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Sold out all over: Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips causing 'good problems' for Modjaji Books

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Jolyn Phillips’s first book, Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories is causing waves for Modjaji Books and for her and in all kinds of ways.

There are lots of firsts associated with this book. It was selected for Homebru by Exclusive Books and it wasn’t even a book that we submitted – because short stories. It’s a collection of short stories by a debut author.

As far as we know it is the first literary book to come out of Gansbaai.

The launch at The Book Lounge was packed and all copies of Tjieng Tjang Tjerries sold out.

Jolyn appeared at the Franschhoek Lit Fest this year on a panel with Deon Meyer, Rahla Xenopoulos and Darrel Bristow-Bovey. Fabulous, talented and celebrated as the three other panelists are, for me Jolyn stole the show. All her books were sold out at Franschhoek too. These are good problems for a new writer and her publisher to have.

Jolyn Phillips and Tjieng Tjang Tjerries are part of #HomeBru at Exclusive Books

A photo posted by Colleen Higgs (@colleenhiggs) on

 
There was an interview with Jolyn in the Mail & Guardian (click here to read the whole interview).

This is what Jolyn says about writing in the short story form:

“Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. I find that one should just write your truth and your stories will mould into the shape they need. I had 13 different lives and, although from the same cloth of landscape, they wanted to be given a moment that was only theirs.

Believe me, I tried making them poetry. I even tried to make it a novel but my characters taught me that everything is character. Language is character. Landscape is character. I tried to tell my characters what to do and they took the pen from my hand, pushed me aside and wrote themselves.”

She was also interviewed for Glamour, where I was interested in her list of favourite books.

The first review that the collection got was a BIG, RAVE review in the Cape Times (click for larger image):

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Jolyn Phillips’ language is highly original, a vibrant English, full of colloquialisms and Afrikaans too, making it challenging for those who are not fluent in both English and Afrikaans. See the review below by Jay Heale for BookChat.

TJIENG TJANG TJERRIES & other short stories by Jolyn Phillips (Modjaji Books 2016)

You need to be strongly bilingual (which I am not) to capture the rich flavour of the coarse, colourful Gansbaai patois. I’m not sure why the author has chosen to put most of this in English, as I’m sure that the real Gansbaai residents talk mostly Afrikaans with racy, rude, frequently funny additions of their own. Without doubt, this is a bold piece of adventure into language with an utterly Overberg flavour.

If you would like to read a couple of the stories, they were published online at:

Aerodrome and

Books LIVE!

Here’s a radio interview with Tamara LePine on Classic FM:


 

In the meantime, we’re looking forward to a Gansbaai launch in July. Phillips is a young writer to keep an eye on!

Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories

Book details

2016 Open Book Festival: Confirmed international and local authors announced

2016 Open Book Festival: Confirmed international and local authors announced

 

Alert! The Open Book Festival has announced the first group of confirmed international and local authors for this year’s event.

The sixth annual Open Book will take place from 7 to 11 September in Cape Town.

This year’s festival will comprise more than 100 events, at The Fugard Theatre, the District Six Homecoming Centre and The Book Lounge.

The final programme will be available in early August, and tickets will be available on Webtickets.

“We are thrilled to be announcing the first group of authors for Open Book Festival 2016,” festival director Mervyn Sloman says. “We have confirmed participants joining us from Botswana, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Ghana, Holland, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Reunion, United Kingdom and USA.

“As always we look forward to an outstanding collection of powerful South African writers talking about their work on the international stage that Open Book provides.

“I can’t wait to see the impact the likes of Pumla Dineo Gqola, Fred Khumalo, Bongani Madondo, Mohale Mashigo and Yewande Omotoso are going to have on Cape Town audiences. These writers are the tip of a very exciting iceberg that gives us cause for celebration in the SA book world that has many real and difficult challenges.”

RapeBitches' BrewSigh The Beloved CountryThe YearningThe Woman Next Door

 

Check out the confirmed international authors:

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Adeiye “MC Complex” Tjon Tam Pau is a coach and workshop master for Poetry Circle Nowhere – a collective of writing performers in the Netherlands – and is active in the Dutch and international hip-hop scene.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullReacher Said Nothing
Andy Martin is a lecturer in French literature and philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Most recently he published Reacher Said Nothing, a book about Lee Child writing his 21st Reacher novel, Make Me
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullThe Bear's Surprise
Benjamin Chaud was born in Briançon in the Hautes-Alpes and he studied drawing and applied arts at the Arts Appliqués in Paris and the Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg. His award-winning books have been translated into over 20 languages.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullThe Fishermen
Chigozie Obioma was born in Nigeria and is currently the professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His debut novel, The Fishermen, was an international hit.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullWhat Belongs to You
Garth Greenwell‘s novella Mitko won the 2010 Miami University Press Novella Prize and was a finalist for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction and a Lambda Literary Award. What Belongs to You is his debut novel.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullDaydreams of Angels
Heather O’Neill is a Canadian novelist, poet, short-story writer, screenwriter and essayist. Lullabies for Little Criminals, her debut novel, was published in 2006 to international critical acclaim. She has since published the novel The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and the short story collection Daydreams of Angels.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullDracula
Hippolyte resides in Reunion but was born and raised in the Alps, where he got his interest in comics by reading old American comic books. He gained success with his adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published in two volumes by Vents d’Ouest in 2003 and 2004.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

nullThree Words
Indira Neville is a New Zealand comics artist, community organiser, editor and commentator. She has been making comics for over 20 years. Recently, she co-edited the anthology Three Words, a collection of Aotearoa/New Zealand women’s comics.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullThe World According to Anna
Jostein Gaarder is the author of several novels, short stories and children’s books, including Sophie’s World, which was translated into 60 languages and has sold over 40 million copies. His most recent novel translated into English is The World According to Anna.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

