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UKZN Press reveal covers for new books!

With subject matters as diverse as Zulu short stories, reference books on Southern African architectural terms, and the role of NGOs in bringing about social justice, UKZN Press has a vast array of exciting new titles which are now available. Read all about the featured books here.

Book details

  • The Art of Life in South Africa by Daniel R. MagazinerThe Art of Life in South Africa
    EAN: 9780821422519
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    • Inhlamvu Yelanga edited by Mandla MaphumuloInhlamvu Yelanga

    EAN: 9781869143275
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  • Living Together, Living Apart?: Social Cohesion in a Future South Africa by Christopher Ballantine, Kira Erwin, Gerhard MareLiving Together, Living Apart?
    EAN: 9781869143329
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Check out the programme for this year's Franschhoek Literary Festival!

The quaint Western Cape town of Franschhoek will be accommodating South Africa’s literary greats from Friday 19 May to Sunday 21 May.

This annual literary festival’s 2017 line-up can only be described as one which skrik’s vir niks.

Festival-goers can expect discussions and debates featuring Rebecca Davis, author of Best White and Other Delusions, in conversation with agricultural economist Tracy Ledger (An Empty Plate) and African diplomacy scholar Oscar van Heerden (Consistent or Confused) on the ever-dividing rift between South Africans; the Sunday Times‘ contributing books editor Michele Magwood asks publishers Phehello Mofokeng (Geko Publishing), Thabiso Mahlape (BlackBird Books) and short story writer Lidudumalingani Mqombothi (recipient of the 2016 Caine Prize Winner for Memories We Lost, published in The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things) whether there’s a shortage of black fiction authors; and poet Rustum Kozain (Groundwork) will discuss Antjie Krog, Lady Anne: A Chronicle in Verse with the acclaimed poet herself.

And that’s just day one!

Find the full programme here.

Tickets are available from


Best White and Other Anxious Delusions

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Lady Anne


An Empty Plate


The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories

  • The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 by Caine Prize
    EAN: 9781566560160
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Consistent or Confused

Theme for Short Story Day Africa Prize 2017 announced!

Short Story Day Africa’s theme for 2017 is “ID”. This year the judges will be looking for innovative short fiction that explores identity, especially (but not limited to) the themes of gender identity and sexuality.

In early psychoanalysis, the “Id” was postulated as being one of three aspects of personality, and the only one over which we have no control. Often hidden and home to the unconscious, the Id is the core of the self, our instinctual nature, our deepest desires. The I before ego, the earliest version of ourselves, the who we are before we have had time to be.

In modern Africa, our identities are too often defined for us and not by us, trapped by society, biology and history. In 2017, we hope to see work that seeks to break and redefine the strictures put onto our identities, as individuals and as peoples. Fiction that looks beyond the boundaries of expectation, and peers into the truest definitions of ourselves.

Submissions open 1 June 2017.

Visit their website for more information.

Fiction Friday: read award-winning Nigerian author Sefi Atta's short story Unsuitable Ties

Sefi Atta was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1964 and schooled in England, where she qualified as a chartered accountant. Numerical knack aside, Atta’s aptitude for writing has not gone unnoticed. Atta was awarded the 2006 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, shortlisted for the 2006 Caine Prize for African Fiction, and the recipient of the 2009 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, among others. Her short stories collection, News From Home was published in 2010. Read an extract from her short story Unsuitable Ties, originally published in Expound here:

She would rather not be here tonight. For her, a dinner party at a hotel – especially a five-star hotel like this in London – is research work. She might notice a seating-card design, a flower arrangement or some other catering idea she can use when she returns to Lagos. She will study the menu from hors d’oeuvres to desserts. As for the company, she knows what to expect; rich Nigerians, all connected to each other.

The hotel, Greek Revival style, is in Knightsbridge. It is cold for May, so she and her husband, Akin, wear coats, which they leave at the cloakroom near the lobby. The cloakroom attendant hands her a ticket and she puts it in her clutch bag. She is conscious of her heels clip-clopping along the marble- floored corridor that leads to the bar. At the entrance of the bar, a waiter lifts a silver tray with flutes of champagne and Buck’s Fizz. She goes for the champagne, as does Akin. They thank the waiter, a woman.

