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“I Remember You from Our Days in Mozambique”: Jacob Zuma Responds to Mia Couto in an Open Letter #Xenophobia

Rare South African Book up for Charity Auction to Celebrate World Book Day

Antiquarian Auctions, a Cape Town-based international auction platform dedicated to the sale of rare books, maps, and other documents, is celebrating World Book Day (23 April) by auctioning a facsimile copy of Samuel Daniell’s African Scenery and Animals, estimated to be worth $700 (about R8 500).

The auction is running from 16 to 23 April, and the full proceeds will be donated to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), to help it in its attempts to reduce illiteracy in South Sudan.

A facsimile reprint of the large folio of aquatint plates first published in 1804 – 1805.

30 colour plates, half blue leather and marbled boards, a new copy from the publisher’s stock.

With an Introduction and Notes by Dr Frank R. Bradlow. Number 404 of an edition limited to 550 copies signed by Frank Bradlow.

‘Samuel Daniell’s folio album of plates” African Scenery and Animals” was the first of the great colour-plate books produced about Southern Africa. It precedes William Cornwallis Harris’s Portraits of the Game and Wild Animals of Southern Africa the second of these albums – by some thirty years. Daniell’s splendid atlas folio album differs in important respects from nearly all its great successors; the main difference arises from its early date of publication (preceding the first British occupation of the Cape) and it this belongs to an historical era in which the British were not firmly established” and records a different milieu from those that followed.’ From the introduction by Frank Bradlow.

Press release:

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) has recently started a campaign among its international members, to support the UNESCO World Book & Copyright Day on the 23rd April 2015. ILAB is the umbrella organization of the professional rare book trade uniting 22 national associations and around 2000 rare book dealers in 34 countries worldwide.

“This is a day to celebrate books as the embodiment of human creativity and the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding and tolerance.” says Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. The campaign is aimed at raising funds that will be donated to UNESCO. Organised by ILAB, antiquarian booksellers worldwide will organize Pop Up Book Fairs in their home cities and towns on the 23rd of April, often in unusual locations to reach a wider audience. In an official statement ILAB has communicated: “Book collectors start as book readers! If we are concerned about the future of the book and younger generations of collectors, we must start at the very beginning. That’s why ILAB Pop Up Book Fairs on April 23, will be more than just a fair: they will be a venue for raising money to fight illiteracy! UNESCO is the most powerful worldwide partner we could have, and the UNESCO Sahara literacy projects deserve all our support. The money raised on the ILAB Pop Up Book Fairs will be used for a books’ donation in schools and libraries in Sub-Saharan Africa.” is an online auction platform, founded by antiquarian bookseller Paul Mills of Clarke’s Africana & Rare Books, who is a member of the British Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association (ABA) and therefore a member of the international trade association ILAB. is an international auction platform, dedicated to the sale of rare books, maps & prints, documents, letters, ephemera and vintage photography and operates from offices in Cape Town. Paul Mills: “Even though we are an international business, our offices are based in Cape Town, South Africa and we felt that it is particularly important for us to support the campaign. South Africa alone has very high levels of illiteracy with varying statistics. We need to support education and training to fight illiteracy.”

At the next auction which runs from 16-23rd April, Clarke’s Rare Books & Africana will sell a facsimile copy of S. Daniell’s: African Scenery and Animals, donating the proceeds to UNESCO. This is a facsimile reprint of the large folio of aquatint plates, first published in 1804-1805 with an introduction and notes by Frank Bradlow and signed by him.

Samuel Daniell arrived at the Cape on 9 December 1799. He was appointed by Lieutenant-General Dundas, who became his patron there, and to whom the first volume (part) is dedicated, to act as secretary to a mission to the ‘Booshuanas’. The expedition eventually reached Lataku, at that time the limit of European exploration, and was the source for Daniell of the plates.’ Daniell’s African Scenery and Animals is described as ‘the scarcest and most valuable of the large atlas folios of South African illustrations.’ (Mendelssohn, South African Bibliography)

Description: 30 colour plates, large folio (610 x 460 mm), half blue leather, marbled boards, a fine copy, Facsimile reprint. One of an edition limited to 550 copies, Cape Town, (1804-1805) 1976. Estimate: $700

Please note that only this item will be donated to charity. The auction is not an entire charity auction. is an online auction site dedicated to the sale of rare and out-of print books, maps & prints, documents, letters, ephemera and vintage photography. Dealers and collectors worldwide have been selling and bidding on the site since 2010. Only established booksellers who are members of major national trade associations such as ABA, ABAA, PBFA or SABDA or are of good standing in the trade are permitted to sell on the site.

Auctions are held every five weeks and run on the model of a timed auction for one week. All pricing is done in US$. No buyer’s premium is charged.

