2016 Etisalat Prize Shortlist

The 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature Shortlist is out and brings us 3 novels from the African continent.  This year two Nigerians and one South African are vying for the prize.

The Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange

the-seed-thief-by-jacqui-lange“Sometimes the thing you find is not the one you were looking for. When botanist Maddy Bellani is asked to travel to Brazil to collect rare seeds from a plant that could cure cancer, she reluctantly agrees. Securing the seeds would be a coup for the seed bank in Cape Town where she works, but Brazil is the country of her birth and home to her estranged father.  Her mission is challenging, despite the help of alluring local plantexpert Zé. The plant specimen is elusive, its seeds guarded by a sect wary of outsiders. Maddy must also find her way in a world influenced by unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies and the selfish motives of others.  Entrancing and richly imagined, The Seed Thief is a modern love story with an ancient history, a tale that moves from flora of Table Mountain to the heart of Afro-Brazilian spiritualism.” (GoodReads)

And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile

and-after-many-days-by-jowhor-ile“During the rainy season of 1995, in the bustling town of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, one family’s life is disrupted by the sudden disappearance of seventeen-year-old Paul Utu, beloved brother and son. As they grapple with the sudden loss of their darling boy, they embark on a painful and moving journey of immense power which changes their lives forever and shatters the fragile ecosystem of their once ordered family. Ajie, the youngest sibling, is burdened with the guilt of having seen Paul last and convinced that his vanished brother was betrayed long ago. But his search for the truth uncovers hidden family secrets and reawakens old, long forgotten ghosts as rumours of police brutality, oil shortages, and frenzied student protests serve as a backdrop to his pursuit.  In a tale that moves seamlessly back and forth through time, Ajie relives a trip to the family’s ancestral village where, together, he and his family listen to the myths of how their people settled there, while the villagers argue over the mysterious Company, who found oil on their land and will do anything to guarantee support. As the story builds towards its stunning conclusion, it becomes clear that only once past and present come to a crossroads will Ajie and his family finally find the answers they have been searching for.  And After Many Days introduces Ile’s spellbinding ability to tightly weave together personal and political loss until, inevitably, the two threads become nearly indistinguishable. It is a masterful story of childhood, of the delicate, complex balance between the powerful and the powerless, and a searing portrait of a community as the old order gives way to the new.”  (GoodReads)

Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya

Mr and Mrs Doctor by Julie Iromuanya“Ifi and Job, a Nigerian couple in an arranged marriage, begin their lives together in Nebraska with a single, outrageous lie: that Job is a doctor, not a college dropout. Unwittingly, Ifi becomes his co-conspirator—that is until his first wife, Cheryl, whom he married for a green card years ago, reenters the picture and upsets Job’s tenuous balancing act.” (GoodReads)

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2015 Etisalat Literature Prize Shortlist

At the end of last year the Etisalat Prize for Literature released their 2015 longlist which Professor Ato Quayson describes:

“The range of submissions for the Etisalat Prize this represents the vitality of literary writing on the continent, and the longlist is a selective showcase of the best to be found. The subjects covered in the longlist are so fascinating and varied that it would take another novel just to describe them all. Magnificent!”

From the impressive longlist three novels have been shortlisted for the African Etisalat Prize for Literature.  Two are from South African authors and the third from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo), Tram 83

Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo), Tram 83

“In an African city in secession, which could be Kinshasa or Lubumbashi, land tourists of all languages and nationalities. They have only one desire: to make a fortune by exploiting the mineral wealths of the country. They work during the day in mining concession and, as soon as night falls, they go out to get drunk, dance, eat and abandon themselves in Tram 83, the only night-club of the city, the den of all the outlaws: ex children-soldiers, prostitutes, blank students, unmarried mothers, sorcerers’ apprentices…  Lucien, a professional writer, fleeing the exactions and the censorship, finds refuge in the city thanks to Requiem, a youth friend. Requiem lives mainly on theft and on swindle while Lucien only thinks of writing and living honestly. Around them gravitate gangsters and young girls, retired or runaway men, profit-seeking tourists and federal agents of a non-existent State.  Tram 83 plunges the reader into the atmosphere of a gold rush as cynical as, sometimes, comic and colorfully exotic. It’s an observation of human relationships in a world that has become a global village. It could be described as an African-rap or rhapsody novel or puzzle-novel hammered by rhythms of jazz.” (GoodReads)

Penny Busetto (South Africa), The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself

Penny Busetto (South Africa), The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself

“Anna P lives on an island off the coast of Italy but can no longer remember how she got there. She came from South Africa but has almost no memory of the place or people there. The only person she has a kind of personal relationship with is a sex worker whom she pays by the hour. It is only when she begins to connect emotionally with a young boy that she finds some value in herself, some place which she will not allow to be abused, and her life gradually changes. This meticulously crafted, atmospheric debut novel asks a number of difficult questions about the nature of memory: who are we if we lose our memories? What does it mean to have no identity? And if we have no identity, can we still make ethical choices?” (GoodReads)

Rehana Rossouw (South Africa), What Will People Say?