The bar resembles a candle-lit library in a stately home. It has shelves of old, leather-bound books and maroon patterned wallpaper. Cocktails are at 7 p.m., dinner is at 7.45 p.m., followed by dancing. Carriages are at 1 a.m. The dress code is black tie. Akin has decided that means he can get away with wearing a tie that is black.

She took the time and trouble to go from their flat in West Kensington to Kensington High Street to buy a new dress the day before. It was typical of Akin to forget he needed a bow tie until the last moment, yet he was the one who insisted that she come.

Other guests are on time. All are appropriately turned out, a few in colourful traditional Nigerian wear. She and Akin return their smiles and waves as they approach their host, Saheed Balogun.

“How now, my brother?” Saheed asks.

“Hey,” Akin says, shaking Saheed’s hand.

“Saheed,” she says, with a nod.

Saheed looks as if he has only just recognised her. “Yemisi! Long time no see!”

She winces involuntarily as he hugs her. She has become used to seeing his face under newspaper headlines since his fraud investigation began a month ago. He was also recently listed in an online magazine as one of Nigeria’s top ten billionaires. He is remarkably slight in person and sports a grey goatee. His bow tie is not quite as symmetrical after he hugs her. She was not expecting him to welcome her that way. Feeling hijacked, she looks around the bar and asks, “Where is Funke?”

“She’s taking care of last-minute seating arrangements,” Saheed says.

Yemisi grimaces. Nigerians don’t always RSVP and sometimes show up with extra guests. Funke is Saheed’s wife. Yemisi might call her an old friend, though she is more accurately someone Yemisi socialised with when they were both law undergrads. Funke was at the University of Lagos while she was at University College London. Their paths often crossed in Lagos and London. For reasons she can’t explain, she doesn’t mind Funke, but she absolutely cannot stand Saheed.

She leaves Akin with him. She told Akin she intended to stay as far away from Saheed as possible. That was the condition on which she came.

You can continue reading Unsuitable Ties here.


News From Home

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Migrations: New Short Stories from Africa available now

From our ancestors’ first forays through the continent, to the contemporary diaspora spread around the world, people are eternally moving in, out and about the African continent. Not everyone leaves of their own volition, and not everyone comes with the best intentions: nevertheless, the story of Africa is the story of souls migrating, settling, unsettling, fleeing, seeking, resting, nesting and sharing stories, experiences and myths.

From treks both physical and spiritual, journeys both internal and across continents, from the comfort of ancient myth to the desperation of those currently fleeing their homes, Short Story Day Africa’s latest collection brings a fresh, urgent perspective to one of our most profound phenomena, and the basis of all our greatest stories.

The 21 new exciting voices, both new and established, including Mirette Bhagat Eskaros, TJ Benson, Arja Salafranca, Sibongile Fisher, Fred Khumalo and Karen Jennings, make Migrations a moving, informative and immersive read. Efemia Chela, Bongani Kona and Helen Moffett.

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Fiction Friday: Read the winning entry of 2017's Short Story Day Africa here

TJ Benson

When Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, addressed the TED Conference in 2009, she spoke of the danger of the single story, a distorted, one-dimensional view of Africa that sees the continent only through a prism of war, disease, poverty, starvation and corruption. Short Story Day Africa has established a day, 21st June – the shortest day of the year – on which to celebrate the diversity of Africa’s voices and tell you who we really are; what we love; love to eat, read, write about. We want to bring you the scents on our street corners, the gossip from our neighbours, let you listen to strains of the music we dance to.

Short Story Day Africa brings together writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, teachers and school children from all over the globe to write, submit, read, workshop and discuss stories – and foster the love of reading and writing African fiction. Because we have something to tell the world. About us. In our own voices.

The Short Story Day Africa prize is annually awarded to an African writer who brings a “fresh, urgent perspective” to narratives on and about the continent. The recipient of 2017′s Short Story Day Africa prize is TJ Benson, as selected by judges Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe), Sindiwe Magona (South Africa), and Hawa Jade Golakai (Liberia).