Next auction: Auction #42: 16 – 23 April 2015


Book Bites: 19 April 2015

The Ladies of the HouseThe Ladies of the House
Molly McGrann (Macmillan)
Book buff
The premise of three elderly people found dead in a house in London might lead you to believe that this is a thriller. Instead McGrann delivers a poignant story about former high-end call girls now living out their days in desperate straits. She traces their lives back to when they were hopeful, ambitious young women who – in the universal way of the world – fall into prostitution just to survive. Vivid in its setting, rich in characterisation, this is a memorable novel from the former editor of The Paris Review.
- Michele Magwood @michelemagwood

Hunger Eats a ManHunger Eats a Man
Nkosinathi Sithole (Penguin)
Book buff
Priest Gumede lives with his family in Ndlalidlindoda, a place of hunger. Struggling to feed his family, he is haunted by his conscience – which makes taking certain jobs hard – and his son, who questions everything, including his faith. While Ndlalidlindoda is riddled with poverty not far away is Canaan, a place where the rich live and thrive. The division is vividly written, and through his characters’ helplessness, Sithole finely delineates the double standards of politicians, who sweet-talk the poor into giving away their rights.
- Kholofelo Maenetsha @KMaenetsha

Jani ConfidentialJani Confidential
Jani Allan (Jacana)
Book buff
Overwritten, dripping with dropped names and as full of holes as Eugene Terreblanche’s green underpants, Jani Allan’s memoir is utterly unputdownable. The alleged Terreblanche affair? Not my fault, Jani claims, and nothing happened anyway. She may be born-again, but she has some decidedly un-Christian comments about the people and city, Johannesburg, that raised her so high, then dropped her. But the odd whiney note can be forgiven in a book that is an unmitigated guilty pleasure.
- Aubrey Paton

Because The NightBecause the Night
Stacy Hardy (Pocko)
Book buff
This series of short fiction pieces focuses on sex as need, as escape, release, role-play and rebellion. The protagonists are rarely named, lending the collection a voyeuristic quality. There is little tenderness in these tales, yet the reading is compelling. “You learn to live in the cracks, on the perimeter, with the need,” writes Hardy. Each piece, the settings of which are uniquely South African, is punctuated by the evocative photography of Mario Pischedda. This sexy, literary read is for those who like it dark and raw.
- Joanne Hichens @JoanneHichens

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Recipients of National Orders for Literature Announced but Ceremony Postponed Because of Xenophobic Violence

Children of ParadiseMihloti ya tinganaDr Cassius Lubisi, Chancellor of National Orders, has announced that Orders of Ikhamanga are to be bestowed on Themba Patrick Magaisa and posthumously on Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane.

The honours were to be awarded on Freedom Day, Monday, 27 April 2015. However, the Presidency has released a statement announcing that the ceremony will be postponed “as the country is mourning the deaths of seven people that were killed during violent attacks on foreign nationals last week”.

The Freedom Day anniversary will however still be marked on 27 April at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The National Orders are South Africa’s highest honour for eminent citizens and foreign nationals, and are awarded in recognition of a contribution to democracy and improving the lives of South Africans.

Magaisa and Mzamane will be given the Order of Ikhamanga, which recognises excellence in arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport. Previous recipients of the award for literature include Mandla Langa, Sindiwe Magona and Zakes Mda, whose order was bestowed last year.

The order is being bestowed in Bronze on Magaisa, who is the author of a number of Xitsonga books including Mihloti ya tingana. Magaisa won South African Literary Awards (SALAs) in 2012 and 2014.

Themba Patrick Magaisa: For his outstanding contribution to the development of indigenous literature in South Africa. His literary work has enriched the primary and secondary education curricula in our country.

Mzamane, who passed away in 2014, will posthumously be awarded the order in Silver. He is the author of a number of novels, including Children of Paradise, and was described by Nelson Mandela as a “visionary leader and one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals”.

Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the development of African literature and the upliftment of African languages on the global stage.

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A Jaunty Mashup of Fable, Satire and History: Steven Sidley Reviews Christopher Hope's Jimfish

By Steven Sidley for the Sunday Times

Christopher Hope (Penguin)

Many of Christopher Hope’s novels – novels that have helped him amass a treasure chest of awards and accolades over a 45-year writing career – have foraged in the fertile terrains of apartheid South Africa. His latest, Jimfish, spreads its wings a little further, while still using South Africa as its home and muse.

The book starts in 1984: clearly not an accidental date. It is a glorious miscellany and jaunty mashup of fable, satire, history lesson, magical realism and the psychology of absolute power, meandering bemusedly among the grinning architects of genocides, wars, failed states and human misery in Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. The lighthearted and non-literary style is clearly intentional, it contrasts loudly and effectively with the author’s rage that bubbles deep below the surface of the book.

