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The winner of the 2014 @City_Press Tafelburg Nonfiction Award is Vashthi Nepaul! #openbook2014 @OpenBookFest

Touching Tributes to Nadine Gordimer, from Karina Szczurek, Margie Orford, Billy Kahora and Imraan Coovadia

Nadine Gordimer Tribute
My Son's StoryA World of StrangersJuly\'s People

Water MusicTales of the Metric SystemKwani? 05, Part 2Invisible OthersThe Gonjon Pin and Other Stories

Nadine Gordimer passed away in her home at the age of 90 this July. The Open Book Festival honoured the Nobel laureate for her dedication to her craft and her contribution to the South African literary and political landscape.

Imraan Coovadia, Billy Kahora and Margie Orford read from Nadine Gordimer’s work in an event curated by Karina M Szczurek.

Open Book: Nadine Gordimer

Kenyan author and journalist Kahora took the microphone first. Kahora, who lived for eight years in South Africa, was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing this year. He read from My Son’s Story and “Amnesty”

“Yesterday I was part of a panel called the Genius of the Short Story and a young man in the audience asked, ‘How do balance politics in your writing?’ We kind of floundered. But I think the answer I should have given is ‘Just read Nadine Gordimer’.

“This balance of politics and aesthetics is something that I’ve admired in Nadine Gordimer for a long time. I came to South Africa in 1997, I was a young man from Kenya who was aspiring to be a writer. And I read a story called “Amnesty”. It’s about this young women who is waiting for her husband, who has been incarcerated in Robben Island. And the amazing feat that Nadine Gordimer does is to get into a point of view that’s quite amazing; this young black woman who’s waiting for her husband.

“Much earlier in the 1990s, when I was still a teenager, I read My Son’s Story, and at the time I was simply amazed by that same feat, getting across a point of view that’s not your own. The whole idea of a kind of interracial affair between a white female activist and an ANC politician struck me as slightly seditious. But the beauty of is that even while it investigates that politics, it also goes into the son who is discovering his father is an adulterer.”

Open Book 2014: Nadine Gordimer Tribute

Coovadia said when he read Gordimer’s early work it struck him that “there was a lot of EM Forster in her”, but he decided to read from A World of Strangers, which he said had “always been his favourite”.

“The last time I saw her, Nadine Gordimer referred to us as ‘comrade writers’,” Coovadia said. “I think she was the last person who could use that expression unselfconsciously. It was one of the things I admired about her.

“She talked about writing as ‘an open secret’ when she was a kid. It was something she did that nobody noticed, and they allowed her to do it because nobody noticed it. In a way, when she died I realised that there weren’t other writers in the country who were doing what she did, and I think her genius was not a genius of the sentence or the paragraph, it’s drawing back and being able to see people’s lives against the context, and to grasp the context in which those lives are lived. It’s a very rare skill. And maybe the most valuable one.

“What else can I say about her. I don’t know. I miss her.”

Open Book 2014: Nadine Gordimer Tribute

Orford, author and president of Pen South Africa, said she was “very proud” to be reading from her one of her favourite Nadine Gordimer books, July’s People.

Nadine Gordimer was vice-president of International Pen for many, many years and a great champion all her life of freedom of expression. And her commitment to fighting the secrecy bill, as it’s known, the Protection of State Information Act, was I think her last political struggle and perhaps one of her bravest because out of that came her ability to differentiate and pull out of her great loyalty to the ANC and to the Struggle in South Africa, her commitment to principle and the foundation of democratic principle which is what she saw freedom of expression as being.”

Open Book 2014: Tribute to Nadine Gordimer

Szczurek spoke about her relationship with Gordimer, whose work was the subject of her PhD thesis.

“It is no exaggeration to say Nadine Gordimer literally changed my whole life, again and again. It was about 12 or 13 years ago when I read one of her short stories, “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off”, that she brought South Africa into my life with that wonderful short story.

“I spent six years reading the work of Nadine Gordimer and not for a second did I regret choosing her work as a subject of my thesis. Eventually her work brought me to South Africa and the country became my home. Now I have been living her for almost a decade and, also, not for a second did I regret making those choices. So I have a lot to be grateful for. Her work really means a lot to me. And as Imraan said I do miss her a lot.”

Szczurek read from Gordimer’s 1949 short story collection, Face to Face.

Life TimesLying DaysNone to Accompany MeOn the MinesTelling Times
Tales of the Metric SystemKwani? 05, Part 2The Little Red HenInvisible Others

Books LIVE’s Jennifer Malec tweeted snippets from the conversation:


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"You Have a Story Only You Can Write": Highlights from the Writing Workshop with Liesl Jobson

Open Book 2014: Writing Workshop

Liesl Jobson presented a writing workshop on the second morning of the Open Book Festival.