Benson is a Nigerian short story writer and creative photographer whose work has appeared in online journals like Jalada Africa, Munyori Journal, Brittle Paper, Praxis Magazine, Sentinel Literary Magazine and in print magazines and anthologies like Paragram UK, ANA Annual Review, Contemporary Literary Review India and Transition Magazine. His photography chapbook, ‘Rituals’ was published as a downloadable PDF on Sankofa Magazine in 2015 and his collection of Afro-Sci-Fi short stories, We Won’t Fade Into Darkness was shortlisted for the Saraba Manuscript Prize in 2016. He won the Amab-HBF Prize and his short story Tea is the first runner up for the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize. He was mentioned twice in Expound Journal’s Best of 2016 and once in Brittle Paper’s Top 31 of 2016. He is currently a Writer-In-Residence at the Ebedi Residency Iseyin, Nigeria.

Tea, by TJ Benson:

She is Tiv and knows no English. He is German with familial connections to the Nazis. They are in a hotel room somewhere in Italy. On the bed is an assortment of sex toys. A gruff voice behind the camera orders them to take off their clothes. The girl doesn’t understand English, and a heavy-set woman in an orange buba gown whispers the translation into her ear. The boy places his finger on the girl’s cheek, testing the texture. She shivers at the touch. Chalked in white on the charcoal placard are the words, From Italy, with Love.
They have each taken different paths to get here. He, a small-town boy, has been roaming around Europe on a quest to find himself after killing his co-worker at the textile factory back home. It had been an accident. Involuntary manslaughter. She has been brought here by the woman in the orange buba. It’s the old story. Young girl from a small village fed tales of
steady employment and a high salary in Europe. No sooner had the plane landed in Sicily than she realised it had all been a hoax.
“No, no, it will be just acting,” the woman said, “nobody will tamper with your virginity.” If she could just do like fifty thirty-minute videos, the woman said, she could return to Nigeria a queen.
And so, here they are. The boy is staring at the girl. Searching for words to tell her it will be okay, that he won’t do anything outside their contract. The director who scouted him last week had informed him that his co-star might not speak English, but that would not affect the script. And he didn’t think he would want to say anything, until now, stripped down to his briefs. He thinks of the few English words that he knows. Re-arranging the order of them in his head. Thinks of what he might say to the girl.
The director growls. Yells at the woman in the orange buba. He closes his eyes and focuses on the English words fired from the Italian man to the furious woman. She is saying that what he wants is not in the contract. “That’s the point!” he shouts. “The boy. The girl. They are not supposed to know.” It will make her acting more real, the pain and aftermath of the pleasure more genuine.
The boy doesn’t realise how angry he is. He is more stunned than anyone in the room when the bedside lamp leaves his hand and smashes into the director’s head. The man crashes to the ground, dragging the tripod and the camera with him. The assistant tries to make a run for it, but the German boy rushes at him with a barrage of punches. He doesn’t stop until he hears a gunshot behind him. The madam, her face contorted into a strange expression, falls to the ground. Behind her stands the girl, in white lace underwear, a gun pointed in front of her. She is shaking.
Sense returns to him. He approaches her cautiously. What is her name? Useless question. How do they get out of here?
Two knocks on the door. Brisk, polite knocks. Tap. Tap. He shuts his eyes. Ice cream … balloon … mirror … bicycle … cloud … spaghetti… The random association of words helps him relax. He exhales. Opens his eyes and turns to her, placing a finger over his lips. She nods. The air is raw with tension. The knocking persists. Faster now. Tap-tap-tap. He pushes the bodies into the wardrobe and walks to the door.
The bellboy apologises for the disturbance and informs them that neighbours said they heard gunshots coming from this room. The management has sent him to make sure that everything is all right. Could the boy open the door so he can enter the room and check that everything is all right?
The boy is livid. What sort of management is this? How dare they intrude on his privacy? The young porter, very politely, informs him that if he doesn’t open the door, he will have to get help from security. After a few minutes the boy opens the door. The bellboy is astonished to find a white man in black briefs holding a black girl in white lingerie, both wearing masks. He decides he has seen enough when his eyes fall on the sex toys on the bed. He apologises for the intrusion on behalf of the hotel management, but they should please be more discreet, he says, before closing the door.