Rehana Rossouw (South Africa), What Will People Say?

“Rehana Rossouw’s unique voice gives life and drama to this family saga.  Hanover Park. The heart of the Cape Flats. It is 1986. Michael Jackson and Brenda Fassie rule every hi-fi. Princess Di and George Michael hairstyles are all the rage. There are plans to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 1976 student uprising.  Neville and Magda Fourie live in Magnolia Court with their three children. They are trying to ‘raise them decent’ in a township festering with gang wars and barricaded with burning tyres.  Suzette, the eldest, is beautiful and determined to escape her family’s poverty. Nicky, the sensitive middle child, has ambitions to use her intellect as a way out. Anthony, the only son, attracted by power and wealth, is lured away from his family by a gangster.  In What Will People Say? a rich variety of township characters – the preachers, the teachers, the gangsters and the defeated – come to life in vivid language as they eke out their lives in the shadows of grey concrete blocks of flats.  Which members of the Fourie family will thrive, which ones will not survive?  Generously spiced with Cape Flats slang; lots of vivid and gritty description that give an authentic feel to the story; plenty of plot – the writer draws us in and makes us curious about what will happen next; and very human characters we come to care about.” (GoodReads)

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2014 Etisalat Literature Prize Winner

I’m very happy to share with you that Songeziwe Mahlangu won the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature for his novel Penumbra.  Mahlangu was my pick for winner of the prize not only because he is a fellow South African but more importantly because his book sounds so good.Penumbra

Have a quick look at the blurb of Penumbra from GoodReads:

Maybe Mfundo shot me that night. This is all a path to my place of rest. I am being shown my life and the things that happened to me. There was also the night I broke the window in my room. I felt trapped. I tried opening the door, but couldn’t. I was woken by Tongai mumbling that I would not be able to go anywhere. Next, I was pushing on the window. Tongai later told me that I suffer from night terrors. Perhaps I threw Tongai out of the window that night. And the guilt made me shut the truth away. Tongai is dead. I killed him a long time ago. Such a decent guy, who never wanted to harm anyone; I murdered him. It is this sin that is eating me up.  Mangaliso Zolo lives in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, near the university. He has an office job at a large corporate, but he does little every day bar shuffle papers and surf the ’net. Penumbra charts Manga’s daily struggles with the twin pull, from friends and acquaintances, of reckless living or charismatic Christianity. A very different Cape Town comes to life – far removed from both the gloss of tourism brochures or the familiar poverty of the Flats – and a certain dissolute South African reality is dissected with haunting precision.

I cannot wait to read it although I have struggled to find it in a bookstore close to me.  Now that he’s won the prize I’m sure it’ll be more easily available.  If you’ve read the novel already I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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My Africa Reading Wishlist

My Africa reading wishlist is a personal reading list of African Literature I hope to get through in my lifetime.  I have been participating in KinnaReads’ Africa Reading Challenge for the last two years and originally created this reading list in response to her challenge.   If you’re looking for inspiration for your own foray into African Lit, I hope you find something you like here.  This reading list will evolve as I cross off my challenge books (check back for my reviews) and no doubt I’ll add a few more as I go.

 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)

No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)

Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)

Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)

Disgrace by J M Coetzee (South Africa)

Waiting for the Barbarians by J M Coetzee (South Africa)

Age of Iron by J M Coetzee (South Africa)

The Madonna of Excelsior by Zakes Mda (South Africa)  2015  #1 Review –
The Madonna of Excelsior by Zakes Mda

The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda (South Africa)

The Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda (South Africa)

The Imposter by Damon Galgut (South Africa)

In A Strange Room by Damon Galgut (South Africa)    2014  #1 Review –  In A Strange Room by Damon Galgut

Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)

Petals of Blood by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)

Islands by Dan Sleigh (South Africa)

A Dry White Season by André Brink (South Africa)

Philida by André Brink (South Africa)    2014  #2 ReviewPhilida by Andre Brink

An Instant in the Wind by André Brink (South Africa)

The Famished Road by Ben Okri (Nigeria)

July’s People by Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)   2014  #5 ReviewJuly’s People by Nadine Gordimer

Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)

When the Lion Feeds by Wilbur Smith (Zambia)

River God by Wilbur Smith (Zambia)

The Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto (Mozambique)

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (South Africa)

Trackers by Deon Meyer (South Africa)

Dreamforest (Toorbos) by Dalene Matthee (South Africa)

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton (South Africa)

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)

We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwe)

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (South Africa)

Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt)

Akhenaten by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt)

