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Philani Dladla – The Pavement Bookworm (@BookVsDruggs) – Shares His Story with @TEDxJoburg:

Winners of Short Story Day Africa's "Terra Incognita" Short Story Competition Announced

Feast, Famine and PotluckAlert! Diane Awerbuck has been named the winner of Short Story Day Africa‘s Terra Incognita short story competition for her entry “Leatherman”.

Namibian author Sylvia Schlettwein’s story “Ape Shit” comes in second place while Kerstin Hall, also South African, claims the third spot with her story “In the Water”. An honourable mention has been made of Kenyan author Sese Yane’s his story, “The Corpse”.

Before every inch of the world had been explored, cartographers denoted uncharted territories as terra incognita. This year, Short Story Day Africa asked writers to look deep into their imaginations to draw out fantastical and mythical stories, also classified as speculative fiction.

Judge Samuel Kolawole, who was joined by Richard de Nooy and Jared Shurin, said of Awerbuck’s story: “The winning entry is among the most engaging pieces of short fiction I have read this year. A tale of longing and dark adventure, “Leatherman” draws the reader into its rhythm and mystery through scalpel sharp details and sly wit. A deserving winner.”

These stories will be published with others on the longlist in the next SSDA anthology, set to be released next year. Keep an eye on Books LIVE for the Awerbuck’s short story as well as the cover reveal.

Congratulations to all!

Press release

Short Story Day Africa is proud to announce this year’s winning stories.

This year’s competition encouraged wild imagination and new frontiers with the theme ‘Terra Incognita’. Writers were urged to delve into the genres of speculative fiction: horror, fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi, alternative history and magical realism.

The winners are:

1st Place – “Leatherman” by Diane Awerbuck (South Africa)

2nd Place ­– “Ape Shit” by Sylvia Schlettwein (Namibia)

3rd Place ­– “In the Water” by Kerstin Hall (South Africa)

Honourable Mention – “The Corpse” by Sese Yane (Kenya)

Many thanks to Jared Shurin, Richard de Nooy and Samuel Kolawole for generously donating their time and efforts to create the shortlist, and to Samuel for taking on the mantle of head judge at the eleventh hour.

Samuel had this to say about the winners:

“The work I have chosen show a commitment to language and coherent narrative. They are ambitious and highly imaginative, exploring uncharted territories and provide a refreshing outlook to our stories

The winning entry is among the most engaging pieces of short fiction I have read this year. A tale of longing and dark adventure, “Leatherman” draws the reader into its rhythm and mystery through scalpel sharp details and sly wit. A deserving winner.

“Ape Shit” is riveting, surreal and beautifully crafted.

“In the Water” is a thump to the heart. A great horror story with a satisfying ending.

Finally, wonderfully stylistic and quirky “The Corpse” deserves an honourable mention.”

Thank you to our prize sponsors; Books Live; All About Writing; Paige Nick; Louis Greenberg; The Caine Prize for African Writing; and Modjaji Books.

Terra Incognita, an anthology of the 2014 long list, is due for release later this year.


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Xanele Puren, Mary Ononokpono and Portia Dery Announced as Winners of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes

Alert! The winners of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes for Literature and Illustration have been announced, with South African illustrator Xanele Puren receiving the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators. The prize for Early Chapter Books is awarded to Nigerian writer Mary Ononokpono while Portia Dery from Ghana has won the award for Picture Books.


The Golden Baobab Prizes celebrate the best unpublished African children’s literature, hoping to inspire African authors and illustrators to create authentic stories with children of this continent in mind. Offering $20,000 in monetary awards, as well as publishing opportunities for winners of the Picture Book and Early Chapter Book Prizes, these prizes go a far way in promoting relatable books for children. According to the the Executive Director of Golden Baobab, they plan to go even further:

“We are proud of the contribution we are making to the children’s literature and illustration world and are actively searching for exciting partnerships to expand our reach and impact across Africa. We are seeking major corporate partnerships by our next prize season to further propel our vision of making the heads of children across Africa beautiful places for them to live!”

Puren is the co-founder, illustrator and the visual force behind See-Saw-Do, a social enterprise founded on the transformative power of creativity and love. See her winning illustrations:

Ononokpono is an artist, illustrator and writer who was born in Nigeria but grew up in the United Kingdom. Her winning story, Talulah the Time Traveller, is about an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent – she is an inventor obsessed with coding.

Dery is a writer, blogger, community development worker and social entrepreneur with a focus on writing activities in Ghana. Her winning story, Grandma’s List, is about Fatima, a spirited eight year old, who is tired of being treated like a child.