Jobson is the author of Ride the Tortoise, 100 Papers, and View from an Escalator.

Ride the Tortoise100 PapersView from an Escalator

“You have a story only you can write,” Jobson said. “What arrives is what should be written.”

Jobson quoted from Stafford’s “A Way of Writing“: “A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.”

Liquorice, a tearing sound and a dollop of hand cream served as inspiration for several free-writing exercises during the workshop. One participant described the liquorice as an “acidic, digestive black hole”.

Books LIVE’s Helené Prinsloo participated in the workshop:

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Open Book 2014: Top Tweets from "Genius of the Short Story" with Karen Jennings

Open Book 2014: Genius of the Short Story
HoppeAway from the DeadKwani? 05, Part 2Sister-Sister

Felicitas Hoppe, Karen Jennings and Billy Kahora discussed the genius of the short story with Rachel Zadok. The authors also read from their short stories, and Books LIVE’s Erin Devenish covered the gig:

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Umuzi Authors at Open Book Festival 2014 (17-21 September)

The 2014 Open Book Festival is being held in Cape Town from Wednesday 17 to Sunday 21 September. Umuzi authors to look out for at the festival include Damon Galgut, André Brink, Johan Vlok Louw, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Justin Fox, Diane Awerbuck, Imraan Coovadia, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Tony Park, Meg Vandermerwe, Andrew Salomon and Ivan Vladislavić.

Arctic SummerPhilidaKaroo DuskDie sirkel van bekende dingeDie Alibi KlubThe Alibi ClubWhoever Fears the SeaThe Ghost-Eater and Other StoriesTales of the Metric SystemNinevehDark HeartZebra CrossingTokoloshe SongThe Folly


Wednesday 17 September

Writing Sexuality
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 2 PM to 3 PM
Damon Galgut, Michiel Heyns and Karina Szczurek speak to Karin Schimke.

Art of the Essay
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 4 PM to 5 PM
Imraan Coovadia and Geoff Dyer talk to Hedley Twidle.

Afrikaanse Voorlesing
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 6 PM to 7 PM
Kom luister na Andre P. Brink, Karin Brynard, Henry Cloete, Johan Vlok Louw, Jaco van Schalkwyk en Ingrid Winterbach.

Writing to be Read
Venue: Fugard Annexe 2
Price: R40
Time: 6 PM to 7 PM
Andrew Brown, Justin Fox and Fiona Leonard discuss their entertaining, issue driven novels with Diane Awerbuck.

Thursday 18 September

Tribute to Nadine Gordimer
Venue: Fugard Theatre
Price: Free
Time: 2 PM to 3 PM
Imraan Coovadia, Billy Kahora and Margie Orford read from Nadine Gordimer’s work and share stories about her influence on their creative lives. Curated by Karina M Szczurek.

Landscape Architects
Venue: Fugard Annexe 1
Price: R40
Time: 4 PM to 5 PM
Kader Abdolah, Damon Galgut and Marguerite Poland discuss constructing the literary foundations of their respective novels. Chaired by Jacqui L’Ange.

Surprising Diversions
Venue: Fugard Theatre
Price: R40
Time: 6 PM to 7 PM
Rabih Alameddine, Geoff Dyer, Deon Meyer and Henrietta Rose-Innes share a passion unrelated to their work as writers. Chaired by Ben Williams.

Friday 19 September

Wilbur Smith
Venue: Fugard Theatre
Price: R40
Time: 6 PM to 7 PM
After worldwide sales of more than 120 million books, Wilbur Smith launches his latest novel, Desert God, in the company of Kevin Ritchie.

Cry the Beloved Other Country
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 6 PM to 7 PM
Distance gives you an edge. Damon Galgut and Zakes Mda talk to Alison Lowry.

Saturday 20 September

The Episodic Novel
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 2 PM
Imraan Coovadia (Tales of the Metric System) and Philip Hensher (Emperor’s Waltz) answer questions from Fourie Botha.

IPA 1: Independent Feminist Publishing – Experiences from Around the World
Venue: Fugard Annexe 2
Price: R40
Time: 2 PM to 3 PM
Meg Vandermerwe discusses the experiences of feminist publishers, Susan Hawthorne (Spinifex, Australia), Colleen Higgs (Modjaji, South Africa) and Ritu Menon (Women Unlimited, India).

Under Pressure: Writing the next one
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 4 PM to 5 PM
Thando Mgqolozana and Ivan Vladislavic talk to Alison Lowry.