Graceland by Chris Abani (Nigeria)

The Stranger by Albert Camus (Algeria)

Finding Soutbek by K Jennings (South Africa)   2014  #3 Review  – Finding Soutbek by Karen Jennings

Foreign Gods, Inc by Okey Ndibe (Nigeria) 2014  #4 ReviewForeign Gods Inc by Okey Ndibe

Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya)

The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)

 

 

Some Books I’ve Read I Recommend from South Africa

Devil’s Peak by Deon Meyer (my review)

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer

7 Days by Deon Meyer

Circles in a Forest (Kringe in n Bos) by Dalene Matthee

Shades by Maguerite Poland

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (my review)

Biko: A Biography by Xolela Mangcu (my review)

 

2014 Etisalat Prize Shortlist

Three African novels have been selected for the shortlist of the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature and I am proud to see two of the three novelists are South Africans; Nadia Davids and Songeziwe Mahlangu, together with Nigerian Chinelo Okparanta.

“From a strong long list we are now delighted to announce this year’s shortlist which showcases hitherto untold stories from across the continent and beyond.”

The strength of the shortlist is exemplified in the belief that any of the shortlisted writers would make a worthy winner. “Whether it is David’s multigenerational family story set in Cape Town’s Muslim community at the dawn of the new South Africa, or Okparanta’s bittersweet tales of loss and love in Nigeria and abroad, or Mahlangu’s unflinching exploration of mental illness set in contemporary South Africa, each of these books is uniquely compelling. This is a shortlist that delights in the newness of the topics being explored and in the diversity of narrative form. From short stories, to the short novel, to the epic novel – each is a gem in its own right” Manyika concluded. (read more)

Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta

Happiness, Like WaterHere are Nigerian women at home and transplanted to the United States, building lives out of longing and hope, faith and doubt, the struggle to stay and the mandate to leave, the burden and strength of love. Here are characters faced with dangerous decisions, children slick with oil from the river, a woman in love with another despite the penalties. Here is a world marked by electricity outages, lush landscapes, folktales, buses that break down and never start up again. Here is a portrait of Nigerians that is surprising, shocking, heartrending, loving, and across social strata, dealing in every kind of change. Here are stories filled with language to make your eyes pause and your throat catch. Happiness, Like Water introduces a true talent, a young writer with a beautiful heart and a capacious imagination. (GoodReads)

Penumbra by Songeziwe Mahlangu

Penumbra

Maybe Mfundo shot me that night. This is all a path to my place of rest. I am being shown my life and the things that happened to me. There was also the night I broke the window in my room. I felt trapped. I tried opening the door, but couldn’t. I was woken by Tongai mumbling that I would not be able to go anywhere. Next, I was pushing on the window. Tongai later told me that I suffer from night terrors. Perhaps I threw Tongai out of the window that night. And the guilt made me shut the truth away. Tongai is dead. I killed him a long time ago. Such a decent guy, who never wanted to harm anyone; I murdered him. It is this sin that is eating me up.  Mangaliso Zolo lives in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, near the university. He has an office job at a large corporate, but he does little every day bar shuffle papers and surf the ’net. Penumbra charts Manga’s daily struggles with the twin pull, from friends and acquaintances, of reckless living or charismatic Christianity. A very different Cape Town comes to life – far removed from both the gloss of tourism brochures or the familiar poverty of the Flats – and a certain dissolute South African reality is dissected with haunting precision. (GoodReads)

An Imperfect Blessing by Nadia Davids

An Imperfect BlessingIt is 1993. South Africa is on the brink of total transformation and in Walmer Estate, a busy suburb on the slopes of Devil’s Peak, fourteen-year-old Alia Dawood is about to undergo a transformation of her own. She watches with fascination and fear as the national drama unfolds, longing to be a part of what she knows to be history in the making. As her revolutionary aspirations strengthen in the months before the elections, her intense, radical Uncle Waleed reappears, forcing her parents and sister Nasreen to confront his subversive and dangerous past.Nadia David’s first novel moves across generations and communities, through the suburbs to the city centre, from the lush gardens of private schools to the dingy bars of Observatory, from landmark mosques and churches to the manic procession of the Cape Carnival, through evictions, rebellions, political assassinations and first loves. The book places one family’s story at the heart of a country’s rebirth and interrogates issues of faith, race, belonging and freedom.An Imperfect Blessing is a vibrant, funny and moving debut.(GoodReads)

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2014 Sunday Times Fiction Prize Winner

The winner of the 2014 Sunday Times Prize for Fiction is:

The Spiral House by Claire Robertson

Sunday Times books editor Ben Williams said, “The Spiral House emerged as the unanimous winner in the tightly contested Fiction category. The judges called it an astonishingly adept and richly imagined novel, a layered, subtle story that resonates with important ideas about history. We applaud the sensuous quality of the writing and were amazed by its remarkable language.” (read more)

