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"Exhilarating follow-up" to Philippe Sands' East West Street to be published soon

The “exhilarating follow-up” to Philippe Sands’ East West Street will be published by Jonathan Ball in hardbook and e-book in 2019 or 2020, The Bookseller recently announced.

Named Non-fiction: Narrative Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, A Death in the Vatican is a historical detective story that sets out to uncover the truth behind what happened to Nazi politician and SS-member, Otto von Wächter, indicted in 1946 for “mass murder”.

A Death in the Vatican is based on research that began in 2010 and continued through the making of the acclaimed BBC Storyville documentary “My Nazi Legacy”. It is also the subject matter of a BBC Radio 4 series and podcast that will be broadcast in early 2018.

SS Brigadesführer Otto Freiherr von Wächter was a minor character in East West Street who presided over an authority on which ground hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles were killed. Von Wächter was indicted for murder by the end of the war and went on the run. Hunted by the Soviets, the Americans and the British, as well as both Poles and Jews, he spent three years hiding in the Austrian Alps before making his way to Rome and being taken in by the Vatican where he remained for three months. While preparing to travel to Argentina on the “ratline” he died unexpectedly, in July 1949, a few days after having lunch with an “old comrade” whom he suspected of having been recruited by the Americans.

By seeking answers to the questions of Wächter’s youngest child, in A Death in the Vatican Sands will offer an account of the daily life of a Nazi fugitive, the love between Wächter and his wife Charlotte, who continued to write regularly to each other while he was on the run, and insight into life in the Vatican and among American and Soviet spies active in Rome at the start of the Cold War.

Jenny Lord, publishing director for Weidenfeld & Nicolson Non-fiction, of which Jonathan Ball is a local distribute, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Georgia Garrett at Rogers, Coleridge & White. Vicky Wilson at Knopf acquired US and Canadian rights from Melanie Jackson.

Lord said: “We are thrilled that Philippe has chosen A Death in the Vatican as his next book project. With his rare ability to map intimate human stories onto a dramatic political landscape, his curiosity and wisdom, we feel certain this book will be an exhilarating follow up to East West Street.”

Lord said: “We are thrilled that Philippe has chosen A Death in the Vatican as his next book project. With his rare ability to map intimate human stories onto a dramatic political landscape, his curiosity and wisdom, we feel certain this book will be an exhilarating follow up to East West Street.”

Sands will in conversation with Judge Dennis Davis and author Deborah Lipstadt at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

Bridge Books turns one! Celebrate by supporting the newly-launched African Book Trust

Griffin Shea

Everyone’s favourite independent bookstore in Joburg is celebrating its first birthday soon.

Bridge Books, situated in Johannesburg’s inner city, opened its doors on 1 June, 2016. Run by Griffin Shea, Bridge Books sells both old and new books with an emphasis on African literature, alongside international titles.

This singular bookstore recently launched the African Book Trust, a non-profit organisation dedicated to donating South African books to libraries in communities and schools nationwide.

Their only birthday wish is for you to support the trust. Visit booktrust.org.za to learn more about the organisation and give one of the 10 books they’re providing in their first round of giving.

If you’re eager to continue the festivities head to Love Downtown on Friday, 2 June where Naale le Moya’s Baaletsi Tsatsi will tell stories of African celebrations at 6:30 PM for 7:00 PM.

Get your tickets here and come jol like only a bibliophile can.

The Story of Thuli Madonsela is now available

Advocate Thuli Madonsela has achieved in her seven years as Public Protector what few accomplish in a lifetime; her legacy and contribution cannot be over-stated.

In her final days in office she compiled the explosive State Capture report and, before that, the report on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence.

Praised and vilified in equal measures, Madonsela has frequently found herself at centre stage in the increasingly fractious South African political scene.

Yet, despite the intense media scrutiny, Madonsela remains something of an enigma. Who is this soft-spoken woman who stood up to state corruption? Where did she develop her views and resolve?

This book attempts to answer these questions, and others, by exploring many aspects of Madonsela’s life: her childhood years and family, her involvement in student politics, her contribution to the constitution, her life in law.
 
 

Madonsela once described her role as Public Protector as being akin to that of the Venda traditional spiritual female leader, the Makhadzi, who whispers truth to the ruler. When the sounds of the exchanges between the ruler and the Makhadzi grow loud, Madonsela said, that is when the whispering has failed.

No Longer Whispering to Power is about Thuli Madonsela’s tenure as Public Protector, during which the whisper grew into a cry. It is the story of the South African people’s attempt to hold power to account through the Office of the Public Protector.

