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Right! That's a wrap of our #ManBooker2014 coverage. Congratulations to Richard Flanagan

Authors Blown Away by 2014 Open Book Festival

mind blown

Local and international authors who attended the 2014 Open Book Festival in Cape Town have shared their reactions to the event on various platforms. In general the five-day literary feast seems to have been very, very good:

London – Cape Town – JoburgZukiswa Wanner:

For a literary festival that has only been in existence for four years, Open Book punches way above its weight and has achieved significantly more than literary festivals that have been in existence for longer.

Another Great Day at SeaGeoff Dyer:

Thank you for a wonderful week in Cape Town. It was fun, stimulating, impeccably organised – and I’m SO glad I was part of it.

White WahalaEkow Duker:

It was my first time attending a literary festival and I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and friendliness everywhere I went. It was a thrill to be on the same panel as authors whose work I’ve read and enjoyed, like Jonny Steinberg, Andrew Brown and Zakes Mda. The experience led me to ponder my own writing and made me appreciate this gift of words even more.

Magician's EndRaymond E Feist:

You could tell the people who were there loved it. They were just great, I really enjoyed it.

What I didn’t understand until I got here was the position of fantasy relative to the rest of the market, and the fact that here it’s still a bit of a ghetto. Whereas in the United States and Australia and Great Britain – especially since Harry Potter – the fantasy genre has been 10, 15, 20 years in the mainstream.

An Unnecessary WomanRabih Alameddine:

The Open Book Festival was a lot of fun, loved it. Best thing was that the audience was always engaged.

Naughty KittyAdam Stower:

It was a pleasure to be involved in the Open Book Festival and to have the opportunity to share the excitement and enthusiasm for books displayed by all the children I met during my events. It is clear how the love of reading is a passion that can be shared by all, both young and old, and the Open Book Festival is doing so much to make this joy available to all. Congratulations to everyone involved, and I wish the festival ever greater success in the years to come.

The Girl with All the GiftsMike Carey:

Open Book 2014 felt like a gigantic party in which writers and readers came together to celebrate the texts and the stories and the media they love. Across five days of brilliant programming, I immersed myself in writers I’d never come across, genres outside my comfort zone and conversations on a hundred topics with strangers who quickly became friends. It was a show well worth coming six thousand miles for.

Francesca Beard:

Thank you so much for including me in the fabulocity that is Open Book, I don’t know how you did it, but it was spectacularly ambitious and diverse and eclectic and genuinely inclusive of different literary genres and also, certainly for its scale, the most friendly and intimate and relaxed literature festival I’ve ever appeared at. You made me feel really welcomed and valued and I think you were like that with everyone, a miraculous gift of warmth and charm and smarts. It was a pleasure and a privilege, I am a life-long fan and will be telling anyone who will listen to get themselves to Cape Town in September for a visit.


The Blacks of Cape TownCA Davids:

Thanks so much for all the hard work and careful thought that obviously went in to Open Book 2014. It is such an unique and important space that you create each year in Cape Town. Also, the fact that it attracted such diverse audiences, in a city that rarely manages to achieve this, made it rare and very special. Congratulations.

Invisible OthersKarina M Szczurek:

What these snippets of conversations, memories, and illumination make explicit is the often mercurial (a word I always associate with Jonny Steinberg) network of sharing that underlies the otherwise solitary endeavours of writers. And nowhere is it more visible than at events such as Open Book. For me, the festival laid bare the more or less obvious symbiotic relationships between local and international authors. Their influence on and their necessity for our craft should not be underestimated.

Books LIVE offered extensive coverage of the festival, from interviews to tweeting live from the events. Follow the link to see more:

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Author Q&A: 10 Questions with Rachel Joyce

Published in the Sunday Times

rachel joyce

1. Which books are on your bedside table?
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, He Wants by Alison Moore, History of the Rain by Niall Williams, my son’s art homework, and a rose catalogue.

2. Which book changed your life?
I remember very clearly the first time I read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. It has such a delicate, haunting intelligence. I think I read with my mouth open.

3. What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?
I like to experience things before I write them – or at least get a glimpse into how it might be. I spent a long time sitting in the dark on a haystack in a barn in order to describe Harold Fry’s first night out in the wild.

4. Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
I wouldn’t like to be stuck in a lift. I would be quite scared. But if I had to be stuck in a lift with anyone, it would be my husband. He would keep me laughing.

5. What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?
I remember reading The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden to my youngest daughter. That really moved her. And I would recommend Wonder by RJ Palacio too.

