Nigerian author Elnathan John has been shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Bayan Layi”, published in Issue 25 of Per Contra. John is up against fellow Nigerians Tope Folarin, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and Chinelo Okparanta, as well as Pede Hollist from Sierra Leone, for the £10 000 prize, the winner of which will be announced on 8 July.
While you await the announcement of the award, we invite you to read “Bayan Layi”:
The boys who sleep under the Kuka tree in Bayan Layi like to boast about the people they have killed. I never join in because I have never killed a man. Banda has, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. He just smokes wee-wee while they talk over each other’s heads. Gobedanisa’s voice is always the loudest. He likes to remind everyone of the day he strangled a man. I never interrupt his story even though I was there with him and saw what happened. Gobedanisa and I had gone into a lambu to steal sweet potatoes, but the farmer had surprised us while we were there. As he chased us, swearing to kill us if he caught us, he fell into a bush trap for antelopes. Gobedanisa did not touch him. We just stood by and watched as he struggled and struggled and then stopped struggling.
- A Life in Full and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2010 by The Caine Prize for African Writing
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Image courtesy Flash Point News
Yesterday we reported on the release of the first issue of Prufrock, a new literary magazine, which features an article by Anton Harber on JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer’s opposing reactions to Salman Rushdie’s cancelled visit to South Africa in the 1980s. Today, we bring you an article by Harber, published online by The Guardian’s Africa Network, on this topic.
Anton Harber describes how in 1988 the Weekly Mail was organising a Book Week themed “Censorship under the State of Emergency”, with Salman Rushdie set to be the main attraction, in discussion with JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer. However, a week before the event, Salman phoned to inform them of the death threats against him due to his criticism of the Qur’an in his book The Satanic Verses.
After a meeting between Muslim leaders, the anti-apartheid writers’ union, Cosaw, and Weekly Mail, Cosaw withdrew their support of Rushdie’s visit to South Africa. Gordimer, as Cosaw’s representative, “phoned London to convey the view that, to avoid violence and division within the liberation movement, he [Rushdie] should not come”.
At the Book Week, Gordimer and Coetzee took to the stage alone and Coetzee lambasted the Weekly Mail, the booksellers and Cosaw for their decision, which, Harber says, meant “by implication” that he was also criticising Gordimer.
Harber quotes some of the harsh words spoken by Coetzee and what Gordimer said in her defense. He writes that Coetzee, “ended with a powerful questioning of the values of the liberation struggle, one which resonates powerfully today”.
Harber goes on to put the incident into context with threats to freedom of expression today:
It started on a Thursday midday, when the organiser of the Weekly Mail Book Week put the phone down, walked across the newsroom and interrupted me and my co-editor. “I think we might have a problem,” she said. It was October 1988 and the “problem” was Salman Rushdie, due to arrive a week later to headline the event. “He says his book has been banned in India, he is getting death threats,” she said. “I asked him what he wrote about and he said, ‘I ripped into the Qur’an’.”
Ours was a small, anti-apartheid newspaper, the Weekly Mail. Gail Berhmann was an artist who was organising our annual literary event, with Rushdie billed as this year’s star guest.
We had other problems too. A few months earlier, we had received a five-page letter from the government warning that we would be closed down under State of Emergency regulations if we continued to muster support for revolutionary organisations and foment feelings of hatred for the security forces. Shortly after that they closed another “alternative” newspaper, the New Nation, for 13 weeks, and we thumbed our noses at them by running articles New Nation had intended to publish under the front page headline “What New Nation Would Have Said”.
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Images courtesy Contrary Magazine and Britannica
There is no stopping Cape Town’s literati. Despite the bounty of recent literary events, the Dancing in Other Words festival held at Spier, and the Franschhoek Literary Festival, the crowds arrived on Monday night, undeterred by minor matters like the practicalities of sending a RSVP!
Oswald Mtshali, who recently launched a beautiful reissue of his classic Sounds of a Cowhide Drum with the poems now translated in Zulu, was joined by veteran Afrikaans poet, Antjie Krog. Her most recent publication is Skinned, which represents new works translated into English, as well as those spanning her publishing career.