Related links:


Press Release

Winners of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes

Accra, Ghana, November 13, 2014 – We are proud to announce the winners of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes:

  • Portia Dery, from Ghana wins the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books with her story, Grandma’s List.
  • Mary Ononokpono, from Nigeria, wins the Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books for her story, Talulah the Time Traveler.
  • Xanele Puren, from South Africa, wins the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators. The Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators is the biggest and most prestigious prize committed to discovering, nurturing and celebrating talented African illustrators of children’s stories.

The 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes for Literature and Illustration received nearly 300 submissions from writers and illustrators across Africa. The longlist for the literature prizes was announced early September and showcased 11 stories, selected from 6 African countries. The shortlist followed late October with 11 stories from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The illustration prizes unveiled 3 shortlisted artists; 2 from South Africa and 1 from Ghana. This year’s prize winners represent three countries: Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

This is the sixth year of the Golden Baobab Prizes, which were established in July 2008 to in-spire the creation of enthralling, culturally relevant African children’s stories by African writers. “We are proud of the contribution we are making to the children’s literature and illustration world and are actively searching for exciting partnerships to expand our reach and impact across Africa. We are seeking major corporate partnerships by our next prize season to further propel our vision of making the heads of children across Africa beautiful places for them to live!” says the Executive Director of Golden Baobab.

Today, the Prizes offer $20,000 in monetary awards, publishing opportunities for winners of the Picture Book and Early Chapter Book Prizes, and the winner of the Illustration prize attends a Golden Baobab award ceremony and a traveling exhibition of artist’s illustrations.

Judges for the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes are Summer Edward, Anansesem Caribbean Children’s Literature Ezine founder and editor, Nancy Drost, Seasoned international educator, Kinna Likimani, Mbaasem Foundation board member and celebrated book critic, Doreen Baingana, Multiple award-winning Ugandan author and former chairperson FEMRITE, Nonikiwe Mashologu, African children’s literature critic, Kanengo Diallo, 13-year old Tanzanian winner of the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers, Paul O. Zelinsky, International Award-winning American Illustrator and Writer and Caldecott Medalist, Akua Peprah, Early Childhood Educator and Kofi Kokua Asante Anyimadu, 8-year old Ghanaian book lover.

Also shortlisted were:

  • Shaleen Keshavjee-Gulam (Kenya) – Malaika’s Magical Kiosk
  • Mandy Collins (South Africa) – There is a Hyena in my Kitchen
  • Myke Mware (Zimbabwe) – The Big Ball
  • Bontle Senne (South Africa) – The Monster at Midnight
  • Mamle Wolo (Ghana) – Flying through Water
  • Hillary Molenje Namunyu (Kenya) – Teddy Mapesa and the Missing Cash
  • Jayne Bauling (South Africa) – The Saturday Dress

Last year’s winners of the Golden Baobab Prizes were Liza Esterhuyse and Karen Hurt from South Africa and Kanengo Rebecca Diallo from Tanzania.


The Golden Baobab Prizes for literature was established in July 2008 and inspires the creation of African stories by gifted African writers and illustrators to captivate children’s minds. The Prizes invite entries of unpublished stories and illustrations created by African citizens irrespective of age, race, or country of origin. The Prizes are organized by Golden Baobab, a Ghana-based pan- African social enterprise dedicated to creating a world filled with wonder and possibilities for children, one African story at a time. The organization’s Advisory Board includes renowned au-thors Ama Ata Aidoo and Maya Ajmera. Golden Baobab is proudly supported by Echoing Green and The African Library Project.


Images courtesy of Golden Baobab

2014 Bad Sex in Fiction Award Shortlist Includes Wilbur Smith, Ben Okri, Haruki Murakami and Richard Flanagan

Alert! Wilbur Smith has been nominated for a rather awkward literary award – The 22nd Bad Sex in Fiction Award. He is facing some, uhm, stiff competition as he is shortlisted alongside eminent authors such as Richard Flanagan, Haruki Murakami, Ben Okri and Michael Cunningham.

These books are up for the dreaded award:

The Snow QueenThe Narrow Road to the Deep NorthThe Hormone FactoryColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrimageThe Age Of Magic
The Affairs of OthersDesert GodThings to Make and BreakThe Lemon GroveThe Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle

The magazine responsible for this special prize, Literary Review, writes: “The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature.”

They have been tweeting snippets from the passages which earned these ten authors a spot on the 2014 list. Follow the hashtag #badsex to see some of the colourful responses:


This is a distinguished list of nominees, including the winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize (Richard Flanagan), as well as a previous winner (Ben Okri), a former winner of the Pulitzer Prize (Michael Cunningham), a perennially tipped favourite for the Nobel Prize (Haruki Murakami) and a prominent BBC journalist (Kirsty Wark). The judges also considered Andrew Marr’s Head of State, which started arrestingly – ‘they bucked like deer and squirmed like eels. And after that, vice-versa’ – but failed to sustain its early promise.