A giggle escapes the girl’s lips when he shuts the door. It’s the last thing he expects. He giggles too, and they collapse onto the bed in laughter. It dawns on them when the laughter has ceased that it is the only language they have in common. They lie on the bed for a while, contemplating the colour of each other’s skin: light brown and pale white. It’s like nothing the
other has seen before. The sounds from the morning traffic below float into the room, muted like music from a dream as they study each other on the bed. Then, in his peripheral vision, the boy sees blood dripping from the wardrobe.
We have to get out of here, he thinks, jumping out of bed and cursing himself in German. He has to find a way to talk to her. He gestures to the girl – whose eyes are welling with tears at the sight of blood – to put on her clothes. A red T-shirt and a denim skirt. She heads for the door once she’s dressed. No, no, no! He gestures. We can’t go out through the entrance. They will see our faces.
He motions her over to the window. The street is just a few storeys down. No wonder they could hear the traffic. He guides her out of the window onto the ledge below. They climb down level after level of the hotel until they get to the last floor and jump into a parked truck laden with sacks of flour. When they turn to see their faces whitened with flour, they both laugh. The laughter is broken by the sudden rheumatic cough of the truck’s engine. As they truck begins picking up speed, they reach for each other’s hands. That too, is another language they have in common. Touch. The truck stops at the kitchen of another hotel. On impulse, the boy decides to carry the sacks into the kitchen, and the girl follows his lead. Afterwards, the sous-chef serves them lunch. In the evening, once all the sacks of flour have been packed away in the pantry, the chef pays them each ten euros. Tells them to come back tomorrow.
“Danke,” says the boy to the man. “Or tom kuma nja,” she says. A worker is worthy of his pay. The boy doesn’t know what it means, but he laughs anyway.
They spend that first night together sleeping under a bridge, their bodies wrapped around each for warmth.
After a month of working dead-end jobs, they’re able to afford a rundown apartment on the outskirts of the city. The boy’s grasp of English is rudimentary, but he knows just enough to know that the police are searching for two young foreigners in connection with the case of a murdered woman. The report he read in the paper said that the woman’s body was found in a hotel room and the two foreigners, a boy and a girl, are still at large. If seen, please contact… He balled up the paper and threw it out the window.
The girl is making cocoa and milk. They have argued about whether this beverage should be called tea or not. The boy had wanted to broaden her English by showing her different labels in shop windows – slimming tea, Chinese tea, mint tea… But the girl just sighed. Then she rushed into a shop and seized a canister of chocolate powder and a tin of milk, and screamed with ferocity: “Tea!” She was sick with a cold, so he didn’t argue. He just smiled at the Italians staring at them and paid for the goods at the till. But her cold has gotten worse since then, and he is glad he bought the “tea” because it is the only thing that will stay in her stomach.
Even days like this are wonderful. Days when she is too sick to work and neither of them have money for food; they just lie there on the battered sofa in the living room, in each other’s arms, enjoying the silence, as time goes by. They don’t know that their neighbour, the woman next door who sleeps all day, is a sex worker who receives her clients only at night. They don’t
know that in the room next to the sex worker is a wiry young Italian painter contemplating suicide because he has realised that he will never be as good as his predecessors. They don’t know that on the floor right above them, a thickset detective spends his nights trying to figure out the mystery of the missing German boy and Nigerian girl.
On one such day, he wakes to the gentle burn of the sun on his face, but as he drifts from sleep into consciousness he realises that she’s not there with him. No more in his arms. He leaps from the sofa in a panic. He feels a desperate urge to call out her name. He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He still doesn’t know her name. The realisation moves him to tears.
Where could she be? She’s still no good at English or Italian, anything could happen. Oranges… duck… Santa Claus… obelisk… rice… leather. As always, the habit of stringing random words together calms him. Returns him to himself. He drags in a lungful of breath and begins searching the apartment. The place is small and it takes him less than a minute to search through all the rooms. She’s nowhere to be found.
He curses himself in German as he pulls his shirt on. Why did he take her health for granted? He’d been afraid that the pharmacist would ask questions he wouldn’t have answers to. Questions like “Where are your papers?” or “Do you have health insurance?”

