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"Power is the thing that caused my face to swell. The thing that showed me love in its rawest form." Read an excerpt from If I Stay Right Here

If I Stay Right HereWhat is Sex? Sex is a humid climate. What is Desire? Desire is snow. What is Loneliness? Loneliness is a badger trying to figure out why it looks different to an otter. What is Obsession?Obsession is trying to fix a broken chair without realising that the chair is just bent at the knees and that’s how it was born. What is a Dyke? A dyke is an intricate, indecipherable encryption.

Chwayita Ngamlana, in her electric debut book, explores the above questions through her characters as they struggle through the volatility of love, the danger of not knowing themselves and
discovering their voice in the world.

The story follows the characters, Shay and Sip, who are very different in class, style, character and education. Shay is a journalism student working part time as an intern on a site that has no clear sense of direction. Sip is an unemployed varsity drop out and ex-gang member.

Their vastly different lives make it challenging for them to be the kind of couple they so desperately want to be. Unable to get themselves untangled from the web they’ve created, Shay and Sip use money, other people and sex to fix things, but is this enough?

Ngamlama has created a world that is somewhere between the present day and a sub-world of delusion. The reader will want to watch both story and characters unravel. This book will touch anyone who has lost themselves or their loved ones to unhealthy, destructive relationships.

Chwayita Ngamlana was born and raised in Grahamstown. She is an only child who found comfort and companionship in reading and writing from the age of 10. She has a degree in music and has her master’s in Creative Writing. This is her debut novel – and it won’t be the last.

The Worst Power

In this place a fist represents strength, freedom and empowerment.

They told us that in those institutions for fragile minds. With only a few years on Earth, we listened attentively to experienced superhumans who dedicated their lives to showing us how to live.

We concluded that they must have dropped down on our planet to tell us what they see from above. We didn’t know much back then.

Small eyes looking up from wooden desks, scared that these superhumans would ask us questions or say the words “spot test” or check our homework to see if we regurgitated correctly.

They had a leader and the leader was their hero.

She was our hero too.

She was like the queen of the bee hive. Whenever people were sent to her office she banged her fist on the table. I had only heard about this fist, but eventually I too found myself seated across it. It was more terrifying than the fist the superhumans banged on their desks whenever we got a little too loud and excited.

Her fist put a lump in my throat and seemed to shake the ground beneath me. I didn’t have to go to her lair all that much, thankfully. I wasn’t as interesting as the bullies, thieves and back chatters. She saw them the most. I remember how she squeezed that bony fist until her knuckles whitened, her bones protruding through the skin, stretching it thin. She pounded it on her desk and used it to punctuate her words, to fuel them so they arrive quicker.

It was then that I learned how loud a fist against wood can be.

Then they taught us about a superhero who was bigger than she was. A man who had come out of a 27-year-long struggle. He told the nation that in each single fist are a thousand reasons to keep living, to persevere and to form a unity. That was the latest meaning of a fist and it stuck. Every knuckle, a symbol of the country’s colours and willingness to stand for something. We accepted the strength of the fist because we were told these things, we saw it in action and we read about it.

Years later I’m clenching my hand hard to see what a proper fist is supposed to look like. I want to feel its power.

I’m realising that a closed fist is not easy to make. Wikipedia told me to curl my fingers into my palm and then lock them in with my thumb. This is also supposed to help me with my anxiety and help me recall information. I’m pretty sure I’m not doing it right.

Nothing about it makes me want to stand tall, be proud and raise it to the sky.

All that’s happening is the escape of my blood and the surfacing of yellow fat.

It says that if I’m able to form a fist then I’ll qualify for a fist bump – “a display of acknowledgement and friendship, sometimes celebration or greeting” – and the list goes on. Whatever I can’t say through my mouth will be tucked away in between my fingers and then passed on through a collision with another fist.

So why five knuckles? Better to put a stamp with, my dear.

Knuckle no. 1 – to imprint a lasting, prominent dark mark.
Knuckle no. 2 – to add a shade of green to the mark.
Knuckle no. 3 – to release passion.
Knuckle no. 4 – to get you to hear me.
Knuckle no. 5 – to show the world what is mine.

Without these it would be impossible to show you how I love.