nullThe Prophets of Eternal Fjord
Kim Leine is a Danish-Norwegian novelist. He received the Golden Laurel award and the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize for his novel, The Prophets of Eternal Fjord.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullThe Scattering
Lauri Kubuitsile lives in Botswana. She has written children’s books, short stories, novellas and several romance novels. The Scattering, her most recent novel, was published this year.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullThe Gonjon Pin and Other Stories
Martin Egblewogbe is a short story writer, lecturer in Physics at the University of Ghana and the co-founder of the Writers Project of Ghana. His short story “The Gonjon Pin” is the title story in the 2014 Caine Prize collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullBorderline
Journalist Michela Wrong has spent nearly two decades writing about Africa. In 2014 she was appointed literary director of the Miles Morland Foundation and is a trustee of Human Rights Watch Africa, the Africa Research Institute and the NGO Justice Africa. She is the author of a number of non-fiction books. Borderlines is her first novel.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullNemesis
Misha Glenny is a distinguished investigative journalist and one of the world’s leading experts on cybercrime and on global mafia networks. He is the author of several books, most recently Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullWhen the Moon is Low
Nadia Hashimi‘s parents left Afghanistan in the 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. She was raised in the United States and in 2002 made her first trip to Afghanistan. Her debut novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, was an international bestseller. When The Moon Is Low followed in 2015 and her latest novel is due in 2016.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullBinti
Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Her novella, Binti, recently won a prestigious Nebula Award.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullThe Winter War
Philip Teir is considered one of the most promising writers in Finland. His poetry and short stories have been included in anthologies, including Granta Finland. The Winter War is his first novel.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullCarnival
Rawi Hage was born in Beirut and lived through nine years of the Lebanese civil war during the 1970s and 1980s. He emigrated to Canada in 1992 and now lives in Montreal. His first novel, De Niro’s Game, won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His most recent novel, Carnival, won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullStalin's Daughter
Rosemary Sullivan is the author of 14 books, including biographies, children’s books and poetry. She is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto. In 2012, she was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in Ontario and was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada (Canada’s highest civilian award) for outstanding contributions to Canadian Literature and Culture.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
nullYour Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist
Sunil Yapa is the son of a Sri Lankan father and an American mother. He received his MFA from Hunter College in New York City in 2010, was awarded the Alumni Scholarship & Welfare Fund Fellowship, and was twice selected as a Hertog Fellow. He is the recipient of the 2010 Asian American Short Story Award. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is his first novel.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Book details

Africa is calling: Call for entries for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature - and judges announced

Call for entries for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature - and judges announced

 
Etisalat has announced its call for entries for the 2016 edition of the Etisalat Prize for Literature.

The Etisalat Prize for Literature is a Pan African prize that celebrates debut African writers of published fiction. Previous winners are Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo (2013), South Africa’s Songeziwe Mahlangu (2014) and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila (2015).

We Need New NamesPenumbraTram 83

 
The winner receives a cash prize of £15,000 (about R325,000) in addition to a fellowship at the prestigious University of East Anglia, UK, under the mentorship of Professor Giles Foden, the award-winning author of The Last King of Scotland.

The Etisalat Prize also incorporates an award for Flash Fiction; an online-based competition for non-published African writers of short stories.

Matthew Willsher, CEO of Etisalat Nigeria, said at a press briefing in Lagos, Nigeria, that the prize is designed to serve as a leading platform for the discovery and encouraging of creative writing talents as well as the celebration of literary arts by African writers.

“We are delighted to champion the cause for celebrating the richness and strength of African literature,” he said. “The Etisalat Prize for Literature is about discovering and bringing to the world stage the many creative talent Africa boasts of.

“The Etisalat Prize is about creativity, excellence, empowerment and reward; it is about celebrating our African diversity in very innovative ways through various forms of art, literature being one of them.”

Willsher added that only books by debut writers, published not later than 24 months before submission, will qualify for entry. “They must also be by registered publishing houses not less than six years as incorporated publishers with registered ISBN Number or the equivalent, and who must have published a minimum of six authors. All entries should be accompanied by seven copies of the book entered along with an acceptance of our publicity terms. A publisher may submit a maximum of three books.”

The rules and guidelines for entry are available on the Etisalat Prize website.

Willsher also announced the judging panel for the 2016 Etisalat Prize. The panel comprises Nigerian novelist and poet Helon Habila (chair), South African writer and activist Elinor Sisulu and Ivorian writer, Edwige Rene Dro.

About the judging panel

Waiting for an AngelMeasuring TimeOil on WaterThe Granta Book of the African Short StoryNigerian-born Helon Habila is a writer, poet, author and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University, USA. His novels include, Waiting for an Angel (2002), Measuring Time (2007), and Oil on Water (2010). He is the editor of the Granta Book of African Short Story (2011).

Habila’s novels, poems, and short stories have won many honours and awards, including the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Section), the Caine Prize, the Virginia Library Foundation Prize for fiction and most recently the Windham-Campbell Prize.

Habila has been a contributing editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review since 2004, and he is a regular reviewer for The Guardian.

The Day Gogo Went to VoteWalter and Albertina SisuluElinor Sisulu is a Zimbabwean-born South Africa writer and human rights activist. Sisulu combines training in history, English literature, development studies and feminist theory from institutions in Zimbabwe, Senegal and the Netherlands.

She is the author of the award-winning children’s book The Day Gogo Went to Vote. Her biography on her parents-in-law, Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime secured her the prestigious 2003 Noma Award for publishing in Africa.

Sisulu’s involvement in book promotion and literary development efforts for many years has culminated in her work with the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation. She has been a judge for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, the Sanlam Youth Literature Prize and the Penguin Africa Writer’s Competition.

Africa39Edwige-Renée Dro is an Ivorian writer and a translator. She is one of the 39 most promising voices under 40 from Africa, south of the Sahara as decided by the Africa39 project. She was the 2015 PEN International New Voices award judge.

Dro currently works as the director of Danbé Collection, a new imprint of l’Harmattan Editions with a focus on the promotion of Ivorian literature in Abidjan. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals.

 
 
 

Book details

Megan Ross reports back from the Iceland Writers Retreat - dubbed 'the best in the world'

Iceland Writer's Retreat

 

Megan Ross recently returned from the Iceland Writers Retreat – known as one of the world’s best and most picturesque writers retreats.

Ross is a writer, journalist and editorial designer from Gonubie in the Eastern Cape. She was selected as the female South African entrant for the PEN International New Voices Award in 2014, longlisted for the 2015 Short Sharp Stories Award and shortlisted for the 2015 Short Story Day Africa Prize.

In December, she won an Alumni Award to the Iceland Writers Retreat, and travelled to Reykjavík in April.

Read her report, and interview with IWR co-founder Eliza Reid:

It’s touted as one of the best writing retreats in the world, and after attending I must agree that the Iceland Writers Retreat lives up to its reputation. Set in picturesque Reykjavik, the retreat consists of four days of writing, events and workshops led by acclaimed authors. This year’s retreat featured workshops with Neel Mukherjee, Miriam Toews and Cheryl Strayed, among others, and was also the first year the Alumni Award was awarded. An all-inclusive prize, based on merit and financial need, the award is entirely funded by the retreat’s alumni, and is the reason I was able to travel 11,000km to beautiful Iceland for such an unforgettable writing experience.

On the last day, I caught up with co-founder of the IWR, Canadian-born writer Eliza Reid, to talk about her work-life balance, mingling with famous writers and her key ingredients for a writing retreat.