Related links:

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Nthikeng Mohlele Chats About the Process of Translating Small Things into Swedish

The Scent of BlissSmall ThingsJoburg BluesRusty Bell

Nthikeng Mohlele was a guest of the Stockholm Literature Festival at the end of October to launch Joburg Blues, the Swedish translation of his second novel Small Things. He chatted to Books LIVE about the process of translating the book, and his experiences in the Scandinavian country.

Mohlele’s Rusty Bell has just been released, and he will now be moving on to a South African launch tour for his new novel.

How did the idea to translate Small Things come about?

My Swedish publisher, Weyler Forlag, was scouting for contemporary South African fiction for rights acquisition and translation. He read Small Things, approached my South African publishers, UKZN Press, and that was that. So a combination of luck and perfect timing.

Did you collaborate or work closely with the translator, or were they left to their own devices?

We worked closely, yes, as far as the general picture and ambience of the work is concerned. But there were and are limitations in any translation, first from a language proficiency perspective, and second, interpretation point of view. So I trusted and trust my translator, Jan Ristarp, who is brilliant and a wonderful human being. If he could translate Ngugi wa Thiongo (Petals of Blood) among other prominent names, surely he could and can translate little old me.

Why was the title altered to Joburg Blues?

Small Things does not, phrase wise, have an exact or direct meaning in Swedish, hovering between insignificant and unimportant things – which presented risks insofar as interpretation and meaning of the book title is concerned. The original idea was an exploration of the anatomical, size, on a metaphoric plane – something that proved not undo able but slippery in translation. Hence we settled for the setting, (Johannesburg), the musical thrust and temperament of the story, blues, to bring the point across.

What other aspects of the novel are different in translation, if any?

The title is different. I imagine The linguistic and cultural sensibilities of the Swedish reader interacting with a “South African” text would be different – not to mention contrasts in history, and understanding of character motivations. But literature has, on the other hand, matured the imagination over time – and one does not have to be an Elizabethan bloke to understand and appreciate Othello or Merchant of Venice, or Irish to savour Dubliners. Or Yoruba to read and comprehend Soyinka, or a Spaniard for Javier Marias. So there must be subtle differences – but the master key is in the Swedish language, which I do not speak, write or comprehend; to allow me to venture an intelligent, accurate and informed answer. I cannot pinpoint, with exactitude, is therefore, my final answer.

How did the Swedes respond to the novel? Had many of them read it?

Swedish people are warm, friendly and wonderful hosts – or at least that is my experience. This extends to their media and it’s appreciation of cultural industries, including literature. The book was reviewed favorably and extensively in the Swedish print and broadcast media – if that be a measurement.

How many readers? I don’t know exact numbers as the book was launched during my visit. I have, however, signed a lot of copies for readers. Many, many copies.

How did you enjoy the Stockholm Literature Festival? Was it very different to South African literary festivals that you’ve attended?

I enjoyed the festival immensely. I think literary festivals are similar, DNA wise, except small variations in size, invited authors, themes. A telling difference was the immediacy with which their media engage festival discussions and outcomes – with vigor and promptness. This plugs into some serious space and time dedicated to literature and art in general, which I noted with subtle admiration and harmless envy.

Did you manage to catch any events, as an audience member?

Yes. I attended some readings, paper presentations, and talks by other writers. I also attended an art exhibition at the Moderna Museet, which was thought provoking.

How did your discussion with Elisabeth Hjorth go? What kind of topics did you chat about?

It went well. I had been, given the finite time allocated to author slots, chatting to Elisabeth on email at least two to three weeks before the actual festival: bouncing ideas around, drawing on contrasts and similarities in literature production and consumption; the writer’s life and world.

We on stage, spoke about Joburg Blues, South African history, representation of women in my books, civilisation, higher consciousness in thought and action, the rights of animals, the tension between the universal and the personal, state power vs freedom of the citizenry, and so on.

What kind of questions did you receive from the Swedish audience?

I got tons of questions from the Swedish press: again, touching on: South African and world history, my views on themes of love and solitude, questions on the whys and hows of my appreciation of music, my literary influences, the African literature canon, existential philosophy and philosophy in general in my fiction, indirectly, thoughts on Camus and Sartre, poetry, and my “famous” nameless narrator in Small Things / Joburg Blues.

Book details

  • Joburg Blues by Nthikeng Mohlele
    Book homepage
    EAN: 9789187347634

Come and Eat Ice Cream for a Good Cause with Book Dash at The Creamery in Cape Town

Book Dash Event

Book Dash invites you to a fundraising event to print and distribute more books to children in need. Book Dash believes that each child should own 100 books by the age of five.