Fantasy and Crime Fiction – 2 sides of the same coin?
Venue: Fugard Theatre
Price: R40
Time: 6 PM to 7 PM
Raymond E Feist, Deon Meyer and Andrew Salomon discuss why crime is at the heart of fantasy and why crime fiction often ends with fantasy. Chaired by Greg Fried.

Writer Sports – Would I lie to you?
Venue: Fugard Theatre
Price: R40
Time: 8 PM to 9 PM
6 Authors, 2 Teams. Some lies. Some truth. Can you tell the difference? Featuring Mike Carey, Imraan Coovadia, Geoff Dyer, Sarah Lotz, Niq Mhlongo & Zukiswa Wanner. Ben Williams – MC.

Sunday 21 September

Because We Can
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 12 PM to 1 PM
Geoff Dyer, Mark Gevisser and Ivan Vladislavic try to keep on topic with Bronwyn Law-Viljoen. What topic?

Cutting Edge Fiction
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 4 PM to 5 PM
Sarah Lotz, Oliver Rohe and Jaco van Schalkwyk discuss pushing fictional boundaries with Diane Awerbuck.

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Okwiri Oduor Reveals the Highs and Lows of Winning the Caine Prize

2014 Caine Prize shortlistees
The Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesOne Day I Will Write About This PlaceFeast, Famine and Potluck

Okwiri Oduor admits there are two sides to winning the Caine Prize, but says the negatives are short-lived and far outweighed by the positives.

Binyavanga Wainaina, who won the Caine Prize in 2002 and went on to set up literary magazine Kwani? to promote new African writing, was at the centre of a controversy this week, after slamming the Caine Prize in an interview with This Is Africa.

Wainaina, who has not been long out of the headlines this year, criticised the prioritisation of the Caine Prize, saying that there are many valuable literary institutions in Africa, such as Saraba, the Farafina workshop, Cassava Republic, that are “vastly underfunded and vastly ungrown, and they are the ones who create the ground that is building these new writers”.

I want people to say, Okwiri, who won the Caine Prize, is the founder of Jalada, an online magazine that has won five prizes in the last year and published, I think, the most exciting fiction I’ve seen in ten years. [...] Okwiri made her name long before the Caine prize. [...] The idea that she won the Caine Prize and journalists now want to feed the fact that she was made by the Caine Prize is unmaking her. You ask any smart Kenyan writer who is in the game, they tell you Okwiri is the new be. And we are talking two years ago. We must lose this s**t. Give due credit but don’t go giving free money and free legitimacy. Because the Caine Prize right now needs your legitimacy to get money. They take press clipping from all Nigerian media and use that to source for funding. We need to focus on how we can grow our own ecosystem.

Related news:

In an interview with Book LIVE, which took place a few days before Wainaina’s outburst, Okwiri expressed reservations of a different sort about the prize.

“There’s been lots of interest. Things have been so horrible the past few weeks … I kind of barricaded myself after the win. I couldn’t handle it, I found it so overwhelming, so I kind of shut myself away,” Okwiri admitted.

“In the process, I think I kind of ignored some media inquiries, which I feel slightly bad about but not completely, because a lot of interviewers ask you the same questions and sometimes I feel like just referring them to an interview I did before: ‘Just go online and you will find all the answers’.

“One thing that’s been happening is that I’m being interviewed by someone who maybe didn’t do much research, or is not very interested in the literary arts, or isn’t much or a reader or a writer. It makes the interview much more exhausting than it need be. So I’m ambivalent about interviews.”

However, Okwiri believes the exposure the prize has afforded her is invaluable, and much more important than the prize money or prestige that come with winning the “African Booker”.

“But there’s been lots of positives as well, of course,” she says. “I think the opportunities you get as a result of the prize are the main positive. The money sounds like a lot but when you get down to it it’s surprisingly not much. But the opportunities, like coming to South Africa for the [Mail & Guardian Literary] Festival. Having access to audiences I wouldn’t have had access to on my own. The fact that I’m here talking to you. The fact that someone is reading me who I’ll meet and they’ll tell me ‘Wow, I really enjoyed your story’, and they wouldn’t have read me if it weren’t for this. The fact that in some ways I can apply for residencies or MFA programmes, or whatever I want to, and have more weight on my application. Just, so many opportunities. So many opportunities to meet the readers, to meet other writers.

“Even on the Caine circuit itself, being in London with the other shortlistees, we became friends and I appreciate that.”

The daunting amount of attention Okwiri received after winning the prize, however, does go some way to proving Wainaina’s point. On the strength of writing like “My Father’s Head”, Okwiri deserves recognition. But why does it take a prize awarded in London to shove her into the spotlight?

