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Goosebump coast: Diane Awerbuck reviews Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips

Jolyn Phillips captures the spirit of “Cannery Row” in her stories about a local fishing dorp, writes Diane Awerbuck for the Sunday Times

Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesTjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories
Jolyn Phillips (Modjaji Books)

Jolyn Phillips’s spine must be sore. If her debut collection Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories is even a quarter true, there is a lot resting on her shoulders. She has taken on the task of recording the language, loves and losses of the people of the depressed fishing town of Gansbaai — not unlike her character Mollie in “The Fire”, who has assigned herself the role of soul guide to the newly dead.

Gansbaai being the perverse place it is, not all the deceased are ready to move on, and this works as a metaphor for the state of the country, too. Some shades prefer to hole up in a half-built house, smoking dagga: “Sakie and Delie cannot be taken over because when Mollie tried to take them to Holy Ghost they were too drunk and Holy Ghost banished them.”

The spirits are unrepentant. “There is fokkol of starting over man. Forget about it. We are already dead.”

But Phillips does make a case for starting over, with a lustiness and tenacity that energises her writing. Phillips makes no apologies for the way that geography and industry throw people together and keep them rubbing along, each thinking that her story is a secret from her neighbour. In this collection there is neither the false romance of poverty nor pity for its depredations, which — hallelujah! — puts Tjieng Tjang Tjerries more in a class with Steinbeck’s Cannery Row than Rive’s Buckingham Palace, District Six.

She fathoms the old story of addiction and apathy, but goes beyond that. The themes centre on responsibility and fidelity, mostly for the female characters, who bear the brunt of social inequality. Every character is at some crossroads or some revelation: what they do after their discoveries is what matters.

Phillips’s compassion for her characters shines through the sea mist. Even the pieces that are sketches rather than fully developed stories are exasperated but affectionate: consider “Lelik”, a story ostensibly about a dog that turns out to be about a man. He’s drunk so much that he has “forgotten how to be human”.

Phillips’s dialogue feels real but will annoy purists. She trots out cheerfully brutal idioms: (childbirth is “in like ’n piesang; out like ’n pynappel”) but also writes with a clear lyricism that seems to be plain speaking but is actually a careful weaving of tone and place. It slips a couple of times into caricature. Her writing otherwise soars and swoops, from the barely contained hysteria of the soap opera “Secrets” to the quiet, desperate strength of “The Fisherman”, when a girl tries to take over her father’s place on the boats.

Look out for Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories, with its fantastic, ambiguous cover, its peculiarly dire proofreading, and its sense that something new and lovely is being made.

Related links:


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Don't miss the 2016 Short Sharp Stories Awards at the National Arts Festival

Invitation to the launch of Die Laughing


Adults OnlyBloody SatisfiedIncredible Journey

You are invited to the 2016 Short Sharp Stories Awards, an annual short story competition made possible by the National Arts Festival.

Come and celebrate the launch of Die Laughing at the Eden Grove Lecture Complex at Rhodes University on Wednesday, 6 July, at 11 AM.

Joanne Hichens will be in conversation with Nick Mulgrew and the contributors of Die Laughing, which includes a Foreword by Evita Bezuidenhout and Introduction by Darrel Bristow-Bovey. The judges for this year’s competition were Ken Barris, Karina Szczurek and Karabo Kgoleng.

See you there!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 6 July 2016
  • Time: 11:00 AM
  • Venue: Rhodes University
    Eden Grove Lecture Complex
    Drosty Road
    Grahamstown | Map
  • Speakers: Joanne Hichens and Nick Mulgrew

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Rus in vrede, Margaret Bakkes (1931 - 2016)

Margaret Bakkes

Fado vir \'n vreemdelingMy ouma in kaneelSpoorvatDie geliefde skrywer Margaret Bakkes is Woensdag, 29 Junie op die ouderdom van 84 oorlede.

Tydens Bakkes se skrywersloopbaan, wat in 1954 begin het, het daar menigde kortverhale, versamelbundels en romans uit haar pen verskyn. Haar jongste roman, Fado vir ‘n vreemdeling, het in 2011 ter viering van haar tagtigste verjaarsdag by LAPA verskyn.

NB-uitgewers en die ATKV het hulde gebring aan die skrywer wat vir ses dekades lank Afrikaanse letterkunde laat seëvier het.