6. Who is your favourite fictional hero?
I love John Irving’s Owen Meany. I could see and hear him as soon as I started reading. He moved me. He surprised me. He is both funny and tragic. That is some achievement.

7. What is the best piece of writerly advice you’ve received?
Keep a diary or journal. It doesn’t have to be anything you would ever show anyone but it keeps you writing every day. You wouldn’t expect an athlete to perform without training; it’s the same with writing.

8. What book do you wish you’d written?
I wish I had written The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald. Or Anna Karenina. (Of course.)

9. How would you earn your living if you had to give up writing?
I am quite good at making curtains. Maybe I would do that.

10. What are you working on next?
I’m working on a television adaptation of my second book, Perfect, and I am also writing a new novel about music and its healing powers. It’s partly a love story, partly a treasure hunt through music.

The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessy Rachel Joyce’s latest novel is The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (Random House)

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Image courtesy of Gaby Gerster Laif Camerapress

The Paperback Wizard: Annetjie van Wynegaard Chats to Raymond E Feist

By Annetjie van Wynegaard for the Sunday Times

Magician's EndMagician’s End (HarperCollins)
Raymond E Feist

In 1975 Raymond E Feist and his friends were sitting around at the University of California, San Diego, drinking beer and playing an epic role-playing game called Midkemia, loosely based on the popular Dungeons and Dragons card game, but with their own rules.

The game inspired a book that sparked a lifelong dedication to fantasy writing. Magician, published in 1982, introduced the orphan Pug, his best friend Thomas, and Pug’s first love, Princess Carline.

Feist describes Magician, which is set in a quasi-medieval feudal universe, as an “historical novel about a virtual world that doesn’t exist”. To help readers identify with this new world, he gave his characters modern habits that anyone who picked up the book could relate to.

Magician was the first of three books in the Riftwar Saga, which in turn is the first trilogy in an overall series known as the Riftwar Cycle. (The complete, complicated Riftwar bibliography is available on Feist’s official website,

This year, Feist launched his 30th novel and the final book in Riftwar Cycle, Magician’s End – and appeared at the recent Open Book Festival in Cape Town, where book and author drew crowds that went round the proverbial block. Feist was impressed by the energy and enthusiasm that attended the festival, now in its fourth year.

“You could tell the people who were there loved it,” he says. “They were just great, I really enjoyed it.”

“What I didn’t understand until I got here was the position of fantasy relative to the rest of the market, and the fact that here it’s still a bit of a ghetto,” says Feist. “Whereas in the United States and Australia and Great Britain – especially since Harry Potter – the fantasy genre has been 10, 15, 20 years in the mainstream.”

Feist believes he changed minds about the relevance of fantasy during his panel discussions. “I think I convinced them that maybe bringing down a big-name international fantasy author again next year might not be a bad idea. And I would love to see the genre considered a bit more seriously here.”

Magician’s End concludes the adventures of Pug and all the characters and storylines that sprouted from the first book. In the Riftwar Cycle, Tsurani warriors from the Kelewan realm have invaded Pug’s home world. After so many adventures in so many books, you finally see Pug become the magician he was always meant to be. If the Riftwar Cycle is an epic tale of struggle and war, Magician’s End tells a human tale of compassion and love, and most of all, friendship.

It took over 30 years to see the Riftwar Cycle to its conclusion, but Feist is far from done. He’s already writing The King of Ashes, the first book in his new trilogy, The War of Five Crowns.

The author is, in some ways, the most powerful magician in all the fantasy realms.

Follow @Annetjievw on Twitter

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Margie Orford Elected to the Board of PEN International

Alert! Margie Orford has been elected to the board of PEN international, the non-political organisation established to promote global literature and freedom of expression.

Orford, a celebrated novelist and award-winning journalist, is the president of the South African charter, a position she has held since June this year. Orford is renowned for her crime writing, but has also produced non-fiction, children’s books and school textbooks, and is also a film director.

Orford follows in the footsteps South African Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, who held the position of Vice President of PEN International until she passed away in July this year. During the 2014 Open Book Festival Orford paid tribute to Gordimer, reading from her one of her favourite of the Nobel Laureate’s books, July’s People.

