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RIP Harper Lee (1926 - 2016)

To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman

Harper Lee, whose debut novel To Kill a Mockingbird became one of America’s most beloved classics, has died at the age of 89.

Also read: RIP Umberto Eco (1932 – 2016)

Lee passed away in the morning of February 19 in Monroeville, Alabama in the United States, where she lived.

Lee was born in Monroeville in 1926, the youngest of four children, and studied law at the University of Alabama. To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, turning the reclusive Lee into an instant literary celebrity, a role she was never comfortable with.

I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.

- Harper Lee, in a 1964 interview with Roy Newquist

Lee received numerous literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird, which sold more than 40 million copies. In 2007, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature, despite having published just one book.

Her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, released in 2015, was perhaps one of the most hotly anticipated books ever published. Set 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird – but actually written before it – the book received mixed reviews, and many readers, especially, expressed disappointment at racist sentiments expressed by Atticus Finch. Questions also arose as to whether Lee actually wanted the book to see the light of day. Despite this, it was one of the worldwide top sellers of 2015.

In a statement, Lee’s family said she passed away in her sleep early Friday morning:

“Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing. The family is in mourning and there will be a private funeral service in the upcoming days, as she had requested.”

Lee’s nephew Hank Conner added: “This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors.

“We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”

Her publisher, HarperCollins, also released a statement, saying Lee died “peacefully”.

“The world knows Harper Lee was a brilliant writer but what many don’t know is that she was an extraordinary woman of great joyfulness, humility and kindness,” said the company’s president and publisher, Michael Morrison. “She lived her life the way she wanted to – in private – surrounded by books and the people who loved her. I will always cherish the time I spent with her.”

Her agent Andrew Nurnberg said, “Knowing Nelle these past few years has been not just an utter delight but an extraordinary privilege. When I saw her just six weeks ago, she was full of life, her mind and mischievous wit as sharp as ever. She was quoting Thomas More and setting me straight on Tudor history. We have lost a great writer, a great friend and a beacon of integrity.”


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Image courtesy of The Guardian

'The story leads me, not I it' - Olive Schreiner on her writing process

From Man to Man, or Perhaps OnlyThe letters of Olive Schreiner shed fascinating light on her writing process and what she thought of her work’s place in the world.

In a project that ran from ran from 2008 to 2012, Schreiner’s letters were collected and annotated online.

The Olive Schreiner Letters Project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the United Kingdom. About 4800 extant letters were collected.

An important aim of the Olive Schreiner Letters Project is to demonstrate the importance of Schreiner’s c4800 extant letters as an unparalleled but to date largely untapped source for better understanding Schreiner’s work, for investigating the borders between the social sciences and feminist social theory, and for promoting theorisation of the epistolarium in social science perspective. It is carrying out a research agenda analysing the Schreiner letters in-depth within a clear methodological and theoretical framework. Overarching concerns locate Schreiner’s changing writing over time in epistolary perspective, with analytical themes being explored …

Schreiner is best known for her youthful The Story of an African Farm, but From Man to Man, or Perhaps Only, the “new book” of her adult years, may well be her greatest achievement, although it remained unfinished on her death in 1920.

A new edition of From Man to Man was released recently, by UCT Press, which corrects the errors that marred previous editions and provides a different ending.

In a letter to Henry Havelock Ellis, British essayist and physician, in 1887, Schreiner writes about the novel and her writing process:

To Havelock Ellis.
Alassio, 18th Dec.

Am working hard. Never come back to myself sometimes for a couple of days and that is the only way in which work can be done. From Man to Man will be quite different from any other book that ever was written, whether good or bad I can’t say. I never think; the story leads me, not I it, and I guess it’s more likely to make an end of me than I am ever to make an end of it!

Related stories:

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Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Helen Mirren prepare for the Oscars with ... Rooibos?!

Tea: 60 teas to revitalise and restoreWhen Hollywood’s leading ladies walk the Oscars red carpet later this month‚ their flawless looks will be boosted by an army of experts‚ serums and potions to get them to look their best. And among their armoury of beauty products is South African Rooibos.

That’s according to the Rooibos Council‚ which says its sales to America are soaring.

Here’s how the Rooibos Council says the tea-based products are helping the stars to get svelte‚ lean and red carpet-ready in time for the big night:

  • Angelina Jolie lathers her perfect pout with a lip balm that boasts Rooibos and a variety of other unusual ingredients;
  • Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and supermodel Miranda Kerr drink Rooibos to detox and stay in shape;
  • Charlize Theron‚ Jessica Alba‚ Hugh Jackman and model Candice Swanepoel all indulge in Rooibos salon treatments which revitalise the skin;
  • Salma Hayek and Victoria-secret model Adriana Lima both swear by a Rooibos beauty beverage that purifies the skin from the inside out;
  • Academy Award winner Helen Mirren takes her teabags wherever she goes‚ and
  • Model Josie Maran swears by a Rooibos-enriched hair detox blend.

Ernest du Toit‚ spokesperson for the Rooibos Council‚ said in a statement that since Rooibos first made its debut in the US in the early 1990s‚ sales to the country have tripled and every year more cosmetics houses – local and international – are cottoning onto the nourishing and anti-ageing properties found in Rooibos.

“South Africa now exports a vast array of different Rooibos products to the US‚ from the traditional unflavoured tea to flavoured teas‚ cappuccinos and cosmetics‚ which ranges from make-up to skin‚ hair‚ perfume and nail-care products‚” he said.

“Its use in cosmetics has increased rapidly and garnered much attention over the last few years‚ as more research proving the plethora of health and beauty benefits of Rooibos has become better known. Rooibos’ high flavonoid content makes it a powerful anti-aging ingredient for skincare formulas. Since much of skin-aging is caused by exposure to UV rays‚ pollution and other environmental contaminants‚ Rooibos’ free-radical destroying abilities helps to protect the skin and to preserve a more youthful look.”