The setup of the novel bursts out of its second paragraph. A boy with no obvious history or racial classification appears mysteriously on the harbour wall of a small coastal town in the Eastern Cape. He is wide-eyed and trusting, is taken in by the kind skipper of a local trawler, and is given the pejorative name “Jimfish”. His mentor is washed overboard soon afterwards, and our bewildered young innocent is physically swept up by the dizzying tides of 10 years of history at its darkest – whisked to Mugabe’s Matabeleland, Uganda, Chernobyl, Moscow, Romania, Zaire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, the Comoros and finally back to South Africa. Along the way, Jimfish briefly and naively befriends purveyors of genocides and merchants of death and casual warmongers, murderers and torturers of all stripes. He listens wide-eyed to their justifications and cheery descriptions of mayhem and carnage (witnessing some at close and graphic quarters).

The venal characters he meets along the way are cheery folk, happy in their work, comfortable in their moral certainties even amid the horrors they perpetrate. This creates a terrible cognitive dissonance, not only for Jimfish, but for the reader too – a neat trick given the simplicity of the writing. It is uncomfortably compelling to read an impish telling of Hannah Arendt’s ‘banality of evil’, even more so as told though the eyes of a Gump-like naïf in simple language even a child could understand.

Jimfish is a successfully camouflaged polemic of moral outrage, couched softly but firmly in the language of quiet but appalled witness.

Follow Steven on Twitter @stevensidley

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Image: Jerry Bauer

A Deft Double Agent: Bron Sibree Speaks to Parker Bilal AKA Jamal Mahjoub About His Novel The Burning Gates

By Bron Sibree for the Sunday Times

The Burning GatesThe Burning Gates
Parker Bilal (Bloomsbury)

Four years and four novels into his double life as a writer of both literary and crime fiction, Jamal Mahjoub, otherwise known as Parker Bilal, has no regrets. Indeed, the Anglo-Sudanese author of such lauded and perceptive literary works as Travelling with Djinns, The Drift Latitudes and Nubian Indigo, admits he enjoys his double life so much: “I don’t think I’ll give it up.” In the guise of Parker Bilal, meanwhile, he has just released the fourth in his lavishly acclaimed Inspector Makana series, The Burning Gates, and says writing under different guises, “gives me a kind of separation wall in my head where I can see ideas on both sides of what is quite a blurred literary divide”.

Mahjoub feels that he is still discovering new elements in the character of Makana, one of the most enigmatic and beguiling protagonists to enter the crime genre in recent times. Indeed, he doesn’t yet know his first name. Makana is an expatriate Sudanese who, having fled Sudan’s hardline Islamist military regime during the ’90s, now makes a haphazard living in Cairo as a private detective. “That’s what makes it interesting for me. There has to be an unknown element that I discover along the way. That’s the stuff that gets your heart beating.”

Another subject that gets Mahjoub’s heart beating is heritage and its wilful destruction – a subject that underwrites The Burning Gates. This high-octane, adroitly layered mystery sees Makana thrust into the dark, murky world of stolen artworks and war crimes when an Egyptian art dealer asks him to locate a fugitive Iraqi general and a stolen painting on behalf of an American collector. Set in 2004, it’s anchored in the events of 2003, says Mahjoub, “when American troops arrived in Baghdad and secured the Ministry of Petroleum while ignoring the museums and libraries”.

“I think 2003 was really a point at which things were triggered that we are still seeing the consequences of. What we are witnessing now happening with ISIS is part of the sort of mathematical progression that come from that moment.”

For Mahjoub, who maintains that “the literary novel is no longer a cental pivot around which our cultural awareness turns,” it all began with Cairo, the city to which, like his fictional protagonist, he and his parents fled to from Sudan, in the wake of the 1989 military coup. What began as a burning desire to write a large epic novel about Cairo, his home for a decade, merged with his long-time love affair with crime fiction. “The scale and historical age of the city, the contrasts between the haves and have-nots; these two worlds going side by side and this sense of injustice of many aspects of life there made me feel that there had to be some real, deep-seated message in all of this. That there was something worth trying to understand about it, and that seemed to me well-suited to the crime novel. There has always been a moral, driving conscience in crime fiction and I think that crime fiction is addressing an urgency that people feel is missing in literary fiction.”

Mahjoub hasn’t lost faith in literary fiction. But he believes people look to the crime genre in particular “for assurance of some kind, for putting the world to rights; things they don’t believe they’ll find in literary fiction”. And in writing his Makana books, he concedes that he too, is driven by a compulsion to counter prevailing misconceptions about the world Makana inhabits. “It’s not that I feel I have an axe to grind, it’s more that I feel there’s a hell of a lot there that’s not coming to light, that people cannot see.