I imagined her telling me this when I came to on the ground. The car I had left idling, slowly dimming its lights now, trying desperately to hide me so that I may disappear into the night and pretend I was never there.

The car has a lazy eye.

The street lights worked against me. They didn’t know me enough to protect me or show mercy. The stones pricked my back, gave me tough love, pushing me to get up.

Still I lay there like an injured stray dog.

The breeze brushed over the dry streams on my cheeks and gently carried the news to whomever it may concern. I saw it struggle to carry this heavy mess and drop it where it found it. It decided to wait until I got finished off so it could take my spirit instead. Spirits are far easier to carry.

I didn’t know that even stars can form a fist – a replica for the five-knuckled bony fist that collided with my face earlier and left its residue on my heart. The sky became a mirror, the stars now forming hearts around the fist, mocking me.

This is how we take care of each other now. Raising fists in the air is no longer the ultimate gesture of power. Power is the thing that caused my face to swell. The thing that showed me love in its rawest form.

I lay there and closed my eyes, drifting deep into blackness and back again. This is the part in the movie where the girl clutches her T-shirt, rolls over to her side and gets into a foetal position while crying hysterically. She turns to her side so that the tears don’t get into her ears. There were no tears, though.

I was on my back, stones still pricking me, unable to move. The loud sound of a fist still ringing deep in my ears. I didn’t remember a fist against wood being that loud.

I turned my head to the side, took gravel into my left hand, formed a fist and watched the soil seep through.

Fists are so valuable they could be sold. The superhumans must have forgotten to tell us that.

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

Book details

Yes, a seventh book is in the making - Michael Sears at launch of Dying to Live

Last night Melville’s Love Books played host to an array of sunshine noir – yes, that is a genre! – fans at the launch of the sixth novel in Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu-series, Dying to Live.

This popular series, set in Botswana, revolves around the enigmatic detective Kubu, who, along with a new recruit to the Botswana CID, Samantha Khama, solve grisly and perplexing murders.

Michael Stanley consists of two authors, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollop. As Stanley is currently based in the US, Michael was in conversation with Eugene Ashton, the managing director of Jonathan Ball Publishers.

Eugene and Michael covered many topics during their discussion, ranging from the writing process (“sometimes we’re just sitting around, throwing around ideas … usually with a bottle of this,” Michael responded, pointing to his wine glass), to how the first book came about (“After three years and throwing away a lot of words, we had a book!”)

According to Michael, a seventh book is in the making…

He assured the audience that Kubu will not be killed off (unlike our Nordic friends who enjoy the odd death of a main or secondary character), and that both he and Stanley had decided on a seventh book ever since the publication of the first book in the series, A Carrion Death.

Michael stated that a publisher once told him that one cannot make money until you’ve reached your seventh book, which motivated them to start writing. With zest.

The conversation took a serious turn when Eugene mentioned the recent, ugly tendency of cultural appropriation, asking Michael how he and Stanley go about creating plausible characters which aren’t of European heritage without demeaning them or reverting to stereotypes.

Michael honestly responded that he cannot speak a word of Setswana, and emphasised the importance of accuracy when writing about a cultural group which differ from your own.

“All you can do to protect yourself from that [appropriation] is to ask locals to read the manuscript and pay very careful attention to any advice.”

Michael added that writing is about stretching yourself and that the series has added to Botswana’s cultural literature.

Their decision to include a female character was to exercise their ability to write out of their own borders and a need to introduce the tension of Botswana’s predominantly patriarchal society.

An audience member asked Michael about conflict which might arise from co-writing, and how one goes about avoiding head-bashing.

He replied that both he and Stanley have to remind themselves that it’s always about the book. They often critique one another heavily in the margins, yet Michael adds that it’s easier to write as two authors, since neither he nor Stanley feel personally insulted as what they’ve written isn’t necessarily what they would write as individual authors. They often ask friends to read their manuscripts, and rely on their criticism and comments.

The discussion ended with an anecdote which had the audience in stitches.

A few years ago, Michael attended an international crime writers conference in Minneapolis, where a friend introduced him to a student who apparently was a huge fan of the Detective Kubu series.