Eliza Reid of the Iceland Writer's Retreat
Eliza Reid

 

You’ve had a busy year. There’s the Iceland Writers Retreat, you’re a mother to four children and you’re also a writer. How do you manage to do so much, with a young family in tow?

Iceland is a great place for young families. There is help in the form of subsidies from the government and Reykjavik is a really safe, small city: I let my children walk home from school, and child care is reasonable. Coming from Canada, where having four kids and still working would just not be possible, it makes logistical sense to be here. I also have a home office and my husband and I have a really good domestic balance at home.

On top of this, your husband is running for the Icelandic presidency, and you might just be the new First Lady of Iceland. How is this affecting things?

At the moment I’m focusing exclusively on the campaign, where there are only another three weeks to go. I’m just doing the essential stuff for IWR and some of my other projects, while Erica [Jacobs Green, IWR co-founder] is of course, looking after a lot. We also have Lisa Shannen helping us on social media.

At the beginning of the retreat, you mentioned that you came up with the idea for a writing retreat over lunch with Erica. Tell me about that.

I like to say that most good ideas always start over booze of some sort. But really, we were over at Erica’s drinking wine in the kitchen, and Erica had just come back from a writing conference in the United States. We were having this philosophical discussion about writing and we wondered why there’s nothing like that here in Iceland when there are so many in the US … and being the kind of person who is into event organising, I piped up and said we should start our own. (We also joked that it would be a good excuse to hang out and make our lunches tax-deductable!)

Iceland Writer's Retreat

How did you get things started?

I was going to Canada, where my brother is also a writer. He and I chatted about my idea for a writers’ retreat, and I asked him what he thought peoples’ expectations would be, what we should focus on and how we would go about organising something like this. He suggested we find some authors who would be good teachers, and get some sponsors on board.

In only its first year, you attracted writers like New Yorker journalist Susan Orlean. How did you manage to secure such a famous writer for a fledgling event?

We were really lucky at first. Susan Orlean is a friend of a friend, so we were able to get her in 2014. And we just wrote Geraldine Brooks an email asking her to get involved the following year. Word of mouth helped, and getting those first authors assisted us out for the retreats that followed. We also made sure everything looked legitimate and ran smoothly. And since then, writers have been surprisingly willing. The retreat is also set in Iceland, which is a big drawcard!

Iceland is home to a rich, centuries-old literary tradition and is also the first non-native English speaking country to have a UNESCO City of Literature. Does this have anything to do with the IWR gaining such momentum in only its third year?

It helps that Iceland has its own well-known authors, along with an amazing literary culture, but honestly, I have no idea how it’s grown so big, so quickly. I guess people have enjoyed it and they’ve expressed this through word of mouth.

What is at the core of the Iceland Writers Retreat?

This isn’t a competition or a conference. It’s about bringing like-minded people together into a completely new, beautiful environment. There’s a relaxed, friendly tone. And the travel dimension is very attractive.

Iceland Writer's Retreat

How important is the team behind the scenes?

The retreat started with just Erica and I. Erica has a fulltime job so I do a lot of the day-to-day things but we make all the big decisions together. In terms of a team, we have our social media and marketing intern, Audrey Wright, who manages that aspect of things. We’re lucky to mentor her, which forms part of her university programme in Toronto. There’s also our blog manager, plus our volunteers who help out for the duration of the retreat. We also pay our volunteer coordinators, Elizabeth Nunberg and Lisa Shannen.

The event is so slick and impeccably run. How do you achieve this with such a small team?

Planning, planning and more planning. Even though we organise everything down to the last minute, there’s constant work to be done during the retreat. I mean, this year I’ve only been to one workshop. I know Erica’s also only been to one, and the rest of the time we have just been working.

How do you cope when things go awry?

No matter how well we plan things there are always little things that can go wrong. But you just have to fix them! For instance, Cheryl Strayed couldn’t come this year. She had terrible flu and couldn’t fly. But people are generally understanding, so we deal with it and move on, and learn for the following year.

Erica Green and Eliza Reid of the Iceland Writer's Retreat

You and Erica are a powerhouse team. How do you do it?

Erica and I have been friends since 2011 and just work really well together. I never have to explain myself to her, and vice versa. Communication is obviously key in this sort of thing.

Does running a writing retreat inspire your own writing career?

It most certainly does. Lately, I haven’t put a priority on my own writing career or made it my whole focus and that’s okay. On the rare occasion, I do get some writing in. But that’s really on the rare occasion.

What is your favourite part of the retreat?

I find the entire event wholly fulfilling. Erica and I joke that we’ve found a way to meet people from around the world, and make great contacts to stay with each time we travel. But seriously, I have loved creating this network of similar-minded people from all over the world, and Erica and I both enjoy playing a role in connecting people with each other.

Iceland Writer's Retreat

The Alumni Award is a great way to make this sort of event more inclusive. Was this one of its aims?

Despite us trying to make it as cost-effective as possible, we know not a lot of writers could afford to go to this sort of event. So we thought we should just ask our alumni, because they could afford to come here in the first place. Owing to their generosity, we named it for them. Although we based the Alumni Award on merit and financial need, we were well aware it would be difficult to determine who is more deserving since we don’t ask for proof of financial need. When it comes down to it, do you choose the widow with four kids and cancer from Iowa or the young female writer in Sudan? It can be difficult.

How did the Alumni Award work?

It was mainly a quick win contest. We had five hundred entries and it ended up being like this lottery. We didn’t charge an entry fee and a competition works really well because it’s great advertising too.

How long did it take to raise the funds?

We used the Icelandic version of Kickstarter, and raised 50 percent of our goal in just one day, and the rest in only two weeks. We were pleased with how ready the alumni were to help because it really showed the value of such an award.

Iceland Writer's Retreat

What is your core focus when planning the retreat each year?

We insist on small, intimate groups, as well as a good gender balance in the faculty and the classes. And then of course, it’s set in Iceland! We incorporate this tourism aspect into a lot of what we do in the form of literary tours and events. People enjoy this.

Do you have any plans to expand the IWR? Would you consider hosting another event or recreating something similar somewhere else?

We decide plans for expansion on a year-to-year basis. We like to give as many people as possible an opportunity to attend, but also want to maintain the small, friendly feeling. There’s a few tweaks lined up for 2017 which we are yet to announce. As for the latter, we’ll always host it in Iceland.

I keep imagining an event like this in South Africa. What would you tell someone looking to establish a new writing retreat?

Write a good business plan. When you’re thinking about securing a corporate sponsor, don’t tell them your event is great because it’s a good cause, give them the bottom line: tell them it will make them money! Then involve organisers and suppliers that you can trust.

Iceland Writer's Retreat

When organising a literary event on this kind of scale, what should one be aware of?