More significantly, this important book stands as a record of the crucial work Madonsela has done, always acting without fear or favour.

Book details

The Kingsmead countdown has begun

In T minus 96 hours (that’s four days to my fellow mathematically disinclined bibliophiles), authors, editors, poets and publishers will congregate at Kingsmead College for the sixth annual Kingsmead Book Fair this coming Saturday.

You can expect an assortment of literary discussions including deliberations on political unrest in South Africa, culinary conversations with some of South Africa’s most prolific food-writers, and the nitty-gritty behind the art of short story writing.

Take a peak at the programme here and click here to purchase your tickets.

AWS vier 100ste bestaansjaar met googleloer, hommeltuig en poenankies

Die elfde uitgawe van die Afrikaanse woordelys en spelreëls (AWS) word op 3 Augustus 2017 bekendgestel – 100 jaar nadat Afrikaans vir die eerste keer amptelik met dié standaardnaslaanbron vir spelling en skryfwyse bereël is.

Die 2017-uitgawe, saamgestel deur die Taalkommissie van die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns en uitgegee deur NB-Uitgewers onder die Pharos-druknaam, is omvattend herbewerk en sluit talle nuwe woorde in wat die tydsgees en breër Afrikaanse taalgemeenskap weerspieël. Reëls is ook verander en vereenvoudig om Afrikaanse spelling en skryfwyse meer sistematies en dus makliker vir gebruikers te maak.

“Afrikaans is ’n dinamiese taal wat deurlopend ontwikkel en die jongste AWS is ’n opwindende, lewende bewys hiervan,” sê prof. Gerhard van Huyssteen, voorsitter van die Taalkommissie.

Onder die nuwe toevoegings tot die 2017-AWS tel woorde wat te make het met tegnologiese ontwikkelinge, soos googleloer, hommeltuig, meem, warsender, antispioenware, selfie en skermgreep; woorde wat ontwikkelinge in die samelewing sedert die verskyning van die vorige AWS agt jaar gelede weerspieël, soos bewarea, BRICS-land of Bricsland, bystanddood en hidrobreking; en leenwoorde of nuutskeppings waarvoor daar nie Afrikaanse woorde is nie, soos brownie, Chanoeka, muffin, nurk (die geluid wat seekoeie maak), venue en flop. Heelwat nuwe woorde uit Afrikaans se gebruiksvariëteite soos Kaapse Afrikaans en Oranjerivierafrikaans is ook opgeneem, byvoorbeeld antie, dhaltjie, gangster en poenankies (oulik).

Wat spelling en skryfwyse betref, is reëls wat verander onder meer dat afstandsamestellings voortaan slegs mét ’n koppelteken geskryf word (hoof- uitvoerende beampte, reuse- politieke vergadering), en dat die integriteit van multiwoordeiename in samestellings en afleidings behou word (Derde Wêreldse in plaas van Derdewêreldse; Konstitusionele Hof-regter of Konstitusionele Hofregter in plaas van Konstitusionelehofregter).

Nuwighede sluit in ’n hoofstuk oor leestekengebruik in Afrikaans, die bereëling van trappe van vergelyking, ’n lys Oosterse plekname, landname met geldeenhede en ISO-kodes, en die Afrikaanse name van elemente in die periodieke tabel. Skryfhulp word ook nou vir die SI-stelsel verskaf.

Volledig digitaal
Die nuwe AWS is volledig omgeskakel in digitale formaat, met behulp van Pharos Woordeboeke, Tswane DJe en die Sentrum vir Tekstegnologie (CTexT) van die Noordwes-Universiteit.

“Die eerste AWS se loopwêreld was ene van pen en papier – ’n dun boekie wat wou wys dat Afrikaans nie net gepraat word nie, maar ook geskryf kan word. Honderd jaar later is die AWS ’n kenteken van Afrikaans se lewenskragtigheid in ’n digitale wêreld – ’n dikke boek wat ook aanlyn beskikbaar is vir ’n ieder en elk wat Afrikaans wil skryf,” sê prof. Van Huyssteen.

Van 1917 tot 2017

Dit is eintlik verstommend hoe stabiel die Afrikaanse spelling- en skryfsisteem oor honderd jaar gebly het, sê prof. Van Huyssteen. Die belangrikste twee verskille tussen die 1917- en 2017-AWS is dat die y in 1917 nog dikwels as ij geskryf is (byvoorbeeld afwijs in plaas van afwys; agterrijer in plaas van agterryer), en dat die slot-w intussen weggeval het (byvoorbeeld afskuw in plaas van afsku; blouw in plaas van blou).
Natuurlik het die AWS ook aansienlik uitgebrei. Die 1917-AWS, wat deur onder meer Jan FE Celliers, Totius en CJ Langenhoven saamgestel is, het 196 bladsy beslaan, teenoor die 800 bladsye van die 2017-AWS.