While there’s no way to independently verify the council’s assertions that Hollywood loves our Rooibos‚ South Africans can catch all the red-carpet action on Monday‚ 29 February‚ at 3 AM CAT‚ when the 88th Academy Awards will be aired on DSTV channel O (320).

Source: TMG Digital

For more about the healing properties of tea, consult Tea: 60 teas to revitalise and restore by Margaret Roberts.

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Presenting Causality: First Landing by Divan van der Walt - Adventure, horror and disastrous consequences

CausalityNaledi is proud to present Causality: First Landing by Divan van der Walt:

The passengers of an international flight find themselves inexplicably stranded in an unknown jungle. As they struggle to figure out where they are, they are stalked by mysterious predators. Forced to leave the safety of the plane, the survivors are scattered and left at the mercy of this strange wilderness.

Captain Will Harding tries to lead his passengers to safety, but he soon realises that they may be facing an even bigger challenge. Brian Evert attempts to find his fellow survivors, while navigating the jungle and all its horrors alone. A young girl named Sally tries to reunite with her family and, in the process, discovers something astounding.

Meanwhile – somewhere in a lab – a lone scientist hopelessly struggles to fix a mistake that, if left unsolved, could have disastrous consequences for humanity …

About the author

Divan van der Walt was born in 1986 in Kimberley, South Africa. He graduated from High School Gymnasium, Paarl in 2004 and went on to receive his BSc (Hons) degree in Zoology from Stellenbosch University. From a young age, Divan developed a passion for storytelling which resurfaced constantly through his youth. Even though it was overshadowed by the demands of his studies and the pressures of building a sustainable future, he continued to write in his limited spare time. His debut novel, Causality: First Landing, came after 10 years of hard work and a combination of several fortunate and unfortunate circumstances. Divan currently lives on a farm near Cape Town, South Africa with his fiancée, Le-Jeandré Blom.

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Call for submissions for the PEN South Africa Student Writing Prize - topic: #FeesMustFall

From PEN South Africa:

PEN South Africa is a writers’ organisation that defends freedom of expression and promotes literature. We believe in the power of writing to effect change and inform the way we see the world and ourselves. With this in mind we are holding the PEN South Africa Student Writing Prize, which calls on young writers to submit fiction, creative non-fiction or poetry on the topic of the recent #FeesMustFall movement and the student protests.

Students across South Africa have been making their collective voices heard through the #FeesMustFall movement but there are undoubtedly many individual stories that have yet to be told and we want to hear them.

The winning writer will receive R5 000 and will get the chance to attend a seminar at the University of the Witwatersrand, followed by a prizegiving. The seminar aims to encourage public discourse around freedom of expression and will examine the role the media has played in the #FeesMustFall movement.

Entries must be a maximum of 5 000 words and entrants must be under 30 years old and currently living in South Africa.

Please include your name, contact details and a copy of your ID and send entries (one per person) to by 29 February, 2016.

Note: Worldwide copyright of each entry remains with the author, but PEN SA will have the unrestricted right to publish entries in an e-anthology, in print, on the website, and in any relevant promotional material.

French stamp of approval for Imperfect Solo by Steven Boykey Sidley

Ben Williams & Steven Boykey Sidley

Imperfect SoloThe French edition of Imperfect Solo by Steven Boykey Sidley has been receiving some excellent media coverage in that country, with the author being compared to heavy hitters such as Joseph Heller, Philip Roth and Richard Ford.

Published locally by Pan Macmillan in 2014, this dark comedy follows the flailing and hapless Meyer who is seeking hope and redemption as his world unravels around him. His random misfortune begs the question: Will Meyer find his grace? Can he, or we, ever?

Imperfect Solo is Sidley’s third novel and was longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.

The French translation is titled Meyer et la catastrophe and published by Belfond. We love the cover, a completely different design to the local one:


Even if you don’t understand French, have a look a the incredible number of positive reviews in the French press:

French Reviews of Imperfect Solo

About the book

Meyer is filled with dread. His fading musical aspirations, his tyrannical CEO, his ex-wives, his exiting girlfriend, his ageing father, his beloved and troublesome children and his confused and bewildered life all bear witness to the sky that he is convinced will soon fall on his head.

And then it does.

This is the story of a man adrift in anxiety, ill-fortune and comic mishap, buffeted by the existential and prosaic concerns that modern life in Los Angeles inflicts. Forty years old, caught in the netherworld between the reckless optimism of youth and the resignation of age, Meyer tries to find handrails and ballast. Funny, intellectually probing and poignant, the story follows the flailing and hapless Meyer seeking hope and redemption as his world unravels around him. Surrounded by the absurdity of an ageing America, the affection of flawed but well-meaning friends and family and the randomness of everyday life, Meyer tries gamely to stay afloat.

He must navigate love lost and found and lost, the indignities of ageing, the courage to stand up to assholes and the search for the perfect sax solo. Will Meyer find his grace? Can he, or we, ever?

About the author

Steven Boykey Sidley has divided his adult life between the USA and South Africa. He has meandered through careers as an animator, chief technology officer for a Fortune 500 company, jazz musician, software developer, video game designer, private equity investor and high technology entrepreneur. He currently lives in Johannesburg with his wife and two children. Sidley’s novel Entanglement is the winner of the 2013 University of Johannesburg Prize (Debut) and was shortlisted that same year for The Sunday Times Fiction Prize and The MNet Literary Award. In 2014, Sidley’s second novel Stepping Out was shortlisted for the UJ Main Prize.

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