Katrijn van der Caab, freed slave and wigmaker’s apprentice, travels with her eccentric employer from Cape Town to Vogelzang, a remote farm where a hairless girl needs their services. The year is 1794, it is the age of enlightenment, and on Vogelzang the master is conducting strange experiments in human breeding and classification. It is also here that Trijn falls in love.  Two hundred years later and a thousand miles away, Sister Vergilius, a nun at a mission hospital, wants to free herself from an austere order. It is 1961 and her life intertwines with that of a gentleman farmer – an Englishman and suspected Communist – who collects and studies insects and lives a solitary life. While a group of Americans arrive in a cavalcade of caravans and a new republic is about to be born, desire is unfurling slowly. (read more on GoodReads)

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2014 Sunday Times Fiction Prize Shortlist

Over the weekend people in the Western Cape of South Africa got to enjoy the Franschoek Literature Festival where the shortlist for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize was announced.  Here is the 2014 Shortlist:

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls

Publisher Blurb:

Chicago, 1931. A strange house gives serial-killer Harper the power to travel through time; to hunt and kill his ‘shining girls’. They’re bright young women full of spark – until he cuts it out of them, leaving clues from different times behind to taunt fate. Kirby, the 90s girl, survives his attack and turns the hunt around. Tracing Harper’s bloody trail of victims – from a glowing dancer in the 30s to a tough welder in the 40s and a bombshell architect in the 50s – Kirby is running out of time trying to solve an impossible mystery. And Harper is heading towards her once again. – See more at: http://www.randomstruik.co.za/books/the-shining-girls/5011#sthash.zBwE42nn.dpuf

Chicago, 1931. A strange house gives serial-killer Harper the power to travel through time; to hunt and kill his ‘shining girls’. They’re bright young women full of spark – until he cuts it out of them, leaving clues from different times behind to taunt fate. Kirby, the 90s girl, survives his attack and turns the hunt around. Tracing Harper’s bloody trail of victims – from a glowing dancer in the 30s to a tough welder in the 40s and a bombshell architect in the 50s – Kirby is running out of time trying to solve an impossible mystery. And Harper is heading towards her once again.

GoodReads

False River by Dominique Botha

False River

Publisher Blurb:

“You are too close to the water,” Paul whispered. “There are barbels in the mud. They will wake up if you step on them.”  When Paul and Dominique are sent to boarding schools in Natal, their idyllic childhood on a Free State farm is over. Their parents’ leftist politics has made life impossible in the local dorp school. Angry schoolboy Paul is a promising poet, his sister his confidant. But his literary awakening turns into a descent. He flees the oppression of South Africa, only to meet his death in London.  Dominique Botha’s poignant debut is an elegy to a rural existence and her brother – both now forever lost. The novel is based on true events.

GoodReads

“You are too close to the water,” Paul whispered. “There are barbels in the mud. They will wake up if you step on them.”

When Paul and Dominique are sent to boarding schools in Natal, their idyllic childhood on a Free State farm is over. Their parents’ leftist politics has made life impossible in the local dorp school. Angry schoolboy Paul is a promising poet, his sister his confidant. But his literary awakening turns into a descent. He flees the oppression of South Africa, only to meet his death in London.

Dominique Botha’s poignant debut is an elegy to a rural existence and her brother – both now forever lost. The novel is based on true events. – See more at: http://www.randomstruik.co.za/books/false-river/5115#sthash.1GNkLgGR.dpuf

Penumbra by Songeziwe Mahlangu

Penumbra

Publisher Blurb:

Mangaliso Zolo is a hapless recent graduate, still living in the southern suburbs of Cape Town near the university. Manga has an office job at a large insurance company, but he is anonymous and overlooked in this vast bureaucracy.   Penumbra charts Manga’s daily struggles with mental illness and the twin pull, from his many friends and acquaintances, between a reckless drug-fuelled lifestyle and charismatic Christianity. The novel brings an alternative experience of Cape Town to life, one far removed from both the gloss of tourism brochures and the familiar poverty of the Cape Flats. Mahlangu’s voice is unlike anything South African literature has yet seen and this debut novel dissects young, urban slackers in South Africa with startling precision.

GoodReads

 

The Spiral House by Claire Robertson

The Spiral House

Publisher Blurb:

A grand tale of love, wig-making and the Enlightenment set in the Cape Colony.  Katrijn van der Caab, freed slave and wigmaker’s apprentice, travels with her eccentric employer from Cape Town to Vogelzang, a remote farm where a hairless girl needs their services. The year is 1794, it is the age of enlightenment, and on Vogelzang the master is conducting strange experiments in human breeding and classification. It is also here that Trijn falls in love.  Two hundred years later and a thousand miles away, Sister Vergilius, a nun at a mission hospital, wants to free herself from an austere order. It is 1961 and her life intertwines with that of a gentleman farmer – an Englishman and suspected Com­munist – who collects and studies insects and lives a solitary life. While a group of Americans arrive in a cavalcade of caravans and a new republic is about to be born, desire is unfurling slowly.  In Claire Robertson’s majestic debut novel, two stories echo across centuries to expose that which binds us and sets us free.