I would say that there are always going to be people who don’t like certain aspects of things. Accept this and don’t be disheartened. Another key thing is managing other people who want to come along for the ride, because there will be people who want a portion of the success when things go well.

Have you learned any valuable lessons in running the last three events?

I’ve had to learn to say no! For example, we’ve had agents approaching us to pitch at the retreat and we’ve always said no to because this just doesn’t tie in with our vision. Don’t try to be all things for all people. Erica and I have always been upfront about what the IWR is and how we run it.

And lastly, what would you say is the secret to the phenomenal success of the IWR?

We hand out feedback forms at the end of every retreat, and we take this information very seriously. You must find out what people loved and didn’t love, and grow from it. We also always keep in mind that this is our event. To anyone else, I would say to remember that you need to be loyal to your vision. Ignore any naysayers, do what you want to do and execute that.

Iceland Writer's Retreat

 
Related stories:

Incredible JourneyFeast, Famine and Potluck

Book details

Showcasing South African authors: The 2016 Homebru Selection from Exclusive Books

The 2016 Homebru Selection from Exclusive Books

 
For the month of June Exclusive Books is celebrating great South African authors and great South African books with its 15th annual Homebru campaign.

Their selection this year includes fiction, current affairs, history and politics, cookery, business, biography, travel writing, self-help and children’s books.

 
From Exclusive Books:

Homebru: A celebration of South African authors

Since the beginning of time, storytelling has been an integral part of our continent’s people, from the stories told to us by our grandmothers; to the written word as we know it today. As South Africans, we have a rich heritage and are a diverse nation. Our stories are colorful and unique; they are a reflection of our country’s landscape.

This year, Exclusive Books celebrates 15 years of our Homebru campaign, a carefully curated list of the best in South African writing. This year’s campaign is a celebration of authors such as critically acclaimed photojournalist, Peter Magubane, with his iconic collection of photographs in his book June 16. 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of Magubane’s photographic evidence that led to South Africa’s freedom.

For investigative journalism at its best, Alex Eliseev’s Cold Case Confession delves into the mysterious Betty Ketani case; the storyline would not be out of place as a Hollywood movie.

How does one get ahead in life while having to pay “black tax” and lobola? These are some of the questions black middleclass South Africans have to ask themselves today. Writing What We Like is an in-depth collection of opinion pieces, with contributions by the likes of comedians David Kau and Loyiso Gola, writer Shaka Sisulu and singer Simphiwe Dana.

At this year’s Franschhoek Literary Festival, our CEO made an address to call to service to all those in the book trade to address issues around accessibility and the promotion of South African authors:
“It is a discordant and uncomfortable truth that bookshops do not exist in areas where the majority of our countrymen still live. We need to address this and we see it as an immediate priority. In this context particularly we should welcome the voices of young people who have highlighted our neglect of a crucial market. There is work to do – for both us and the publishers” — Benjamin Trisk, CEO, Exclusive Books

With this year’s Homebru campaign, Exclusive Books is committed to seeing this change.

Here’s the complete 2016 Homebru selection:

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

Cold Case ConfessionCold Case Confession: Unravelling the Betty Ketani Murder by Alex Eliseev

Betty Ketani, a mother of three, came to Johannesburg in search of better prospects for her family. She found work cooking at one of the city’s most popular restaurants, and then one day she mysteriously disappeared.

The storyline would not be out of place as a Hollywood movie – and it’s all completely true. Written by the reporter who broke the story,
Cold Case Confession goes behind the headlines to share exclusive material gathered during four years of investigations, including the most elusive piece of the puzzle: who would want Betty Ketani dead, and why?

EAN: 9781770103108
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

BIOGRAPHY

The Sword and the PenThe Sword and the Pen: Six Decades on the Political Frontier by Allister Sparks

The Sword and the Pen is the story of how as a journalist, he observed, chronicled and participated in his country’s unfolding drama for more than 66 years, covering events from the premiership of DF Malan to the presidency of Jacob Zuma, witnessing at close range the rise and fall of apartheid and the rise and crisis of the new South Africa

Book homepage
EAN: 9781868425594
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The Fires BeneathThe Fires Beneath: The Life Of Monica Wilson, South African Anthropologist by Sean Morrow

The Fires Beneath is a powerful and affecting story of love and loss. Monica Wilson, née Hunter, was the most prominent social
anthropologist of her day in South Africa, whose groundbreaking research in African communities continues to influence anthropological and ethnographic studies. With sympathetic candour this book explores a life of achievement and integrity that was also marked by tragedy

EAN: 9781776090396
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Fighting for MandelaFighting for Mandela: The Explosive Autobiography of the Woman Who Helped to Destroy Apartheid by Priscilla Jana with Barbara Jones

Priscilla Jana is a legendary figure in South African revolutionary politics. As an Indian woman who experienced racial oppression first-hand, she decided to use her degree in law to fight for the rights of her fellow people and do all she could to bring down the apartheid state. At one time she represented every single political prisoner on Robben Island, including both Nelson and Winnie Mandela. Priscilla spent her days in court, fighting human rights case after human rights case, but it was at night when her real work was done. As part of an underground cell, she fought tirelessly to bring down the hated government. This activism, however, came at a price.

EAN: 9781784189792
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What a BoykieWhat a Boykie: The John Berks Story by Robin Binckes

Pioneering modern radio in South Africa, John Berks broke new ground in radio broadcasting through his hilarious parodies of situations, phone calls to unsuspecting victims, and his ‘characters’ such as ‘Jan Sweetpak’. He developed ‘Theatre of the Mind’ and took it to new heights, with a vision to push for talk radio at a time when others said it would fail, and in doing so, changed the face of broadcasting in South Africa. Berks was a man of great humility and integrity, and this book shows how much can be achieved when the odds are stacked against you and all you have is determination, passion and an unparalleled talent for communicating.

EAN: 9781928211846
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BUSINESS

The DisruptorsThe Disruptors: Social Entrepreneurs Reinventing Business and Society by Kerryn Krige and Gus Silber

Impassioned by purpose, driven by dreams, emboldened by ideals, social entrepreneurs go out of their way to make a better world. They
shake the dust off old ways of thinking and disrupt the way business has always been done. Through tales of daring, struggle, triumph and
innovation, you’ll see the world through the eyes of a diverse range of social entrepreneurs, and learn their secrets for changing the world by changing business. From healthcare to mobile gaming, from education to recycling, from dancing to gardening, these are the game-
changers, the difference-makers, the doers of good. Here are their stories.