The event will take place on Thursday, 13 November, at The Creamery from 5:30 to 7 PM. The Creamery will donate 15% of all ice creams sold to Book Dash.

Book Dash was super active this year, with three books launched on Mandela Day and a special project for Women’s Month. The Book Dash Thundafund campaign aims to promote literacy among all children.

Come and support a worthy cause!

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 13 November 2014
  • Time: 5:30 to 7:00 PM
  • Venue: The Creamery
    Salt River Cafe
    97 Durham Avenue
    Cape Town | Map
  • From the pens of the authors involved in Book Dash:

    Killing TimeEmbracing DigitalRide the TortoiseFeast, Famine and Potluck

    As jy 'n ster sien verskietSister-SisterThe Whole Food AlmanacAdults Only

Strange Days: Ray Hartley Reviews Imraan Coovadia's Tales of the Metric System

By Ray Hartley for the Sunday Times

imraan coovadia

Tales of the Metric SystemTales Of The Metric System
Imraan Coovadia (Umuzi)

This book is based on a simple idea: take 10 days in the life of South Africa, spread over the last four decades, and tell a personal story that played out on each of the days.

But Imraan Coovadia takes that basic structure and weaves a complex web. For one thing the same lives float in and out of the stories, the characters changed by the years, shedding their skin to resurface in roles with diminishing moral clarity. For another, there is a larger binding story that ties them all together.

That larger story, until now almost exclusively the preserve non-fiction, is of how people connected to the Struggle – via a spouse assassinated by the system, for example, or through the underground anti-apartheid arts – are transformed from outsiders to insiders, sometimes losing their way.

More effectively than any political tract, Coovadia quietly and subtly probes the struggle ideologies of liberalism, black consciousness and non-racialism. You feel his presence behind the prose, watching you with eyes that are at once amused, mocking and empathetic.

We are introduced to a white academic who starts a Free University for activists, living one step away from the closing net of the system and ultimately paying a heavy price.

But even as we warm to the rightness of his cause, our certainty is weakened by the black consciousness activist, Satya, brought to life with Coovadia’s unerring prose: “His hair, in the bulk of its majesty, was unsteady around his head. It trembled like Kastoori’s type of jelly”.

In Satya’s world, the Free University is not to be embraced. “Biko would say it’s an institutional disease for white people in this country. They want to speak on behalf of others. Even when they are with you, they want to speak in your place.”

Coovadia’s characters swim in and out of fiction, sometimes coming into focus as well-known icons of the struggle. The charming, pipe-smoking activist hanging out in London in the 1980s could only be Thabo Mbeki. Several other partially biographical figures appear in cameo, suddenly bringing the story into the real world, only to recede as the fiction takes over once more.

In London’s Soviet embassy in 1985 we meet the drunken Gerasimov who becomes the unlikely revealer of Coovadia’s purpose: “I believe, Sebastian, that novels are more important than ever. They are more important than video recorders and record players and television because they enable us to exercise our minds. They allow us to step back and see where the history is taking us.”

This “stepping back” is exactly what Tales of the Metric System does. But this is not a proselytising pamphlet. Coovadia does not preach so much as present for our observation the world of politics and its players, each tragically convinced of their correctness.

When power shifts after 1994, the outsiders find themselves on the inside. We are taken to a box at Ellis Park where the rugby World Cup final is being played in 1995. Now one of the anti-apartheid activists from London, Farhad, is in power and telling his businessman friend: “There are big contracts at stake, army, navy, atomic power stations. Who would have thought, ten years ago, that we would be standing here at Ellis Park, in our own private area, and talking about submarines?”

There is the figure of Sparks – Mandela and Mbeki’s spokesman Parks Mankahlana comes immediately to mind – who finds himself in hospital dying of Aids, but not allowed anti-retrovirals because of the president’s belief that they are killers. When the foreign doctor, Gerhard, assigned to treat him by the president, is questioned by another, he says: “We have our instructions to avoid poisoning him with anti-retrovirals. Within those parameters, within those conditions that have been set by the patient, let us try to be responsible physicians.” The phrase “only following orders” comes to mind.

It is the book’s darkest chapter and Coovadia’s commentary is a cold indictment. “When the elections had happened, people anticipated a flood of new investment from overseas, money from the car companies, new technologies, trade routes. Instead it had been the coffin-makers and traditional healers, funeral-parlour masters and graveyard priests, who did a roaring trade. Business was almost too good.”

With its elegant prose and its ruthless determination to lead you to the truth, Tales of the Metric System is about as good a book as you are likely to read on South Africa’s transition from struggle to power.

Follow Ray Hartley on Twitter @hartleyr

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