Dubbele viering
Met die uitgee van die elfde AWS sit NB-Uitgewers ’n tradisie voort wat terugstrek na die druk van die eerste AWS in Bloemfontein deur Naspers in 1917.

“Dit is vir NB-Uitgewers ’n enorme plesier en eer om die nuwe uitgawe van die Afrikaanse woordelys en spelreëls onder die Pharos-druknaam uit te gee in die jaar wat dié gesaghebbende taalbron sy eeufees vier. Dit val ook per gelukkige toeval saam met die eeufeesviering van boekuitgewery binne die groter Naspers-stal,” sê Eloise Wessels, uitvoerende hoof van NB-Uitgewers en Media24 Boeke.

Liefdestaak
Die nege lede van die huidige Taalkommissie, akademici sowel as taalpraktisyns, het sedert 2009 meer as 700 uur slegs aan gesamentlike vergaderings bestee om die AWS op te dateer – sonder enige vergoeding.

“Hierdie uitgawe van die AWS is ’n eerbetoon aan die tientalle taalkenners wat oor ’n tydperk van ’n eeu as lede van opvolgende Taalkommissies ’n vaste plek aan Afrikaans gegee het,” sê dr. Dioné Prinsloo, uitvoerende hoof van die SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. “Die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns is dank verskuldig aan almal wat hul tyd en kennis tot voordeel van Afrikaans aangewend het.”
 
 

Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls (2017)

Boekbesonderhede

Jonathan Jansen and his sister Naomi Jansen pay tribute to their mother in Song for Sarah: Lessons from my Mother. Read the extract.

Published in the Sunday Times

In this extract, Jonathan Jansen pays tribute to the mother whose sacrifices helped him and their siblings achieve success despite the odds

Song for SarahSong for Sarah: Lessons from my Mother by Jonathan Jansen with Naomi Jansen (Bookstorm). Also available in Afrikaans as Lied vir Sarah: Lesse van my Ma

“When you thought about it, everything seemed to work against the Cape Flats mother, from family dislocation to financial hardship, to absentee fathers, to the relentless pressure of gangs and drugs. As an energetic teenager involved in church youth leadership in the southern areas, this single question would haunt me during the obligatory huisbesoek (house visits): how on earth do these mothers do it?

Consider Mrs Volmink from Belgravia Estate in Athlone who put four boys and two girls through tertiary qualifications. One son leads a university, another is a medical school dean, and the other a prominent public sector lawyer; in their number you would also find a distinguished teacher and one who made his career in the training and development of civil servants. The eldest daughter died after a car crash because the whites-only ambulance would take only her pale friend. For long periods of time Johanna Volmink raised the children alone. Hardship was ever present in her home and yet not a single child fits the stereotype represented in comedy routines or violent novels or the evening news. When it came to human decency, academic achievement and community service, Mrs Volmink achieved much more in her home than any of the white families I knew in the well-to-do suburbs of Upper Claremont and Wynberg Proper.

As I pondered that haunting “how” question about these mothers over the years I realised that the answer was in front of me, all around me, even gave birth to me. That Cape Flats mother was Sarah Susan Johnson, married Jansen. Suddenly it all made sense. How they dealt with their pasts. How they organised their homes. How they raised their children. How they made sense of politics. How they managed affection. How they drew on their faith. How they communicated core values. How they thought about education. How they led with their lives.

The products of their labour were no accident, as the poet Shirmoney Rhode would tell Litnet of the grandmother who raised her at Nomme 20 Delphi Straat (the 2016 book title) in Elsies River:

Ek is ’n produk van haar 3am prayers

En harde werk of course

(I am a product of her 3am prayers

And hard work of course)

The Cape Flats mother was not faultless. Who is? To the children growing up, the mother was seen as being too harsh at times but was always deeply respected. This praise song is not, however, about the failings of our mothers but about the fact that they succeeded at all. None of the children was perfect. Whose are? To the mother the child was never one to be abandoned in the wrong but to be picked up again and again, and nudged towards what was right. And they did this work of correction day after day, for weeks followed by months, and year after year, sometimes even into adulthood and marriage.

The matriarchal figure hovered over that child for life. Many stories have been told on the Flats of a small-bodied mother reaching out to deliver retribution to the tall, well-built son who stands there quietly as he takes the timid smack to the face or the ineffectual punch to the body. She had earned the right to reprimand her grown child. This story of the Cape Flats mother, and of many mothers across the length and breadth of South Africa, will be told in this book.