At least an hour before the event took place, people started arriving to claim a seat. Book Lounge spokeswoman, Verushka Louw, welcomed the duo on behalf of Mervyn Sloman, who was attending the Étonnants Voyageurs festival in Saint-Malo, along with a contingency of South African writers. He sent a message in his inimical style which was read aloud, to great enjoyment from the audience.
“Growing up in a typically sheltered white middle class South African suburb in the ’70s and ’80s, reading two books in my teens woke me to the reality of our country. Eskia Mphahlele’s Down Second Avenue was one and Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali’s amazing collection of poetry, Sounds of a Cowhide Drum, was the other. Reading Mtshali’s poetry as a 15 year old completely altered my ‘understanding’ of my country and consequently of myself, and for that I owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
“It is so wonderful that such an important collection is back in print after so many years of being unavailable and for that, a serious vote of thanks must go to Jacana,” said Sloman. His message concluded with the assertion that he was “thoroughly pissed off” to be missing the two South Africans for whom he had the utmost respect but was confident that all in attendance would have “an experience to remember.”
Louw’s own message followed. She said there was very little room for individual thought in the small towns where she grew up. “It might even be considered dangerous, or that is how my teachers explained it. With that perfect vision called hindsight, I realise that my teenage self was always searching for someone or something to say it is okay to have thoughts that cross boundaries.”
She said, “I devoured books like Marie Biscuits, until I discovered Antjie Krog. Then I stopped and learned to savour words. You wrote about things that I have thought, in ways that I have imagined. You became my philosophy lesson, my geography map, my crying nights. The thing with poetry is that it is a bit like walking in the veld. There is always a chance to discover treasure, a small encounter that could lead to life-changing events. For not being able to not write these things down, Antjie, I thank you.”
Mtshali started the event by reading a selection of his poems in English and then in Zulu. He is a masterful performer evoking the atmosphere of each poem with perfectly poised expression and deliberately paced intent. Introducing each work by setting it in context with a brief explanation, he then launched into his majestic oration. After an enthusiastic reception, he handed the microphone to Krog. Her performance, differently theatrical but equally powerful, held the audience rapt by the direct force of her word.
* * * * * * * *
Liesl Jobson tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks
Report and images by contributing editor, Liesl Jobson.
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The late author Chinua Achebe is to be buried today on his family compound in the town of Ogidi, after his remains arrived in his home country, Nigeria, on Tuesday.
Achebe passed away on 22 March at the age of 82 in Boston, Massachussetts in the US. A memorial service was held for the great writer in South Africa on 28 March.
Yesterday about 2 000 admirers paid their last respects to Achebe at a stadium in Awka in Anambra state in Nigeria’s southeast. Today, Achebe will be buried following a service at a local Anglican church in Ogidi.
It is reported that several Nigerian leaders, foreign dignitaries and Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, will be attending the funeral, while The Washington Post points out that Achebe “hated the trappings of power in Nigeria, which include looting government funds, local elected officials arrived in tinted-glass SUVs with police sirens wailing”.
OGIDI, Nigeria — Writer Chinua Achebe, whose works focused on the conflict between modernity and the way of life in rural Nigeria, has returned home for the final time.
Achebe’s corpse arrived Wednesday in his native Anambra state. There, local government officials and writers feted the late novelist, who died in March at the age of 82. While the man himself hated the trappings of power in Nigeria, which include looting government funds, local elected officials arrived in tinted-glass SUVs with police sirens wailing.
Al Jazeera reports from the funeral service:
The funeral of Nigeria’s celebrated writer, Chinua Achebe, is due to take place in his small hometown in a ceremony expected to draw crowds of mourners.
Achebe, author of the widely praised novel Things Fall Apart, will be buried on Thursday, two months after he died in the US aged 82.
His private burial on the family compound will follow a service at a local Anglican church.
GMA News was at the stadium in Awka where Achebe was honoured:
AWKA, Nigeria – The body of revered Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe arrived Wednesday in his home state in Nigeria, where hundreds of admirers packed a stadium to pay tribute a day ahead of his funeral.