EAN: 9781928257172
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Black Economic EmpowermentBlack Economic Empowerment: 20 Years Later – The Baby and the Bathwater by Phinda Mzwakhe Madi

South Africa’s pioneer and foremost thinker and voice on black economic advancement, Phinda Mzwakhe Madi is back with a bang. His first book, Affirmative Action in Corporate South Africa, triggered the first wave of Affirmative Action programmes in the country. His follow-up book, Black Economic Empowerment in the New South Africa, led to the formation of the BEE Commission and eventually the creation of the country’s policy and codes of good practice. Now his third book in the trilogy, Black Economic Empowerment: 20 years later – The Baby and the Bathwater, evaluates progress so far and startles with its fresh perspective on the way forward.

EAN: 9781869225858
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CHILDREN’S

Harry The Hungry HadedaHarry The Hungry Hadeda by Ed Jordan and Alan Glass

With his long beak and handsome feathers, he’s one of Africa’s best-known fellas! Meet Harry the Hungry Hadeda, a wonderful, rather noisy, prehistoric looking bird! Join in as he digs for worms, flies the skies and wakes everybody up with his morning song, Ha Ha
Ha, Hadeda!

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EAN: 9780620587631
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Powers of the KnifePowers of the Knife by Bontle Senne

What if you discovered that you come from an ancient family of Shadow Chasers, with a duty to protect others from an evil Army of Shadows? Nom and Zithembe’s lives are turned upside down when an Army of Shadows threatens everyone close to them. It’s the beginning of a quest that takes them into the dream world, and will change their lives forever. Powers of the Knife is the first book in the Shadow Chasers trilogy. It’s an African fantasy adventure – one part family saga, one part hero’s quest.

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EAN: 9780994674456
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SnitchSnitch by Edyth Bulbring

13-Year-old Ben Smith attends St David’s, where rugby is a compulsory sport. After the annual derby against Voortrekker in which a St David’s player is severely injured and rushed to hospital, Ben inadvertently catches a glimpse of a bottle labeled Methyltestosterone in the player’s tog bag. What follows turns Ben’s life upside down. Gripping and pacy, this first-person account tackles the serious topic of steroids used by schoolkids.

EAN: 9780624077114
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I am AlexI am Alex by Elena Agnello, illustrated by Adrie le Roux

I am Alex. Today is my birthday and I’m having a party. My friends are coming, but everyone is welcome! Please come, too!

Children don’t see race, religion or disability – and nor should they have to. This little book is a universal celebration of diversity and tolerance. Also available in Afrikaans.

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EAN: 9780994690708
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KweziKwezi by Loyiso Mkize

The comic follows a narcissistic teenage boy named Kwezi as he discovers his superhuman abilities amid the daily hustle of the fictional
Gold City – a bustling metropolis modeled after Johannesburg. Portrayed as a cocky anti-hero obsessed with selfies and Twitter, Kwezi is
initially fueled by the attention from his adoring online fans, but he soon finds out that his powers come with a cultural responsibility.

Mkize describes Kwezi as “a coming of age story about finding one’s heritage.”

EAN: 9781485622727
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There Should Have Been FiveThere Should Have Been Five by Marilyn Honikman

Two children visit the Museum of Military History in Johannesburg and are intrigued by a painting of a black serviceman at the top of the stairs … there were 354,000 South Africans of all races, including 25,000 women, who volunteered to serve in South Africa’s defence force and nursing services in the fight against Hitler, the Nazis and the Italian fascists in World War II. This book tells of one of these men, Job Maseko, whose heroic deed was almost forgotten for 50 years: he managed to destroy a German vessel with a homemade bomb while imprisoned in Tobruk. Why was he not awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery?

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EAN: 9780624076568
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Nombulelo and the MothNombulelo and the Moth by Susie Dinneen

Even though Nombulelo loves her Gogo’s stories about the animals that live in the forest, she’s too scared to go there. When Gogo dies, Nombulelo must summon her courage and take Gogo’s magical moth on a journey through the forest. This is a story of love, loss and the discovery of inner strength. Also available in Afrikaans.

EAN: 9781485900108
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AfkopAfkop by Fanie Viljoen

Trent bly hierdie naweek alleen by die huis. ‘n Aand se rowwe partytjie eindig tragies in ‘n karongeluk, en laat Trent met die moeilike keuse: wat moet hy doen met die geld wat hy by die ongelukstoneel opgetel het?

In hierdie aweregse, holdersterbolder riller vir tieners
loop dinge lelik skeefin ware Tarantino-styl. Die leser moet hare op die tande hê om kop te hou met die vinnige pas van die storie. Hierdie grinterige, vermaaklike storie is Fanie Viljoen op sy beste!

EAN: 9780799372885
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COOKERY

My Cape Malay KitchenMy Cape Malay Kitchen by Cariema Isaacs

My Cape Malay Kitchen is Cariema Isaacs’s heartfelt and poignant account of the extraordinary relationship between herself and her father and how that was reflected in their shared passion for food and cooking. She recollects all of the dishes they cooked and ate together, and shares her childhood memories of growing up in Bo-Kaap (the Cape Malay Quarter in Cape Town), lending insight into the culture, religious ceremonies and family events that have shaped the Cape Malay community into what it is today.

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EAN: 9781432305659
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JAN - A Breath of French AirJAN – A Breath of French Air by Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen

JAN – A Breath of French Air is a memoir and celebration of the renowned eatery JAN, a South African restaurant in the south of France. The restaurant is a showcase of South Africa’s tradition of hospitality, transported from a farm in rural South Africa to the glamorous French Riviera. Jan, now a one-star Michelin restaurant, is proof that dreams can be lived and how a love for what you do can transform humble ingredients into a masterpiece. The collection of over 90 recipes covers everything from locally-baked breads to amuse bouches and mouthwatering main course meat and fish dishes

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EAN: 9781432306083
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Eat TingEat Ting: Lose Weight, Gain Health, Find Yourself by Mpho Tshukudu and Anna Trapido

Tshukudu and Trapido offer healthy eating solutions based on traditional Southern African food, and modern versions of time-honoured
favourites. From gluten-free sorghum flapjacks to salads featuring low-GI ancient grains, this book is all about great-tasting South
African superfoods. How about a modernised tshidzimba with oven-roasted tomatoes? Or an updated inhloko with spiced pumpkin salad? Perhaps a comforting bowl of classic mofokotso? It’s all here, plus many more innovative, delicious dishes that are very good for you too.

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EAN: 9781928209553
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My Little Black Recipe BookMy Little Black Recipe Book by Siphokazi Mdlankomo

In My Little Black Recipe Book, Siphokazi Mdlankomo shares her favourite recipes, from the simple scones and ginger beer her mom taught her to make many years ago, to mouth-watering braised oxtail, cinnamon cream pears and the rest of the sumptuous fare she developed on her way to the MasterChef finale.