GoodReads

A grand tale of love, wig-making and the Enlightenment set in the Cape Colony.

Katrijn van der Caab, freed slave and wigmaker’s apprentice, travels with her eccentric employer from Cape Town to Vogelzang, a remote farm where a hairless girl needs their services. The year is 1794, it is the age of enlightenment, and on Vogelzang the master is conducting strange experiments in human breeding and classification. It is also here that Trijn falls in love.

Two hundred years later and a thousand miles away, Sister Vergilius, a nun at a mission hospital, wants to free herself from an austere order. It is 1961 and her life intertwines with that of a gentleman farmer – an Englishman and suspected Com­munist – who collects and studies insects and lives a solitary life. While a group of Americans arrive in a cavalcade of caravans and a new republic is about to be born, desire is unfurling slowly.

In Claire Robertson’s majestic debut novel, two stories echo across centuries to expose that which binds us and sets us free. – See more at: http://randomstruik.co.za/books/the-spiral-house/4965#sthash.vW4mIcJA.dpuf

A grand tale of love, wig-making and the Enlightenment set in the Cape Colony.

Katrijn van der Caab, freed slave and wigmaker’s apprentice, travels with her eccentric employer from Cape Town to Vogelzang, a remote farm where a hairless girl needs their services. The year is 1794, it is the age of enlightenment, and on Vogelzang the master is conducting strange experiments in human breeding and classification. It is also here that Trijn falls in love.

Two hundred years later and a thousand miles away, Sister Vergilius, a nun at a mission hospital, wants to free herself from an austere order. It is 1961 and her life intertwines with that of a gentleman farmer – an Englishman and suspected Com­munist – who collects and studies insects and lives a solitary life. While a group of Americans arrive in a cavalcade of caravans and a new republic is about to be born, desire is unfurling slowly.

In Claire Robertson’s majestic debut novel, two stories echo across centuries to expose that which binds us and sets us free. – See more at: http://randomstruik.co.za/books/the-spiral-house/4965#sthash.vW4mIcJA.dpuf

A grand tale of love, wig-making and the Enlightenment set in the Cape Colony.

Katrijn van der Caab, freed slave and wigmaker’s apprentice, travels with her eccentric employer from Cape Town to Vogelzang, a remote farm where a hairless girl needs their services. The year is 1794, it is the age of enlightenment, and on Vogelzang the master is conducting strange experiments in human breeding and classification. It is also here that Trijn falls in love.

Two hundred years later and a thousand miles away, Sister Vergilius, a nun at a mission hospital, wants to free herself from an austere order. It is 1961 and her life intertwines with that of a gentleman farmer – an Englishman and suspected Com­munist – who collects and studies insects and lives a solitary life. While a group of Americans arrive in a cavalcade of caravans and a new republic is about to be born, desire is unfurling slowly.

In Claire Robertson’s majestic debut novel, two stories echo across centuries to expose that which binds us and sets us free. – See more at: http://randomstruik.co.za/books/the-spiral-house/4965#sthash.vW4mIcJA.dpuf

Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter

Wolf, wolf

Publisher Blurb:

He presses the button to activate the screen of the CCTV system: two sharply pointed dog’s ears. A wolfhound; except that a wolfhound can’t reach that high. He keeps the button pressed in and peers at the blue-grey night scene of the pavement and the section of the road covered by the cameras at the gate. The dog’s head, abnormally large, stares back at him. There’s something about the hairiness of the dog hairs and the oddly impassive gaze of the dark pin-hole eyes that doesn’t seem quite right. And where’s the rest of the dog-creature’s body? He knows who it is even before the deliberately-gruffened voice comes over the intercom.  ‘Matt,’ says the dog-muzzle, ‘it’s me. Please open up.’  Mattheus Duiker, the only son of Benjamin Duiker, the former owner of Duiker’s Motors, opens the gate of their Cape Town mansion to his lover, Jack. Disguised as a wolf, Jack invades the intimate darkness in which Matt is waiting for his father to die and for his own life to take off. Shiny-eyed at the prospect, the two young men sneak past the study where the old blind man, dwelling on melancholy attachments and sombre suspicions, sits listening for the footfall of death.

GoodReads

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A Guide to Reading Wilbur Smith’s Series

Wilbur Smith is a best-selling author with four series of wonderful novels.  He was born in Kabwe, Zambia in 1933 and went to university in South Africa.  His novels span centuries and follow different people and families on the African continent.  He has also written a number of stand alone novels so don’t miss out on those.