“In that sense it’s not so much about putting things right, it’s about straightening the picture in the frame.”

Follow Bron on Twitter @BronSibree

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Image: Aisha Seeberg

Award-winning Mozambican Author Mia Couto's Open Letter to Jacob Zuma on Xenophobia Crisis: "We Remember You in Maputo"

Mozambican author Mia Couto has written an open letter to Jacob Zuma concerning the current xenophobic violence in South Africa.

Couto received the prestigious 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, becoming the first Mozambican author to be honoured with the title, and was recently announced as a finalist for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize.

A River Called TimeThe Tuner of SilencesUnder the FrangipaniVoices Made NightSleepwalking Land

Update: President Jacob Zuma has responded to Couto: Read his open letter here

Paul Fauvet, the editor of the Mozambique News Agency, shared a translation of Couto’s open letter in a public post on Facebook.

Read the letter:

Open Letter from the Chairperson of the “Fernando Leite Couto Foundation”, Mia Couto

To: His Excellency President Jacob Zuma

We remember you in Maputo, in the 1980s, from that time you spent as a political refugee in Mozambique. Often our paths crossed on Julius Nyerere Avenue and we would greet each other with the casual friendliness of neighbours. Often I imagined the fears that you must have felt, as a person persecuted by the apartheid regime. I imagined the nightmares you must have experienced at night when you thought of the ambushes plotted against you and against your comrades in the struggle. But I don’t remember ever seeing you with a bodyguard. In fact it was we Mozambicans who acted as your bodyguards. For years we gave you more than a refuge. We offered you a house and we gave you security at the cost of our security. You cannot possibly have forgotten this generosity.

We haven’t forgotten it. Perhaps more than any other neighbouring country, Mozambique paid a high price for the support we gave to the liberation of South Africa. The fragile Mozambican economy was wrecked. Our territory was invaded and bombed. Mozambicans died in defence of their brothers on the other side of the border. For us, Mr President, there was no border, there was no nationality. We were all brothers in the same cause, and when apartheid fell, our festivities were the same, on either side of the border.

For centuries Mozambican migrants, miners and peasants, worked in neighbouring South Africa under conditions that were not far short of slavery. These workers helped build the South African economy. There is no wealth in your country that does not carry the contribution of those who today are coming under attack.

For all these reasons, it is not possible to imagine what is going on in your country. It is not possible to imagine that these same South African brothers have chosen us as a target for hatred and persecution. It is not possible that Mozambicans are persecuted in the streets of South Africa with the same cruelty that the apartheid police persecuted freedom fighters, inside and outside the country. The nightmare we are living is more serious than that visited upon you when you were politically persecuted. For you were the victim of a choice, of an ideal that you had embraced. But those who are persecuted in your country today are guilty merely of having a different nationality. Their only crime is that they are Mozambicans. Their only offence is that they are not South Africans.

Mr President, the xenophobia expressed today in South Africa is not merely a barbaric and cowardly attack against “the others”. It is also aggression against South Africa itself. It is an attack against the “Rainbow Nation” which South Africans proudly proclaimed a decade or more ago. Some South Africans are staining the name of their motherland. They are attacking the feelings of gratitude and solidarity between nations and peoples. It is sad that your country today is in the news across the world for such inhuman reasons.

Certainly measures are being taken. But they are proving inadequate, and above all they have come late. The rulers of South Africa can argue everything except that they were taken by surprise. History was allowed to repeat itself. Voices were heard spreading hatred with impunity. That is why we are joining our indignation to that of our fellow Mozambicans and urging you: put an immediate end to this situation, which is a fire that can spread across the entire region, with feelings of revenge being created beyond South Africa’s borders. Tough, immediate and total measures are needed which may include the mobilization of the armed forces. For, at the end of the day, it is South Africa itself which is under attack.

Mr President, you know, better than we do, that police actions can contain this crime but, in the current context, other preventive measures must be taken. So that these criminal events are never again repeated.

For this, it is necessary to take measures on another scale, measures that work over the long term. Measures of civic education, and of exalting the recent past in which we were so close, are urgently needed. It is necessary to recreate the feelings of solidarity between our peoples and to rescue the memory of a time of shared struggles. As artists, as makers of culture and of social values, we are available so that, together with South African artists, we can face this new challenge, in unity with the countless expressions of revulsion born within South African society. We can still transform this pain and this shame into something which expresses the nobility and dignity of our peoples and our nations. As artists and writers, we want to declare our willingness to support a spirit of neighbourliness which is born, not from geography, but from a kinship of our common soul and shared history.

Maputo, 17 April 2015
Mia Couto

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Image courtesy of Neustadt Prize