From delicious dips and sauces, decadent desserts and easy one-dish meals to traditional favourites and sophisticated fusion food, every recipe is characterised by Siphokazi’s delightful combination of flavours and ingredients. Beautiful photographs of completed dishes will whet your appetite and have you trying out the dishes in no time.

EAN: 9781928201632
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Simply DeliciousSimply Delicious by Zola Nene

Simply Delicious is all about Zola’s culinary career told through her recipes, interspersed with snippets and perspectives of her life journey, including tributes to the people who have inspired and influenced her cooking style. Her food philosophy is very simple – cooking is for everyone. With easy-to-follow instructions, the recipes will ensure that anyone can produce mouthwatering results.

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EAN: 9781432304874
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Kook Saam KaapsKook Saam Kaaps by Koelsoem Kamalie and Flori Schrikker

Groenboontjiebredie, koolfrikkadelle, tamatiebredie, sagopoeding en broodpoeding – eerlik gemaak, sonder fieterjasies en moderne byvoegings – is die onopgesmukte huiskos waarna ons elkeen verlang. Die hartskos wat met ’n stewige dosis van ma en ouma se liefde berei is en ons instinktief laat weet dat ons tuis is.

Kook saam Kaaps, in samewerking met RSG, stel beheud die kos van Koelsoem Kamalie en Flori Schrikker, twee voorslag-kosmakers van Bonteheuwel in die Kaap. Met onfeilbare resepte, perfek beproef na jare se ondervinding, kan elkeen weer huiskos in hul eie kombuise
voorberei.

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EAN: 9780799375039
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CURRENT AFFAIRS

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Sigh The Beloved CountrySigh The Beloved Country: Braai Talk, Rock ‘n Roll and Other Stories by Bongani Madondo

Foreword by Rian Malan: With his customary flair and eye for detail, Bongani Madondo delights his readers in this essay collection with his unique take on all things South African, covering topics ranging from “Kissing and Lynching the Black Body” to “New Money Culture” and “Student Politics”, and including uniquely critical and insightful homages to our beloved country and those who call it home.

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EAN: 9781770104952
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Gang TownGang Town by Don Pinnock

Why is Cape Town one of the most violent cities on earth? What is it that makes gangs so attractive to young people? Why are drugs so easy to find and so widespread? Why are the police seemingly losing control of the crime situation? Why is it getting worse? Top-selling author Don Pinnock answers these questions in Gang Town, and looks at solutions to the problem.

Meticulously researched, Gang Town, winner of City Press/Tafelberg Nonfiction Award, offers practical remedies to the scourge of gangsterism on the Cape Flats and elsewhere.

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EAN: 9780624067894
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Continental ShiftContinental Shift: A Journey Into Africa’s Changing Fortunes by Kevin Bloom and Richard Poplak

Africa is failing. Africa is succeeding. Africa is betraying its citizens. Africa is a place of starvation, corruption, disease. African economies are soaring faster than any on Earth. Africa is turbulent. Africa is stabilising. Africa is doomed. Africa is the future.

All of these pronouncements prove equally true and false, as South African journalists Richard Poplak and Kevin Bloom discover on their 9-year road trip through the paradoxical continent they call home.

Part detective story, part report from this economic frontier, Continental Shift follows the money as it flows through Chinese coffers to international conglomerates, to heads of state, to ordinary African citizens, all of whom are intent on defining a metamorphosing continent.

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EAN: 9781868424283
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A Manifesto For Social ChangeA Manifesto For Social Change: How To Save South Africa by Moeletsi Mbeki

A Manifesto for Social Change is the third of a three-volume series that started seven years ago investigating the causes of our country’s – and the continent’s – development obstacles. Architects of Poverty: Why African Capitalism Needs Changing (2009) set out to explain what role African elites played in creating and promoting their fellow Africans’ misery.

Advocates for Change: How to Overcome Africa’s Challenges (2011) set out to show that there were short- to medium-term solutions to many of Africa’s and South Africa’s problems, from agriculture to healthcare, if only the powers that be would take note.

EAN: 9781770104976
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Writing What We LikeWriting What We Like: A New Generation Speaks edited by Yolisa Qunta

How does one get ahead in life while having to pay “black tax” and lobola? Can urban life be reconciled with traditional culture? What does it mean to be privileged and black? These are some of the questions middle-class black South Africans have to ask themselves today. This book looks at topics as wide-ranging as the Rhodes Must Fall movement, blackface in popular culture and, sexual identity and life lessons learned when taking a minibus taxi. With contributions by the likes of comedians David Kau and Loyiso Gola, writer Shaka Sisulu
and singer Simphiwe Dana.

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EAN: 9780624071808
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FICTION

The YearningThe Yearning by Mohale Mashigo

Marubini is a young woman who has an enviable life in Cape Town, working at a wine farm and spending idyllic days with her friends … until her past starts spilling into her present. Something dark has been lurking in the shadows of Marubini’s life from as far back as she can remember. It’s only a matter of time before it reaches out and grabs at her. The Yearning is a memorable exploration of the ripple effects of the past, of personal strength and courage, and of the shadowy intersections of traditional and modern worlds.

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EAN: 9781770104839
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Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesTjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories by Jolyn Phillips

A strikingly written debut collection of vivid short stories set in and around Gansbaai, on the Western Cape coast of South Africa.

“An impressive debut that brings across voices never heard before in South African English – not only in rhythm and timbre, but plumbing
the unspoken. With such a remarkable ear, Jolyn Phillips is a young writer to watch.” – Antjie Krog

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EAN: 9781928215172
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Dutch CourageDutch Courage by Paige Nick

Grace Hendriks has led a pretty sheltered life. So when her sister Natalie begs her to take her place as a Rihanna impersonator at a club in Amsterdam, no alarm bells go off … until she finds herself onstage with only a pole for support and her knickers in a knot. Thrown into strip-club life, and forced to share an apartment with an exotic troupe of impersonating divas with Lady Gaga-sized egos, Grace has to learn some hard lessons fast, such as transformations don’t happen overnight – especially when your bra is determined to sabotage your dance routine.

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EAN: 9781415207703
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AffluenzaAffluenza by Niq Mhlongo

Affluenza is a new collection of short stories. In his characteristically humorous and piercing style, Mhlongo writes about the span of our democracy and the madness of the last twenty years after apartheid: his short stories address issues such as crime, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, the new black elite, and land redistribution. The stories have been published to critical acclaim in France, Spain, Germany, Italy and in the USA but remain largely unknown in South Africa.

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EAN: 9780795706967
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Gold Never RustsGold Never Rusts by Paul-Constant Smit

It is 998 BC. The Queen of Sheba sends an expedition down the east coast of Africa, but it comes to grief. Many years later, while roaming the vast subcontinent, a castaway from one of Vasco Da Gama’s ships finds the ancient records of the expedition, but dies before he can use them. During the 1880s gold rush in the Transvaal, American mining engineer Con Slaughter stumbles across the records while fleeing a gang of robbers. He strikes it rich on the Barberton gold fields, but soon assassins are after him. Also available in Afrikaans.