Lees NB-uitgewers se huldeblyk aan Bakkes:

Die skrywer Jeanette Ferreira reageer soos volg: “Dat sy so stil uitgegaan het, die onblusbare Margaret Bakkes. Haar historiese romans, haar besinning oor ouderdom wanneer die amandelboom wit in die bloei staan; dit het sy vir ons nagelaat. Ek dink veral oor haar nostalgiese verhale oor die haar grootwordplek in die Stormberge se bittere koue, en dat sy nou juis in die koue moet groet. Maar haar warm lag en haar kleurvolle lewe sal by ons bly. Goeie reis aan ‘n skrywer, vriendin en buitengewone mens.”

Eloise Wessels, uitvoerende hoof van NB-Uitgewers, onthou: “Margaret Bakkes was vandat ek my verstand gekry het deel van my lewe. Sy en my ma het saam grootgeword in Sterkstroom in die Oos-Kaap. Sy was ’n sterk vrou wat ’n familietradisie van wonderlike skrywers begin het. Ek sal haar op ’n persoonlike en professionele vlak baie mis. Daar is ’n hele generasie van groot skrywers wat ons nou verlaat.”

LitNet het die ATKV se persverklaring gedeel:

Sy sal lank onthou word vir haar romans wat lekker gelees het, maar wat ook sonder skroom die tydsgees aangespreek het.

Dit is dalk gepas om Bakkes se eie woorde aan te wend om haar skryfstyl te beskryf. In die Transvaler van 23 Junie 1977 sê sy: “Ontspanningsleesstof is nie stof en dons nie. Die skrywer moet sy leser met lewensprobleme konfronteer. Maar hy moet dit ook weer oplos. Dit is die verskil tussen ’n kunsverhaal en ontspanningslektuur. Sonder om ligsinnig te wees, moet daar pitkos in wees.” (Transvaler, 23 Junie 1977)

Lesers het op Twitter afskeid geneem van hul geliefde skrywer:



2016 Writivism Short Story Prize longlist announced after record entries



Alert! The 2016 Writivism Short Story Prize longlist has been announced, including local writers Megan Ross and Catherine Shepherd, and Tanzanian Noella Moshi, who lives in South Africa.

The Writivism Short Story Prize is an annual award for emerging African writers administered by the Center for African Cultural Excellence (CACE). Entrants must be unpublished writers, resident in an African country.

Entries in French were accepted for the first time this year.

This is the longest Writivism longlist to date, at 21 stories, after a record number of over 500 entries.

A group of readers whittled the list down to 100 stories, which were then sent to the judges for consideration. The 2016 judging panel is Tsitsi Dangarembga (Chair), Richard Ali Mutu, Sumayya Lee, Okwiri Oduor and Mamadou Diallo.

The winner will receive prize money of $400 (about R6,000), while all shortlisted writers receive $100 and travel to Kampala, Uganda for the annual Writivism Festival. All longlisted stories are published in the annual Writivism anthology, which will be edited this year by Emmanuel Sigauke.

Previous winners of the award include Johannesburger Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, Pemi Aguda of Nigeria and Ugandan writer Anthea Paelo.

2016 Writivism Short Story Prize longlist

Laure Gnagbé Blédou, for “Jene suis pas rentree”
Idza Luhumyo, for “Decisive Moments”
Aito Osemegbe Joseph, for “The List”
Merdi Muintshe, for “Un Certain 36 Novembrre”
Mathyas Kouadio, for “La Voie De Son Coeur”
Megan Ross, for “Duiweltjie”
Acan Innocent Immaculate, for “Sun Down”
Doreen Anyango, for “Levels”
Gloria Mwaniga Odary, for “Boyi”
Praise Nabimanya, for “Free Fall”
Aïssa Tâ, for “Un Couple Qui En Dit Long”
Frances Ogamba, for “Subtle Defence”
Le K-Yann, for “Poison D’avril”
Bura-Bari Nwilo, for “Like Eyes Liquid With Hope”
Sese Yane, for “We Will Be Safe”
Noella Moshi, for “Possession”
Jude Mutuma, for “Grey Love”
Abu Amirah, for “The Swahilification Of Mutembei”
Acidri Malunga, for “The Story Not Told”
Catherine Shepherd, for “The Woman’s Way”
Farai Mudzingwa, for “A Native Metamorphosis”

Image courtesy of Writivism

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



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):

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

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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:

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.

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.

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