Water MusicLike ClockworkDaddy\'s GirlBlood Rose

Press release

Award-winning journalist and acclaimed South African writer Margie Orford has been elected to the international board of PEN International, a 10-person body that represents authors, poets, editors and other writers in more than 100 countries around the world. Orford, who is President of the South African PEN Centre, was nominated by a delegate from Denmark, seconded by a delegate from Mexico, and was elected at the PEN International Congress at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan earlier this month by what a delegate later described as “a great vote”.

Orford joined SA PEN in June 2006 and was appointed Executive Vice President in 2010 and President in June this year following the death of President Anthony Fleischer, author and former General Manager of SA Associated Newspapers (now the Times Media Group).

Orford is a celebrated crime writer. Her novels have been translated into nine languages and include the Clare Hart series of crime thrillers. She obtained a BA Hons degree at the University of Cape Town, writing her final examinations while in prison after having being detained as a student activist in the State of Emergency of 1985.

After travelling widely, she studied under the South African writer, JM Coetzee, and worked in publishing in the newly-independent Namibia, where she became involved in training through the African Publishers Network. In 1999 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and while in New York she worked on a ground-breaking archival retrieval project, Women Writing Africa: The Southern Volume, published by the Feminist Press.

As a journalist, Orford wrote for The Guardian, the Observer and The Telegraph in Britain and for the Mail & Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Cape Times in South Africa. She has published children’s books, academic books, school text books and non-fiction, including a book on climate change, on rural development in South Africa, and a history of the anti-apartheid group, The Black Sash. Her publications include:

Water Music (Oshun Books, 2013), The Magic Fish (2012), Gallows Hill (Oshun Books, 2011), The Little Red Hen (2011), Daddy’s Girl (Oshun Books, 2009), Like Clockwork (Oshun Books, 2006), Fabulously 40 And Beyond: Coming Into Your Power An Embracing Change (2006), Busi’s Big Idea (2006), Blood Rose (2006), Dancing Queen (2004), Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism: Stories from the Developing World (2004), Rural Voice: The Social Change Assistance Trust, 1984-2004, Working in South Africa (David Philip, 2004).

She is the patron of Rape Crisis and of the children’s book charity, the Little Hands Trust.

Orford follows the South African Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer who was appointed Vice President of PEN International, a position she held until her death.

South African PEN Centre Vice President, Dr Raymond Louw, said he is delighted that as a member of the influential international board of PEN Margie Orford will be able to promote the interests of writers and editors in the sub-continent of Africa where they struggle to meet the many and diverse challenges posed not only by the social and geographical environments but by the frequently severe inroads of governments on their freedoms. She has already made a powerful impact in her short period at PEN International congresses, the latest being at the congress this month where she invoked the World Association of Newspapers Declaration of Table Mountain calling for countries to scrap criminal defamation and “insult” laws as well as other restrictions on the press and writers. This resulted in the congress passing a resolution making a similar call on world nations. The timing is particularly appropriate for South Africa because the appeal by a former Sowetan journalist, Cecil Motsepe, against a conviction for criminal defamation is currently being heard in the Gauteng High Court.


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Empty seats packed with meaning

ONE of the overriding images of the pool stages of 2014 Currie Cup — now reaching its climax with semifinals this weekend — is of empty stadiums. Often the rugby played is exciting and SuperSport does its bit with ever-enthusiastic commentary, but there are few takers. These are local teams playing at local stadiums, yet local fans cannot be bothered to get themselves there to watch.

It must be dispiriting for the players on the field witnessed only by the blank gaze of row upon row of empty seats. The most spectacular tries are rewarded only by a smattering of applause, all that can be mustered by the few fans present. The fantasy of legions of fanatically loyal local fans, ostensibly the bedrock of provincial rugby and a major justification for its existence, is exposed as just that. Nor are many watching the Currie Cup on TV — viewing figures are substantially down.

It is hugely expensive to stage these games. Stadiums must be maintained, a phalanx of staff must be paid for on game days including referees, medical teams, ticket collectors, ushers and security guards. Teams must be flown around the country and put up in hotels.

It raises the question: can rugby afford it? And, even if it can, would the millions spent not be better spent elsewhere? The fact that the Premiership Division of the Currie Cup has been extended to buy off small unions so that they would agree to the inclusion of the Southern Kings in Super Rugby (more Currie Cup and more Super Rugby) has not helped matters.

The Currie Cup has historically occupied a special place in the collective heart of the rugby community: during the isolation years, it was the competition that kept local white rugby alive. Provincial unions had to work hard to keep their fan base on board because it was turnstile traffic that kept them financially afloat.