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EAN: 9781485903222
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Chasing The Tails of My Father’s CattleChasing The Tails of My Father’s Cattle by Sindiwe Magona

This is the story of Shumikazi, the only surviving child of Jojo and Miseka. She grows up in a small village in the remote Eastern Cape during the days of white rule – from the outside, an apparently unremarkable life. And yet Shumi is marked for extraordinary things from the moment of her birth. Wry, tragic, funny, scathing, this rich new novel from one of South Africa’s most beloved storytellers is not only a powerful meditation on the vulnerability of rural women, it is also a series of overlapping love stories – above all, the love a father has for his daughter.

EAN: 9780994677006
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NwelezelangaNwelezelanga: The Star Child by Unathi Magubeni

Nwelezelanga, The Star Child travels a magical and spiritual journey that merges the ancestral realms with contemporary realities. It is a story of an ancestral spirit that is born through Nwelezelanga, who is tasked with the purpose to pass on messages from the beyond; a divine responsibility given to children of the star.

With an assured voice and eloquent prose, Magubeni invites us into the life of this extraordinary being, Nwelezelanga, the child who should not have been, contrasting the themes of darkness and light, embracing the unknown and unseen in a way no one else has – or can.

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EAN: 9781928337249
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SlaafsSlaafs by Bettina Wyngaard

‘n Dag in die lewe van drie speurders van die Khayelitsha-polisiestasie is nie paintball speel nie. Vra maar vir kaptein Nicci de Wee,
“Ounooi” soos haar kollega Blackie haar noem. Haar priestervriendin Sally sal dit beaam en so ook Peters, wat skaars sy oë van Nicci kan afhou.

Want in Khayelitsha is die Jane Does volop: daardie vroueslagoffers wat so sonder naam op die staatspatoloog se outopsietafel beland. Maar waarom was daar vreemde vesels in die keel van ’n meisie wat aan ’n oordosis sterf, en hoekom het sy en ’n tweede slagoffer dieselfde tatoeëermerk?

Weldra daal Nicci en haar kollegas af in die donker onderwêreld van mensehandel, begelei deur die enigmatiese (en verleidelike) doktor Gigi Gerber, kenner op die gebied van slawesindikate. En heeltyd, in die agtergrond, staan al die kwesbare, ontwortelde mense van die wêreld.

Die speurspan in Bettina Wyngaard se nuwe riller is mense van vlees en bloed wat diep voel, in intense verhoudinge tot mekaar staan, liefhet, verliese ly en die hart aangryp.

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EAN: 9781415207536
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Die Formidabele Ling HoDie Formidabele Ling Ho by Johan Kruger

Kansvatter Willem Landman doen hom voor as Ling Ho: opperste towenaar en showman. Van skoolsaal na kerksaal na landbousaal reis Willem, sy assistent en sy kat in hul bakkie, gevolg deur ’n karavaan, gevolg deur ’n Ventertjie, oor die grasvelde van Mpumalanga, waar Willem-hulle ’n biblioteekwa raakloop. Tussen Willem en die bibliotekaresse is daar ’n vonkie, maar daar is ook ’n storm in aankoms … Die Formidabele Ling Ho steek die draak met allerlei swaarwigtige Suid-Afrikaase werklikhede, met skreeusnaakse gevolge!

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EAN: 9781415201756
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SA HISTORY & POLITICS

Fordsburg FighterFordsburg Fighter: The journey of an MK volunteer by Amin Cajee and Terry Bell

When Amin Cajee left South Africa to join the liberation struggle, he believed he had volunteered to serve “a democratic movement dedicated to bringing down an oppressive and racist regime”. Instead, he writes, in this powerful and courageous memoir, “I found myself serving a movement that was relentless in exercising power and riddled with corruption”.

Fordsburg Fighter traces an extraordinary physical journey – from home in South Africa, to training in Czechoslovakia and the ANC’s Kongwa camp in Tanzania, to England. The book is both a significant contribution to opening up the hidden history of exile, and a documentation of Cajee’s emotional odyssey from idealism to disillusionment.

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EAN: 9780994674425
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June 16June 16 by Peter Magubane

2016 Marks the 40th anniversary of Peter Magubane’s historic photographic evidence that led to South Africa’s freedom. With over 130 iconic photographs, this is one of the most important works of contemporary Africana to appear in the last two decades.

Foreword by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

EAN: 9780994677082
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Umkhonto we SizweUmkhonto we Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle by Thula Simpson

The armed struggle waged by the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), was the longest sustained insurgency in South African history. This book offers the first full account of the rebellion in its entirety, from its early days in the 1950s to the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as South African president in 1994.

Written in a fresh, immediate style, Umkhonto we Sizwe is an honest account of the armed struggle and a fascinating chronicle of events that changed South African history.

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EAN: 9781770228412
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Dr Philip's EmpireDr Philip’s Empire: One Man’s Struggle for Justice in Nineteenth-Century South Africa by Tim Keegan

From the time he arrived in South Africa as superintendent of the London Missionary Society in 1819, Dr John Philip played a major role in the idealist and humanitarian campaigns of the day, working with English philanthropists such as William Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell Buxton and African leaders such as Waterboer, Moshoeshoe and Maqoma. He was a creature of an age of extraordinary optimism, who held out a vision of non-racialism and progress that needs to be rediscovered and remembered.

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EAN: 9781770227101
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Is it Just Me or is Everything Kak?Is it Just Me or is Everything Kak?: The Zuma Years by Tim Richman

It’s time once again to cry the beloved country, because ever since Alan Paton wrote his upbeat little book, South Africans have been taking his advice to heart: whinging and moaning about the state of the nation at regular intervals. And though we thought we’d got it all off our chests in the late 2000s with the original Is it Just Me or is Everything Kak? series, well, it’s back on our chests, isn’t it?

This is a book that unites South Africans in their misery and allows us to laugh it off. Just in time for the national elections, of course!

EAN: 9781928230335
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SELF DEVELOPMENT

The Goddess Mojo BootcampThe Goddess Mojo Bootcamp by Kagiso Msimango

This book is for women who want authentic relationships, not those who are interested in learning how to manipulate men in order to get a ring on their finger. It’s for women who desire happy, healthy relationships in their lives. Central to this empowering book is loving yourself and feeling good about yourself. It teaches you how to attract a healthy relationship, through falling in love with yourself and your life.