The Courtney Series

The Courtney Novels are a series of fourteen novels published between 1964 and 2015. They chronicle the lives of the Courtney family from the 1860s to 1987. The novels can be split into three parts; the original trilogy of novels follow the twins Sean and Garrick Courtney from the 1860s until 1925; the second part is five books which follow Centaine de Thiry Courtney, her sons, and grandchildren between 1917 and 1987; and the third part, the most recently written, follows the Courtney family from the 1660s until 1918, focusing on successive generations of the family. This is the suggested reading order based on time period covered not publication date.

    1. Birds of Prey  – 1660s
    2. The Golden Lion – 1670s
    3. Monsoon – 1690s
    4. Blue Horizon  – 1730s
    5. When the Lion Feeds – 1860s-1890s
    6. Triumph of the Sun – 1880s
    7. The Sound of Thunder – 1899-1906
    8. Assegai – 1906-1918
    9. The Burning Shore – 1917-1920
    10. A Sparrow Falls – 1918-1925
    11. Power of the Sword – 1931-1948
    12. Rage – 1950s & 1960s
    13. Golden Fox – 1969-1979
    14. A Time To Die – 1987

For those of you reading the Courtney series here is a family tree diagram created by Dennis Wheeler for Wikipedia:

Courtney-tree

 The Ballantyne Series

The Ballantyne Novels are a series of five novels published between 1980 and 1992. They chronicle the lives of the Ballantyne family, from the 1860s through until 1980’s against a background of Rhodesian history (now Zimbabwe). A fifth novel published in 2005 seeks to combine the Ballantyne narrative with that of Smith’s other family saga, The Courtney novels.

  1. A Falcon Flies – 1860
  2. Men of Men – 1870s-1890s
  3. The Angels Weep – 1st part 1890s, 2nd part 1977
  4. The Leopard Hunts in Darkness – 1980s
  5. The Triumph of the Sun – 1884

The Egyptian Series

A historical fiction series of six novels published between 1993 and 2016 based in a large part on Pharaoh Memnon’s time along with his story and that of his mother Lostris through the eyes of his mother’s slave Taita mixing in elements of the Hyksos’ domination and eventual overthrow.

  1. River God (1993)
  2. The Seventh Scroll (1995)
  3. Warlock (1995)
  4. The Quest (2007)
  5. Desert God (2014)
  6. Pharaoh (2016)

The Hector Cross Series

A series following the adventures of Hector Cross of Cross Bow Security.

  1. Those in Peril (2011)
  2. Vicious Circle (2013)
  3. Predator (2016)

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2013 Etisalat Prize Winner

On Sunday night the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature held their winner announcement ceremony and the winner is:

We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo

BULAWAYO_WeNeedNewNames-1-194x300Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.  But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America’s famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few. NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut calls to mind the great storytellers of displacement and arrival who have come before her-from Junot Diaz to Zadie Smith to J.M. Coetzee-while she tells a vivid, raw story all her own.

Bulawayo’s novel has been shortlisted for a few prestigious awards already so I’m sure many of you already know what it’s about and/or have read it.  Here is a really nice excerpt from a NYT review by Uzodinma Iweala for another look into what this novel is like:

Bulawayo’s portrayal of Zimbabwe is notable not for its descriptions of Paradise and Budapest but for those of Darling’s interior landscape — when, for example, she compares camera-toting NGO workers snapping pictures of her friends to paparazzi harassing Paris Hilton, or when she observes that in Zimbabwe you need to be a grandfather to be president, unlike America’s youthful Obama. Sometimes Darling is afraid of her world, which can be both disgusting and beguiling, but she is sure of her place in it.

Bulawayo describes all this in brilliant language, alive and confident, often funny, strong in its ability to make Darling’s African life immediate without resorting to the kind of preaching meant to remind Western readers that African stories are universal, our local characters globalized, our literature moving beyond the postcolonial into what the novelist Taiye Selasie has best characterized as Afropolitan.

But then there is “Destroyedmichygen,” where the teenage Darling finds herself in the care of her Zimbabwean aunt, the ­common-law wife of a Ghanaian man whose son from another woman — an obese boy dressed in sagging pants, obsessed with video games — seems to have imbibed the worst of American youth culture. Here the novel descends into trite observations about the oddness of snow, the sound of gunshots, the clash of cultures when a skinny Zimbabwean marries a grossly fat American in order to get immigration papers. Here there is a predictable pride-meets-privilege showdown when Darling encounters the anorexic daughter of a man whose house she cleans.