Being the eldest in the family, my siblings suspected that I was favoured by my parents. Of course I felt differently because of the constant pressure from my mother to “set the example” as the eldest. “Firstborn”, my sister would nevertheless tease me, and that will be my third-person voice in the main text. For a reality check, I asked this sister of mine to add in her own reflections on our mother as the only girl smack bang in the middle of two older and two younger boys.

Naomi Jansen has the knack of saying and seeing things as they really are. One day that sting in her commentary really got to me as a boy so I chased her along the very short route from the kitchen to her bedroom. By dint of practice she managed to dash into the room, close the door and secure the latch bolt lock in one and the same swift action but it was too late. I ran right through the flimsy green planks of that wooden door. The personal shock probably saved my sister from further repercussions although I never could raise a hand against any of the siblings.

Her sharper eye and tongue therefore qualify Naomi to give another view of our mother. My sister’s voice appears in italics as “Naomi remembers”. In appropriate places she shares her own experiences and insights into our remarkable mother. Sometimes Naomi’s recollection or interpretation of events is different from mine, and that is fine. It is what gives this work of memory an added and special value.

“While you are under this roof,” my mother would often chide, “you will do as I say.” Under this roof is both a telling metaphor about us and the interwoven tiles above us. Sarah knew that she had little direct control over what happened in the harsh outside world. We would all grow up one day and make our own decisions as working adults and parents of children. There was little our mother could change about that. But while under her roof, the rules applied. That was where she had authority over the five children and, as will be explained, also over her husband. There was not much overhead roof to speak of in the small council house, but anyone who stayed in that confined space, including a string of relatives, would abide by Sarah’s rules.

It was under Sarah’s roof that I learnt how to live and where she would teach us how to die. Under that roof I learnt the value of selfless giving and the importance of personal discipline. Sarah did not only tell, she showed. And nothing impressed more heavily on the children’s consciousness than what my mother taught us about the ethics of work. She laboured day and night, literally, as a shift nurse. “Nobody ever died of hard work,” she would say all the time and you knew that offering a medical science rebuttal might lead to a premature meeting with your Maker.

Mrs Sedras, Mrs Volmink and Mrs Jansen are not alone. There are thousands of mothers spread across the Cape Flats and throughout South Africa who deserve recognition for their heroic efforts in raising families under difficult conditions. On one hand, this book could be read as an attempt at recovery of “the other mothers” whose stories have been buried by unrelenting stereotypes of women from the flatland areas of the Cape. On the other hand, such heroic mothers are found in every community where ordinary people struggle to make impossible ends meet. This work of recovery is offered, therefore, as a song of gratitude for all mothers.

Or to borrow from Diana Ferrus in A poem for Sarah Baartman:

I have come to take you home

Where I will sing for you

For you have brought me peace

The floppy brown purse
Nothing would test Sarah’s resilience more sorely than when the children went to university. Apartheid created universities for people they labelled by both race and ethnicity. Since Firstborn was deemed coloured, his destination was the University of the Western Cape in Bellville; the University of Cape Town was so much closer but they could not have him. The young student was also proud enough not to plead for a government concession (the permit, they called it) to attend a white university and specify a course not offered at UWC to justify studies in nearby Rondebosch.

The long journey from Retreat in the southern suburbs to Bellville in the northern areas took forever. And it was costly. One Monday morning Firstborn desperately needed money to take the taxi, train and bus to get to university. Hiking, as he normally did when there was no money, might get him to campus too late for a scheduled chemistry test. So he slunk into the bedroom where Sarah was in a deep sleep after working the hospital night shift. “Does Mummy have any money?” he whispered and instantly woke her up.

Sarah knew that she did not have a cent but nevertheless reached for her flat brown purse, opened it up and pretended to search for coins among the scribbled papers inside. There was nothing and the tears started welling up in her eyes. That day Firstborn decided to drop out of university and look for a job; the pain on Sarah’s face was simply unbearable.

Of course that was the last thing Sarah wanted and so one day she arranged with an uncle to collect Firstborn and drive him to Bellville while persuading him all along the way not to give up. If Sarah had not made that arrangement Firstborn would still be drifting between Anchor Yeast where he started in a laboratory with far too few skills and helping a brother from the church sell his fish on Prince George Drive, the M5 which linked the white suburbs to the north with the whites-only Muizenberg beach on the False Bay coastline. Where Sarah found the money none of the children ever knew, but from that day there were always a few coins in her purse “just in case” Firstborn needed them. But he never asked again.

Book details