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EAN: 9781920601683
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TRAVEL & TRAVEL WRITING

Blacks Do CaravanBlacks Do Caravan by Fikile Hlatshwayo

When her husband and children broke the news that they were planning a countrywide caravanning adventure, Fikile was adamant that “Blacks don’t caravan!” But faced with the prospect of being abandoned at home she put aside her preconceptions, put on her sunhat and started reading up on the way of the wild. What followed was an eye-opening, mind-changing trip of a lifetime. Fikile and her family visited over
25 caravan parks, covered over 10,000 kilometres, and traversed all nine provinces on their adventure.

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EAN: 9781431423774
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Stop going back to the farm: Celebrating the strong voices trying to pull South African fiction out of its self-indulgent swamp

By Wamuwi Mbao for the Sunday Times

Stop going back to the farm: Celebrating the strong voices trying to pull South African fiction out of its self-indulgent swamp

 

When I asked someone who claimed to be an enthusiastic reader what South African fiction he was reading, his face fell as if I had suggested drinking a tumbler full of a stranger’s tears. The kind of novel he envisioned was probably a grief-and-violence-sodden morality tale about apartheid.

South African literature, to borrow a joke from Tom Waits, is dominated by Grand Weepers and Grim Reapers. It reflects a society in which repressed sadness and spectacular violence trade regular places at the forefront of our national attention span.

The die was cast by Cry, the Beloved Country. Many people left school believing that all South African literature amounted to was wordy sermonising about the soul and pitched exchanges between white and black for the edification of some unseen interlocutor.

For many years they weren’t wrong. The crucible of South African writing has produced many significant writers, but also a great many also-rans. An odd result is that our literary scene loves a good formula. The first critic who called Cry, the Beloved Country “magisterial” should have patented the term, because that mode has become the coveted descriptor of serious South African fiction. That, and “searing”, which looks great in a review but quickly reaches its limits as an expression of anything. Paton’s novel spawned a hundred watery imitations, and so we came to understand literature as a mirror reflecting lives we already know, rather than as a way of opening life outwards.

The tree continues to bear bitter fruit. Most South African literature does too much of the work for you. This may or may not explain why South African literature sells like pork at a kibbutz. Very few, if any, South African authors make a sustained living from books alone. As one confided to me while slipping scones into his coat pocket at a book launch: “Ingrid and André obviously didn’t have student loans.”

But for the past year, I’ve been telling anyone who asks that there’s a must-read list of young South African authors. If the Mandela era birthed a crisply ambivalent literature that morphed into the hallucinatory crime-fiction boom of the Mbeki and Zuma years, the last two years have seen a new cohort of writers loosened from our traditional moorings of corruption and buried secrets.

Between postgraduate limbo and day jobs in ad agencies, these university-reared and copywriting-matured new writers create ways of speaking to the turbulence of the present. A ragtag group of novelists, poets and playwrights, their work is much more compelling than a lot of the stuff that has occupied our bookshelves over the past decade.

What does the new South African writing look like? It would probably use keywords like “hyper-literate” to describe itself. There’s a determined turn away from apartheid preoccupations, a campily sardonic humour always in touch with its own self-absorption; a favouring of statement over meditation, a pervasive anti-sentimentality, whether describing the kid next door’s death or the trepidations of a matric Rage party.

These authors are united less by age than by the environment in which they write. They understand that forgetting about verisimilitude is the first step towards achieving it. They are ciphers of our discordant age, and they embrace the unknown in ways that are exciting and that – most importantly – feel new.

* * * * *

How you know you are reading an old South African novel

1. Following the death of a father/mother/sundry other relative, Character X returns to South Africa after 10/15/20 years and must confront a dark and unresolved secret from the past (SPOILER: usually something bad involving race and/or sex).

2. Crime-by-numbers action in a loud dust-jacket, making mordant criticisms of the current government while taking great pains NOT to be about apartheid. May involve scenes from prison life that read suspiciously like they were culled from a Ross Kemp documentary.

3. Ordinary-lives drama in which City X (usually, but not always Jozi) is an awesome and edgy backdrop for a fairly ordinary story whose ordinariness is awesome and edgy because of the city.

4. Historical fiction usually involving a little-known South African historical event, padded out to speak to present-day anxieties. Is the old-world version of 5 (below).

5. Science/Future fiction, which goes to great lengths to show that the future will happen in South Africa too (probably in Joburg, but not Bredasdorp); usually uses the future to comment on the present.

* * * * *

New SA writers who might save us

Mohale MashigoThe Yearning
Mohale Mashigo
Mohale Mashigo’s The Yearning begins like a folkloric tale, reminding us that “we all have the desire to be special”. Mashigo can sound like Toni Morrison, with that same burnished sense of storytelling speaking through the novel. Zakes Mda, no less, calls The Yearning “a bewitching addition to the current South African literary boom”. Mashigo stakes out an imaginative terrain and then decorates it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Panashe ChigumadziSweet Medicine
Panashe Chigumadzi
Panashe Chigumadzi’s Sweet Medicine brings a transnational dimension to this area of writing, being set in Zimbabwe. Sweet Medicine courses with the complications of coming to fruition in an economically precarious society. Rather, it’s a rueful tale about how to live in uncertain times, weaving in the problematics of patriarchy and gender inequality that is especially pertinent in a climate of blessers and sugar daddies.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Genna GardiniMatric Rage
Genna Gardini
Genna Gardini’s terse collection Matric Rage makes childhood feel like a morbid conspiracy. In each poem, Gardini finds an unexpected metaphor in the provincialism of everyday routines (a school outing becomes “a foefie-slide ride past the exit sign”), and her aphorisms unstitch old horrors (an abuser is “thready as a wear in the leather”). My copy is guiltily underlined, because every line shows off Gardini’s formidable powers. Her lens might swing to the past, but her poetry is rooted firmly in the present.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nick MulgrewStations
Nick Mulgrew
In Nick Mulgrew’s Stations, muggy middle-class worlds are made knowable via reverberant prose. The stories are preoccupied with capturing the texture and shadow of an otherwise impenetrable world. Mulgrew has a knack for taking up or leaving off a story at just the right moment. Some characters’ stories stretch across several pages, while others like “Daughter” exhale their intimacies in half a page.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Koleka Putuma
Koleka Putuma
Koleka Putuma’s poetry has received rapturous attention, for good reason. She uses droll wit to cauterise old wounds and puncture new ones with equal candour: her poems reconfigure the odd predicaments of black life in South Africa without seeking to over-define what that life might be. Her magnificent suite of poems, Water, knows the deprivations and desolations beneath the everyday rituals of family life.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wamuwi Mbao is an essayist and cultural critic. His short stories have been published in various collections. He lectures at Stellenbosch University on literary and cultural studies and post-transitional South African life.

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Koleka Putuma image courtesy of the author’s website