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2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature Shortlist

This year is the inaugural prize for the Etisalat Prize for Literature.  It is the first Pan-African literary prize created to recognize and reward debut fiction writers in Africa.  The winner will receive a £15,000 cheque.  The shortlist was released on 22 January after a retreat in Morocco where the judges narrowed down the prize finalists. (official press release)  The winner will be announced in a ceremony on the 23 February 2014.  Here are the shortlisted finalists:

Cover_BomBoy_Front_300-dpi1-194x300Bom Boy by Yewande Omotoso

Leke is a troubled young man living in the suburbs of Cape Town. He develops strange habits of stalking people, stealing small objects and going from doctor to doctor in search of companionship rather than cure. Through a series of letters written to him by his Nigerian father whom he has never met, Leke learns about a family curse; a curse which his father had unsuccessfully tried to remove. Bom Boy is a well-crafted, and complex narrative written with a sensitive understanding of both the smallness and magnitude of a single life.

Finding Soutbek by Karen Jenningssoutbek_hires-186x300

The focal point of the novel is the small town of Soutbek. Its troubles, hardships and corruption, but also its kindness, strong community and friendships, are introduced to us in a series of stories about intriguingly interlinked relationships. Contemporary Soutbek is still a divided town – the upper town destitute, and the lower town rich, largely ignorant – and through a series of vivid scenes, the troubled relationship between Pieter Fortuin, the town’s first coloured mayor, and his wife Anna is revealed. In so many ways the past casts a long shadow over the present, not in the least through the unreliable diaries of Pieter Meerman promoted by Pieter Fortuin and Professor Pearson, a retired white historian. They give us a unique insight into the lives of the seventeenth-century Dutch explorers, and hint at a utopian society, suggesting that Soutbek is the birthplace of assimilation and integration. The blossoming friendship between Anna, Sara, a foundling, and Willem, Pieter Fortuin’s nephew, is unsettled by David, Anna’s and Pieter’s son. His father has bought David a bright future, but when he comes back from boarding school David appears alienated from his father and from his old friend, the former gardener Charles Geduld, just as Anna starts to accept him as her son. Is there hope, or are we left with Willem’s conclusion that ‘he would spend the rest of his life working off the debt of his family’s poverty’? A moving story that paints a thought-provoking picture of life in contemporary South Africa.

BULAWAYO_WeNeedNewNames-1-194x300We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.  But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America’s famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few. NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut calls to mind the great storytellers of displacement and arrival who have come before her-from Junot Diaz to Zadie Smith to J.M. Coetzee-while she tells a vivid, raw story all her own. 

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2013 Sunday Times Fiction Prize Winner

The 2013 Sunday Times Fiction Prize winner, awarded in June, is For the Mercy of Water by Karen Jayes.

For the Mercy of Water by Karen Jayes

For the Mercy of Water

In a country long gripped by drought, water has become the priceless commodity over which a deadly war is being waged. In remote towns and villages, far from the safety of the city, the resistance does what it can to oppose the water company whose guards ruthlessly secure and control the water supply, but each small victory seems like one more step towards eventual defeat.  When an unexpected rain leads a group of water security guards to a town long since thought abandoned, they find an old woman, identified only as Mother, and a group of girls in a classroom. A journalist, two aid workers and a doctor arrive soon afterwards, and what they discover there defies ordinary explanation.  (read more on GoodReads)

 

http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2013/06/29/karen-jayes-wins-the-sunday-times-fiction-prize-for-for-the-mercy-of-water/

http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/books/2013/05/21/sunday-times-literary-awards-2013

2013 M-Net Literary Award Winners

The M-Net Literary Awards were awarded in September this year.  The English category prize went to The Institute for Taxi Poetry by Imraan Coovadia. The Debut prize went to The Book of War by James Whyle.

The Institute for Taxi Poetry by Imraan Coovadia

Institute for Taxi Poetry

Solly Greenfields, the first of the taxi poets, has been shot dead. At the Institute for Taxi Poetry, where they train young people to write poetry on the bodywork of Cape Town’s taxis, Solly’s protege Adam Ravens tries to make sense of his death. Who killed Solly, and why is Adam’s son acting so weird? In the world of Imraan Coovadia’s new tragicomic novel taxi companies thrive in a single-party state. Taxi poets are admired, sliding-door men rule, professors and politicians strut and fret and connive in a society shaped by violence and ambition, love, and the unsettling power of the imagination. (read more on GoodReads)

The Book of War by James Whyle

The Book of War

An illiterate child is stranded on the southern tip of Africa. The British and the Xhosa have been at war for eighty years and the boy signs up in the hope of steady meals. His new commander has assembled an assortment of convicts, sailors, and drunkards from the gutters of Cape Town. They will be used to test the effectiveness of a revolutionary new weapon.  The irregulars embark on journey through a landscape prowled by wild beasts, and the distinction between man and animal becomes ephemeral. Based on firsthand accounts of the War of the Prophet, The Book of war converts the bare facts of history into something terrible and strange.  (read more on GoodReads)

http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2013/09/20/the-2013-m-net-literary-awards-winners/

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Review: The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing

When I finished reading this novel I didn’t know how to feel about it.  From this I can tell that it had an impact on me.  The description below from GoodReads doesn’t really cover all the elements going on in this short book.