He runs from door to door asking if anyone has seen her. A slim black girl who can’t speak English or Italian. Nobody has seen her. Again he feels the urge to scream out her name. He flies down the stairs prepared to go out to the world and look for her. He leaps outside into her embrace but he doesn’t know this immediately, he thinks he has been caught by the authorities. But the body is soft and familiar, so he looks at the face and yells: “Where the fuck have you been?”
“Show you. I show you,” she says, grabbing his hand.
“I show you.”
He relaxes when the path she leads him becomes familiar, their route to
the restaurant.
“It’s Sunday,” he says, almost jogging to keep up with her, “you know
they won’t let us work on Sunday.”
“No, not work.”
She points to the broken-down ice cream truck parked next to the flour
truck. The ice-cream van has been parked there ever since they first arrived here.
“Tea,” she says.
“Tea,” she says.
His mind clears and it dawns on him what she means. “No! No way!” he says. They will never have enough money to buy enough cocoa powder and milk to start the “tea” business, and besides, who will buy anyway?
“Them,” she points to a black father, mother, and child in matching check shirts crossing the street. “We make them like tea.”

The next month they work extra hours at the restaurant so that they can afford to buy the ice-cream van. Gradually, the girl’s English improves, and they start to grow apart. He misses the days when they could anticipate each other’s wants, those days of silence when there was no language between them, when a million things could be communicated withtouch. Now her English is getting better, so no more hand on the shoulder when she needs something.
They take alternate shifts at the restaurant, and they see each now only at night when they’re both exhausted. The girl also misses the way things used to be. Sometimes, when she is walking home after a shift, she imagines them rolling on the couch together, their bodies colliding in the heat.
One night she comes back from a late shift ecstatic, but he pays no attention. When he wakes up the next morning and sees her dressing with a big, luminous smile, somehow he knows, even before she says it. “You’re leaving.”
She doesn’t deny it, and that only makes it worse. The police have plastered notices in three languages – Tiv, English and Italian – begging the Nigerian girl who miraculously escaped being forced into pornography to make contact. The notices said her country wanted her back; that the governor of her state would sponsor her trip back home. The only thing she had to do was to turn up at the same hotel she’d escaped from. But all he gets from her long explanation is that she’s leaving.
He doesn’t ask her stupid questions like what she’s going to do when she gets back, or why they didn’t ask her to turn up at the police station. He knows they know she is a stranger here and might fall prey to all kinds of people.
The only thing he can ask from the sofa is “What of tea?”
“That is for if I stay. I not stay anymore. I want to go home.” She looks down at her lap with a sad smile. Somehow she has grown into a woman over these few months, and even this realisation is painful.
He massages his temple to stay sane. “This…” he says, stabbing the couch
with his finger, “this is home!”
“I want to go home.” A cry this time, a plea.
He descends the mount of his fury; he can never say no to her. He motions her over to him.
“If I hug you, it will be hard… to go,” she says.
“Come here! You can’t go home with all that chaos on your head.”
She fingers a braid and smiles as he motions her over. “Come, come,” he says.

They spend the morning curled on the couch, like they used to. She tells him about her family. Subsistence farmers. How they moved from Benue state, into the wilds of another state called Taraba. How they were killed in the ethnic conflict that followed. The girl had been the only
survivor, was rescued by missionaries. But then a kind rich woman who had been rescuing young girls had assured her that some members of her family were still alive, and that she would see them again if she got into her car. The Reverend promised her that an angel would protect her. The woman took care of her and some other girls for a month, feeding them but making sure they didn’t talk to each other. A few weeks later, she found herself here.
Once she’s done, he braces himself to tell her his story. He tells her about the accident at the textile factory and how he ran away, with only a bag of clothes and not much else.
“So where were you going?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “I was roaming the continent when that bastard found me. I think the most important question now is: what about you? When are you planning on leaving?”
He smiles as he says this. The sun is behind his head, and as she looks at him, the girl thinks of an angel smiling at her, mesmerised at the cards fate has played. In that instant, she realises she could never leave him. Even if she did, the feel of his fingers on her skin is something she would never forget.She doesn’t know that the notice is a hoax to lure her back into the hands of her traffickers. In fact, she will never know. For now, she says to him, “This is home.” She shuts the door. “We make them like tea.”

TJ’s story is one of many in the latest edition of New Short Stories From Africa.


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