A wooden coffin transported the body of Achebe, the celebrated author of the novel “Things Fall Apart”, who died in March in the United States at age 82.
The Guardian Nigeria looks at the weeklong transition activities which started on Sunday:
PROMINENT Nigerians from all walks of life continued their effusion of tributes as they paid their last respect to the master storyteller, Prof. Chinualumogu Achebe, who died on March 21 in the United States (U.S.), just as his remains will be interred today in his hometown, Ogidi, Anambra State.
In Abuja, where the weeklong transition activities started on Sunday, the literary giant was eulogised for blazing the trail that others followed. Among the dignitaries during his commendation service at The National Church, Abuja, was the Primate of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, who presided.
Image courtesy Al Jazeera
PEN Afrikaans bied ’n opwindende kortverhaalkompetisie vir skrywers tussen die ouderdomme van 18 en 30 jaar aan.
As jy gou speel en voor of op 10 Junie 2013 ’n getikte kortverhaal van tussen 2000-4000 woorde vir die kompetisie inskryf, kan jy dalk een van twee wenners wees wat $1 000 in die sak gaan steek, na die internasionale PEN-konferensie in Reykjavik, Ysland, gaan reis, en in die PEN International-tydskrif gepubliseer gaan word.
PEN Afrikaans, die Afrikaanse afdeling van PEN Internasionaal, soek twee jong kortverhaalskrywers tussen 18-30 jaar oud om te benoem vir ’n internasionale kompetisie waarin die wenner $1000 en ’n reis na die internasionale PEN-konferensie in Reykjavik, Ysland, wen.
Geakkrediteerde PEN-sentra mag elk twee skrywers, ’n man en ’n vrou, vir hierdie kompetisie benoem. Skrywers mag nie op eie stoom vir die kompetisie inskryf nie en slegs benoemings deur PEN-sentra sal aanvaar word.
PEN Afrikaans sal op eie koste die twee wenskrywers se kortverhale in Engels, Frans en Spaans laat vertaal en hul kortverhale vir die kompetisie inskryf. PEN Internasionaal se beoordelaars kies dan uit al die sentra se inskrywings drie finaliste om in September 2013 die PEN Internasionaal-konferensie in Ysland by te woon.
Die wenner kry $1000 en die weninskrywing word in die PEN International-tydskrif gepubliseer. Selfs indien finaliste nie wen nie, kry hulle waardevolle blootstelling deurdat werk gelees word deur die invloedryke beoordelaarspaneel. Carole Blake van die literêre agentskap Blake Friedmann, wat internasionaalbekende Afrikaanse skrywers soos Deon Meyer, Marlene van Niekerk en Etienne van Heerden verteenwoordig, is een van die beoordelaars.
Om deel te neem moet skrywers voor of op 10 Junie 2013 ’n getikte kortverhaal van tussen 2000-4000 woorde stuur aan firstname.lastname@example.org. Hulle moet ook ’n kopie van hul ID saamstuur asook volle naam, woonadres, en kontaknommers. Verhale wat nie die voorgeskrewe lengte is nie, word gediskwalifiseer.
“Hierdie is ’n wonderlike geleentheid waarvoor selfs gevestigde skrywers hul kiestande sou gee,” het Sonja Loots, voorsitter van PEN Afrikaans, gesê. “Die enigste probleem is dat die sperdatum om die draai is, so jong skrywers sal moet opskud.”
1. Deelnemers moet op 20 Junie vanjaar 18 jaarof ouer; en jonger as 30 jaarwees (let egter op die sluitingsdatum van 10 Junie).
2. Die kompetisie is slegs oop vir skrywers wat nog nie ’n boek gepubliseer het nie. Bydraers tot bloemlesings soos Nuwe Stemme en Nuwe Stories mag wel inskryf, mits hulle aan die ouderdomsvereiste voldoen.
3. PEN Afrikaans behou die reg voor om ’n wenner of wenners aan te wys slegs indien die gehalte van inskrywings dit regverdig.