Said fan probably made the literary faux pas of her life as she bounded up to Michael, gushing that she “loves the series! I had no idea you were two people! Who’s McCall and who’s Smith?”

*Cue all round genuine belly laughs*

’n Riller én ’n romanza vir fiksieliefhebbers

Madelein Rust

Die sewejarige Gainsford-tweeling word op grusame wyse in ’n skuur op Mooiplaats in die Bloemfontein-distrik vermoor.

Binne die opstal is vier van die welgestelde Therons vermoor, die liggame grusaam uitgestal in die sitkamer. Doktor Renata Malan en die span van Malan & Coetsee Privaatondersoeke word deur die tweeling se ouers aangestel om die moordenaar aan te keer.

Die ondersoek neem Renata in onverwagse rigtings: Bloemfontein se seksbedryf, die donker web, die nasleepsels van misdaad gedurende die bosoorlog in die tagtigs, die wêreld van kinderpornografie en pedofilie, hebsug, haat en buite-egtelike verhoudings.

Die een geraamte na die ander tuimel uit die kas en hoewel die lys van verdagtes daagliks groei, is bewyse skaars.

Wie, behalwe die Therons se erfgenaam, sou voordeel trek uit die gesin se dood?

Hou die Gainsfordseuns se dood verband met ’n baba se verdrinking drie jaar vantevore?

Was Jakes Gainsford dalk self betrokke by sy kinders se dood?

Was hierdie dalk die perfekte misdaad?

Moordhuis is die derde boek in die reeks met doktor Renata Malan as die hoofkarakter. Die eerste twee boeke in die reeks is Monstersaad en Bloedlyn. Renata is ’n profileerder met ’n donker verlede en ’n talent om in geweldsmisdadigers se koppe te klim. Die oorgeërfde boosheid wat in haar gene skuil, maak van haar ’n gedugte teenstander en ’n gehate vyand.


Wilde klawerWilde klawer
Vita du Preez

Vita du Preez was nog nooit skaam om haar lesers deur ’n mynveld te lei nie en die wilde McKenna Wilde se stewels dit gaan nog eens doen.

Solitaire, Woestynroos, Droomland en Wilde klawer is ’n vierluik oor vier vroue wat deelgeneem het aan ’n Boer Soek ’n Vrou-kompetisie en hulle wedervaringe daarna.

Wilde klawer is die vierde boek in die reeks en gaan oor McKenna Wilde wat ’n spesiale gawe het om deur aanraking te “sien”. Vir hierdie ekstrovert wat verkies om eerder op die ligter sy van die lewe te fokus, is dit eerder ’n vloek as ’n seën.

’n Brief van ’n onbekende vrou lei haar terug na haar geboorteland, Noord-Ierland. Hier word sy gekonfronteer met haar ma se verlede. Die Wildes was betrokke by die IRL (Ierse Republikeinse Weermag) se bloedige stryd teen Britse oorheersing.

Vir McKenna is dit ook ’n reis na selfontdekking. Sy moet leer dat sy nie van haarself en haar herkoms kan vlug nie. Eger nog: in haar soeke na selfaanvaarding, word dit vir haar duidelik dat ’n vrou eers ’n man met haar hart moet, vertrou voor sy hom met haar lyf kan vertrou. Dit ruk haar binneste, want wilde McKenna het nog altyd weggeskram van blywende verhoudings en sien oplaas in dat intimiteit sonder liefde bloot ’n gejaag na wind is.

In Portballintrae, ’n klein hawedorpie aan die Ierse Noordkus, kruis haar pad met verskeie mense en nie almal is haar noodwendig goedgesind is nie.

Toe Tim Els, ’n tandarts wat vir reeds twee jaar in Noord-Ierland werk, haar pad kruis, moet McKenna begin keuses maak waarvan sy niks hou nie.


Ayòbámi Adébáyò confirmed for South African Book Fair

The South African Book Development Council has announced that the South African Book Fair will be hosting Ayòbámi Adébáyò, recently shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Fiction Prize for her remarkable debut novel, Stay with Me. Ayòbámi will join the SABF 2017 for several sessions: book-club reads; discussions on creating spaces for women’s fiction; and readings from a work in progress.

