation in mind but they wanted a brand-new novel and wanted me to write it. Me? Yes, they said, you have a ready-made plot, we’ll keep the wolf from the door for three months, and you’ve had years of practice on other people’s stories – what is the problem?

By all accounts my protagonist was a most remarkable woman who survived her ordeal through inner strength. But also decisive were a series of benefactors, among whom were two traditional Sotho healers who nursed her back to life and enabled her to find her way out of the ravages of war. I also had a marvellous ironic twist to work with in the sense that my heroine had escaped the South African war only to find herself in the midst of the greatest war of them all: World War 1, this time as a psychiatric nurse.

I had to consider how closely I was going to stick to the original version, which was in essence a story of revenge. What interested me from the outset, however, was not so much the historical truth of the story but the impenetrability of the encounter at the heart of this tale, namely that of the victim and the perpetrator coming face to face. This is what spurred my imagination, getting to grips with the complexities of that situation. What would happen if a woman had to meet her rapist?

Historical truth, I realised is in this regard as deceptive as fantasy, especially male fantasy. Historical research is the easy part of fiction writing. Writers do waste a lot of time on it, but eventually you have to venture on the treacherous roads to face the real dragon, something called fictional truth – or rather, the truth in fiction. The measure of this truth is not factuality but plausibility.

In search of plausibility, of fictional truth, I had to put myself in that woman’s shoes and walk in them from beginning to end. I had to stay true to that. I had to stay in her head and look through her eyes and I had to employ all my writerly wits to distinguish between her ways of seeing and mine.

From the outset I realised that for a man to attempt to imagine what is singularly a woman’s experience is an audacious endeavour. It was a realisation that at times almost petrified me, but this trepidation is typically what one feels when you have to move out of yourself towards the other. And that is eminently the task of the writer, this perpetual reaching out to the other.

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Launch: The Broken River Tent by Mphuthumi Ntabeni (20 June)

The Broken River Tent is a novel that marries imagination with history.

It is about the life and times of Maqoma, the Xhosa chief who was at the forefront of fighting British colonialism in the Eastern Cape during the nineteenth century. The story is told through the eyes of a young South African, Phila, who suffers from what he calls triple ‘N’ condition – neurasthenia, narcolepsy and cultural ne plus ultra. T

his makes him feel far removed from events happening around him but gives him access to the analeptic memory of his people. After being under immense mental pressure, he crosses the mental divide between the living and the dead and is visited by Maqoma. They engage in different conversations about cultural history, literature, religion, the past and contemporary South African life.

Event Details

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie awarded PEN Pinter Prize

The critically acclaimed Nigerian novelist and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient whose TEDx-talk on feminism was appropriated in Beyoncé’s “Flawless”, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has been announced as the recipient of the PEN Pinter Prize 2018!

Adichie was selected as the winner of this prestigious award by this year’s judging panel, president of English PEN Philippe Sands; historian, biographer and widow of Harold Pinter Antonia Fraser; writer and critic Alex Clark; poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams, and Chair of Judges and Chair of trustees for English PEN Maureen Freely.

This globally renowned writer, advocate for gender equality, and vocal supporter of the representation of African culture in the international literary sphere, certainly is a worthy recipient of the PEN Pinter Prize. Established in 2009 and named in memory of Nobel Laureate playwright, Harold Pinter, this prize is allocated to an author who’s work possesses “outstanding literary merit”.

The PEN Pinter Prize is awarded annually to an author from Britain, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth, who’s penmanship – in the words of Pinter’s Nobel Prize for Literature speech – bestows an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’. Previous winners include Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureishi and Carol Ann Duffy.

Adichie comments:

I admired Harold Pinter’s talent, his courage, his lucid dedication to telling his truth, and I am honoured to be given an award in his name.

She will receive the award on 9 October.

Purple Hibiscus

Book details


Half of a Yellow Sun


The Thing Around Your Neck