Let us know where you stand in the comments, or on our Facebook or Twitter pages

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Adults Only teaser: Q&A with Chantelle Gray van Heerden

6. Chantelle GrayJoanne Hichens – editor of the Adults Only, the second annual Short.Sharp.Stories Awards anthology – interviews Chantelle Gray van Heerden. Her story “The Most Tender Place” was selected for inclusion in the anthology.

Chantelle Gray van Heerden is a full-time PhD student in her final year. Her research is in the field of Translation Studies and investigates the politics, ethics and aesthetics of translation from a Deleuzo-Guattarian perspective. Previously she worked as a freelancer who did almost anything and everything that involved writing, and before that she co-owned a vegan restaurant in Muizenberg. When she finds time between chapters, she writes – short stories mostly, but also children’s literature, translations and book reviews. Her short stories “Margie Says” (first runner up) and “When Princess Diana Comes” (honourable mention) were published in The Darker Times Anthology. She is an avid reader of any good literature and philosophy, and supports veganism and the liberation of animals. In her spare time she turns feral and returns to the mountains where she runs for hours.

Your story “The Most Tender Place” is hard-hitting. It takes the S&M fantasy to the extreme. It is disturbing yet at the same time strangely erotic. What was your intention?

Human sexuality has always interested me, but not so much in itself as where it bifurcates; i.e. where it becomes ‘unusual’. I am interested in why some people express their sexuality in different ways and how; what feeds these needs and why they are labelled as ‘different’. I also often wonder why it is that some people fear that which does not conform to the norm so much whilst others are able to embrace it – to embrace their own capacity to be different and feel different. I am interested in what those kinds of experiences allow for and what is possible when they can be held in a moment. And sometimes even a moment of lust.

Was the hard-hitting piece at all response to what one might consider the ‘softer’ erotica out there?

Yes, definitely. For a number of reasons. First of all, the erotica out there still adapts, obeys, screams, dresses, feels, fucks too much according to what men like and what women think men like and think they like because that’s what men like. And it bothers me that women don’t resist this more, that they don’t revolt in more visible ways. Also, conventions of heteronormativity and conformity to sexual behaviour/s prefigured by these conventions not only censor people in very specific ways, but also preclude the accidental – the chance collision of pain and love and chaos and beauty that lies beyond the oftentimes binary boundaries we draw around ourselves. So I guess I wanted to present a moment that required trust in chance and which explores different ways in which all the vulnerability, ugliness, desire, confusion and love of one person lies in the power of someone else and how, sometimes, the most intense pleasure can only be found in pain.

There is an underlying sense of great ‘sexual need’ in the story. The protagonist becomes willing to take this need to a more and more dangerous place. Can you comment on this?

The great sexual need is a complex intersection of different aspects. First, and probably most obvious in the story, is that the protagonist has been rejected by the person she believes she loves. So the need is obviously informed by a desire to be needed and wanted. But also I wanted to bring across the idea that women have healthy sexual needs and desires, and that it isn’t necessarily men who always want sex, or sex of a particular kind. Then I think there is another element which is often overlooked in sexual behaviour, and that is that the protagonist’s satisfaction comes from what is termed ‘deviant’ behaviour. This is something that I think too many people are made to feel guilty for. And what is deviant for one person may seem quite natural to another. I would say that the protagonist becomes more reckless because she’s lost her sense of home and belonging, so in a way the story is also about that.

What do you imagine a reader’s response might be to the story?

I think they’re going to think I’m super weird, with Medusa-like razors and ropes for hair! But what I hope is that the story makes them re-examine their own prejudices against ‘deviant’ sexual behaviours (and maybe even explore a couple of scenarios, if only conceptually). And that it makes them very, VERY horny!

Is there an overarching theme to your work?

I am interested in what happens at the edge (this can be interpreted very broadly), but also about power dynamics and specifically about how these play out in the fucked-upness of people; why people allow certain things or fall prey to substance abuse or use substances to manipulate others; how sociopaths are able to create such large lives that consist of spectre more than anything else; why some people feel powerless, intimidated and vulnerable from the outset. The fluxes between these and how they are shaped by other, larger structural arrangements and relations, that’s what I write about.

So what’s next for you, Chantelle?

I have a completed children’s book that has been sent off to the publishers (I’m holding thumbs) and one that I’m working on in between things. Other than that I’m writing, rewriting and editing my ten best short stories and entering them into competitions. Working and reworking them is the most important thing to me at this stage; well, that and getting my name out there slowly.

Thanks, Chantelle. I’m really looking forward to reading more of what promises to be powerful and evocative work.

Adults Only

Adults Only is available in stores for R190.

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