The oraganisers of the South African Book Fair (SABF) 2017 hope to engage with the following questions:

What are the narratives that move us as a continent? Are these the same for all Africans? Would reading each other’s stories change our outlook fundamentally? Would it nudge us towards a different future? Perhaps, even, a new vision of the African continent?

To get the ball rolling, SABF 2017 has invited key African writers and literary producers to participate in these debates, including:

Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, founder of Cassava Republic Press – one of the continent’s most industrious and successful publishing houses – will participate in mapping ways in which we might grow the African book market.

Lola Shoneyin, founder of the ground-breaking Ake Arts & Book Festival in Lagos, will participate in discussions about the state of democracy and, importantly, the lives and future of women in Africa.

Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ (co-founder of the Cornell-Kiswahili Prize) and Billy Kahora (managing editor of Kwani, the publication of the Kenyan-based literary network and advocacy trust), will engage with us and each other about reading and books, and the future of these on the African continent.

It’s all happening at the 8-10 September 2017, Museum Africa, Newtown, Johannesburg.

Stay With Me

Book details

Four must reads for this week: Book Bites, 11 June 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Paige Nick (N&B Books)
Book fun
Novelist, columnist and advertising copywriter, Paige Nick demonstrates her unique talent for taking the pulse of present-day state captured and junk status South Africa with her hilarious and subversive new novel, Unpresidented.
Matthew Stone is a disgraced journalist and the only work he can get is as memoir ghostwriter for ex-President Jeremiah Gejeyishwebisa Muza. Muza is a character perfectly suited to Nick’s witty and sometimes scathing satire; masterful with alternative truths and able to get himself out of prison on medical parole for an infected toenail. But post-incarcerated life is not all smooth sailing: Muza is either disrespected or ignored by the only two of his numerous wives who have stuck around, his Homestead is falling apart and he faces eviction for unpaid rates and taxes.
Readers will find many familiar and notorious characters popping up as Muza tries to trick his old acquaintances with a lottery scheme, but the sole person willing to invest seems to be Muza’s old pal Robert, using Zim-dollars. To add to his woes, Muza has been abandoned by the Guppi brothers who have now moved the hub of their business to Dubai and are not taking his calls. In Unpresidented the madcap state of South African political affairs makes satirical, hilarious and terrifying sense. – Andrew Salomon

You Said ForeverYou Said Forever
Susan Lewis (Century)
Book fling
Susan Lewis is a master storyteller and her latest novel will keep you up just to finish it. Five years ago, Charlotte Goodman kidnapped Chloe, an abused child, and smuggled her to New Zealand. Charlotte was caught and later found innocent in a trial that saw her win the hearts of Brits as chilling details of Chloe’s circumstances were revealed. Now, things have changed. Chloe is a “problem child” and throws tantrums, is involved in creepy chatroom conversations and physically abuses her siblings. Will Charlotte keep her promise and look after Chloe forever? It’s a thought-provoking tale that will make you question your own morals. – Jessica Levitt @JessLevitt

The Returning TideThe Returning Tide
Liz Fenwick (Orion Books)
Book hug
World War II novels are flooding the market. Fenwick’s inspiration, however, did not come from history books, but from her mother-in-law. She was a telegraphist who endured the horror of listening to men’s last words, all through Morse code. It’s a tale of twin sisters, one assigned to be a telegraphist, the other a driver. A sisterly bond, full of love and support, is demonstrated through a series of letters. That is, until the day of betrayal. The harm from that one mistake infects generation after generation, on two separate continents, despite closed mouths and buried secrets. But love has a way of burrowing through the smallest of cracks. Set in Cornwall, the story charms while twisting heartstrings. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Edith Edith & Oliver
Michele Forbes (W&N)
Book fling
One has to be in the mood for a somewhat overly written doomed romance, and Forbes doesn’t make this easier to swallow with this being set in a dank place – early 1900s in Belfast. Oliver is a magician – an illusionist. His miserable childhood fosters a foolishly driven ambition to become world famous. Edith, whose story is, sadly, secondary to Oliver’s, is a pianist – playing in the music halls and theatres. Then they meet, fall in love, have children and live the most miserable lives ever. Dark and nightmarish – it makes you feel good about living in the world today. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Book details