But the professional era — now almost 20 years old — changed all that. The provincial unions now rely on their share of the SuperSport income to keep the game going. There is little incentive to spread the game locally because the money will keep on rolling in, no matter how ineffectual they are.

Crowds at the First Division games — those played in Welkom, Wellington, Potchefstroom, George, Kimberley and East London — are particularly sparse.

One of the arguments used to justify the continued funding of the smaller unions is that they unearth talent that would otherwise go unnoticed. But this happens so seldom — and at such a cost to the rugby fiscus — that it hardly seems worth the outlay. And what this argument ignores is that it is the rugby schools that unearth and nurture rugby talent. The unions just piggyback on it.

The top Currie Cup layer — the Premiership — plays a more viable role because it provides a platform for the blooding of younger players before promotion to Super Rugby.

Serious questions should be asked about the First Division’s viability as a professional league. Although the bottom line is that no matter how irrational and wasteful the current system is, it will not change because the 14 unions have entrenched their rights in a constitution only they can change.

But reform may yet be forced upon them from within their own ranks. The Super Rugby franchises are growing increasingly frustrated with the current division of spoils. It is the Springbok games that command by far the highest TV audiences. The Springboks’ main base are the Super Rugby franchises they are contracted to and who pay the bulk of their salaries. And this is not insubstantial: top Boks command R4m at some franchises.

The current distribution of the joint South African Rugby Union pot of about R700m does not give the Super Rugby franchises anywhere near enough to meet their financial obligations. Yet their Boks are only available to the franchises for the first half of the year.

This year, for the first time, 20 key Springboks are not available for the Currie Cup play-offs because they are being rested and conditioned for the upcoming November Tests. But if they are injured during the Tests, it is their franchises who will lose out when Super Rugby starts.

Surely those empty seats should constitute some sort of a wake-up call?

*This column first appeared in Business Day

Nominees for the 2014 South African Literary Awards Revealed

Alert! Books LIVE can exclusively reveal the nominees list for the 2014 South African Literary Awards.

The SA Literary Awards were founded by the wRite associates and the Department of Arts and Culture in 2005, with the twin aims of paying tribute to writers who have “distinguished themselves as ground-breaking producers and creators of literature” and celebrating literary excellence “in the depiction and sharing of South Africa’s histories, value systems and philosophies”, in all the languages of South Africa.

Ride the TortoiseRunning Almost Sleeping My Way to TimbuktuThe Spiral House The Blacks of Cape TownThe Turtle Dove Told MeLove InterruptedCall It DogRiskThe Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the GodsFractured LivesDystopia

Nominees this year include Makhosazana Xaba, who was also today announced as a Mbokodo Awards nominee, Books LIVE correspondent Liesl Jobson, Sihle Khumalo, Claire Robertson, who won this year’s Sunday Times Fiction Prize, and Carol-Ann Davids.

Nuruddin Farah and Njabulo Ndebele are up for Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The winners will be announced on Friday, 7 November.


Poetry Award

Themba Patrick Magaisa, Mihloti ya Tingana (Xitsonga, published by TP Magaisa)
Khulile Nxumalo, Fhedzi (English, Dye Hard Press)
Kobus Moolman, Left Over (English, Dye Hard Press)
Thandi Sliepen, The Turtle Dove Told Me (English, Modjaji Books)

Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award

Gary Cummiskey, Off-ramp (English, Dye Hard Press)
Makhosazana Xaba, Running and Other Stories (English, Modjaji books)
Reneilwe Malatji, Love Interrupted (English, Modjaji Books)
Liesl Jobson, Ride the Tortoise (English, Jacana Media)

K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award (For Young Writers)

Marli Roode, Call it Dog (English, Penguin Books)
Jason Staggie, Risk (English, Umuzi Publishers)
Jamala Safari, The Great Agony and Pure laughter of the Gods (English, Umuzi Publishing)

Creative Non-Fiction Award

Sihle Khumalo, Almost Sleeping My Way to Timbuktu (English, Umuzi Publishers)
Toni Strasburg, Fractured Lives (English, Modjaji Books)

First-time Published Author Award

Claire Robertson, The Spiral House (English, Umuzi Publishers)
Carol-Ann Davids, The Blacks of Cape Town (English, Modjaji Books)
James Siddall, Dystopia (English, Jacana Media)

Lifetime Achievement Literary Award

Nuruddin Farah
Njabulo Ndebele

Literary Translators Award

Nhlanhla Maake, Malefane (Sesotho/English, Ekaam Books)

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