4. Kortverhale moet in Afrikaans wees.
5. Kortverhale moet getik en in Word-formaat wees.
6. Kortverhale moet tussen 2000 en 4000 woorde lank wees. Inskrywings wat nie aan hierdie vereiste voldoen nie, sal gediskwalifiseer word.
7. Slegs een inskrywing per deelnemer. Indien meer as een inskrywing ontvang word, sal slegs die eerste gelees word.
8. Die sluitingsdatum is Maandag, 10 Junie om 14h00, Suid-Afrikaanse tyd. Geen laatinskrywings sal aanvaar word nie.
9. Slegs e-pos-inskrywings word aanvaar.
10. Inskrywings moet vergesel word van ’n afskrif van die skrywer seID of paspoort.
11. Inskrywings moet vergesel word van deelnemer se volle naam, woonadres en kontaknommers (telefoonnommers).
12. Die beoordelaars se besluit is finaal en geen korrespondensie sal daaroor gevoer word nie.
13. PEN Afrikaans se beslissing sal geneem word deur ’n beoordelaarspaneel wat uit die PEN Afrikaans-bestuurslede saamgestel is.
14. Aangesien daar min tyd is om die vertalings te laat doen, sal die vertalers se oordeel vertrou word en sal daarby volstaan word.
Alert! University of Cape Town English and Fine Art post-graduates have launched a new literary magazine, titled Prufrock. The magazine, which takes its name from TS Eliot’s “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”, “master of self-doubt and cynicism”, will feature longform non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography and illustration.
The first issue, priced at R40, has been spotted at The Book Lounge, Clarke’s Books and Kalk Bay Books in Cape Town, Love Books in Johannesburg and selected Exclusive Books outlets. Copies were also floating around at the recent Franchhoek Literary Festival, where the magazine was welcomed by many a writer:
In the maiden issue, Anton Harber, author of Diepsloot, presents a piece on the selective cultural boycott in South Africa in the 1980s. He recalls Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee’s opposing reactions when Salman Rushdie’s invitation to visit South Africa, shortly after the publication of the The Satanic Verses, was withdrawn, while at the same time, Harber’s newspaper, The Weekly Mail, was forced by the government to shut down for a month. Features on Kwazulu Natal’s amateur standup comedy scene, and young artists in Gaza, as well as a personal account of a South African intern at the The Paris Review’s 60th Annual Spring Revel in New York, are also included.
Submission for the next issue can be made to prufrockthemagazine@gmail.
Prufrock is a new South African literary magazine founded by four University of Cape Town graduates, featuring longform non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography and illustration. It calls itself simply “a magazine of writing”, believing in the pursuit of “damn fine writing” and a “means to put it in its place”.
‟It is inspired to act as a mouthpiece for a young South Africa, taking as its unlikely muse Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock, master of self-doubt and cynicism and an embodiment of the post-honeymoon nation’s less becoming qualities: disillusionment, paralysis, apathy. Prufrock is a means to embrace this, to say the unsayable, name the unnameable and to have fun along the way.
Prufrock believes in the South African here-and-now, and that non-fiction can be just as beautiful and satisfying as fiction. In light of the Secrecy Bill, Anton Harber recalls the selective cultural boycott in 1980s South Africa: Salman Rushdie, just after the publication of The Satanic Verses, is due to visit South Africa to talk about freedom of speech. Literary bigwigs Gordimer and Coetzee, on separate sides of the fence, climb into the ring over his subsequent ‘disinvitation’. This as Harber’s newspaper, The Weekly Mail, is forced by government to shut down for a month.
Other features include Kwazulu Natal’s amateur standup comedy scene and a personal account of The Paris Review’s 60th Annual Spring Revel held in New York from the perspective of a South African intern. Young artists in Gaza speak about creativity under Hamas‟s iron grip. All is published here for the first time.
The maiden publication will be available for sale (R40) by Exclusive Books at this year’s Franschhoek Literary Festival (17th – 19th May). It will also be available at The Book Lounge in Cape Town and Love Books in Johannesburg.
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Image courtesy Die Burger