“Set in Southern Rhodesia under white rule, Doris Lessing’s first novel is at once a riveting chronicle of human The Grass is Singingdisintegration, a beautifully understated social critique, and a brilliant depiction of the quiet horror of one woman’s struggle against a ruthless fate.  Mary Turner is a self-confident, independent young woman who becomes the depressed, frustrated wife of an ineffectual, unsuccessful farmer. Little by little the ennui of years on the farm works its slow poison. Mary’s despair progresses until the fateful arrival of Moses, an enigmatic, virile black servant. Locked in anguish, Mary and Moses—master and slave—are trapped in a web of mounting attraction and repulsion, until their psychic tension explodes with devastating consequences.” (read more on GoodReads)

I was propelled through it, tumbling along with Mary until the end where she falls apart, and then is killed.  I thought Lessing took a very real situation and told the story of it honestly.  Brutally honestly.  I was shocked and appalled by Mary but also there were moments when I could totally understand her feeling the way she felt concerning loneliness and her inability to change her lot with Dick…I hated her and I sympathised with her.  It was tough.  I related to the cultural elements of the story very well as I am accustomed to it; the harsh land, the heat, the small towns, the remote farms, the veldskoene, and even the sjambok.

It really was a hard book to read in that it made me feel so much.  But I had to finish it.  It is a good book no doubt.  It made me feel glad that those days are gone though.  Lessing also let’s you take from it what you want in way too.  I don’t want to give anything away but when you see what Mary does to Moses and then later when Moses asks Mary if Jesus condones people killing other people and she answers that Jesus is on the side of the good, I saw the ending from his perspective whereas the beginning had been completely from the Turners’ perspective.  That was probably the best part of this book for me – that it began and ended with the same scene but you see it in a different way.  This book is going to stay with for a while but in a darker sense than other good books I’ve read that struck me.

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

 

Writer Spotlight: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a prominent author of African literature.  She was born in Nigeria, lives in America, but continues to go between the two  countries

teaching writing workshops in Nigeria.  Adichie’s novels have been translated into 30 languages and she has won various prestigious awards for her work.

Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), received wide critical acclaim; it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (2005).

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, is set before and during the Biafran War. It was awarded the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Her third book, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of short stories.
In 2010 she was listed among the authors of The New Yorker′s “20 Under 40” Fiction Issue.[6] Adichie’s story, “Ceiling”, was included in the 2011 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

In 2013 she published her fourth novel, Americanah. (wikipedia)  All blurbs are from GoodReads.

Purple HibiscusPurple Hibiscus

The limits of fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world are defined by the high walls of her family estate and the dictates of her fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, prayer.  When Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, Kambili’s father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love – and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family.  This extraordinary debut novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Half of a Yellow Sun, is about the blurred lines between the old gods and the new, childhood and adulthood, love and hatred – the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and real life is lived. (GoodReads)

Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun

With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.  Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all. Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise and the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place, bringing us one of the most powerful, dramatic, and intensely emotional pictures of modern Africa that we have ever had. (GoodReads)

The Thing Around Your NeckThe Thing Around Your Neck

In “A Private Experience,” a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In “Tomorrow is Too Far,” a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. The young mother at the center of “Imitation” finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to reexamine them.  Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers. (GoodReads)

AmericanahAmericanah

As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.  Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.  Fearless, gripping, at once darkly funny and tender, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s most powerful and astonishing novel yet. (GoodReads)

Adichie recently gave an interview to the Boston Review surrounding her newly released novel Americanah and Aaron Bady had this to say about Adichie and Americanah:

“By the end of the interview, I understood something about her new novel that I don’t think I could have learned without meeting her. Like its author, Americanah can be painfully blunt, but it’s never unkind, never purposefully hurtful. And it’s meant to be funny. If she touches on uncomfortable topics—racial tension between Africans and African Americans, for example, or the silliness of white people—she does so without judgment, only deep and careful interest in the things that human beings do. She writes to understand and empathize. But most of all, she wrote this book for herself, because she wanted to write a love story about hair and race and visa applications, about Nigerians in America. She wanted to write a novel that was a little bit light-hearted, as un-serious and trivial and overloaded with superfluities as life itself. And because it is the novel she wanted to write, she doesn’t mind that much if you don’t find it funny. That’s up to you. Her job was just to write it.”

Read the full interview and get a closer look at the person behind these novels.

The official Chimamanda Adichie website: http://chimamanda.com/