The winner should be a novel of rare imagination and style, evocative, textured and a tale so compelling as to become an enduring landmark of contemporary fiction.
CHAIR OF JUDGES KEN BARRIS COMMENTS:
It is always difficult to select a shortlist in a competition at national level, and this year the fiction prize included books published in both 2019 and 2020. It was also a two-year period in which many of SA’s best and brightest novelists happened to publish, from gravitas-rich veterans to brilliant newcomers. It was a daunting but immensely enriching task for the panel, and we finally settled on five excellent novels.
Marguerite Poland is in scathing form in her heartbreaking tale of a young black missionary in the Eastern Cape, while Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu writes about colonialism and toxic masculinity with biting accuracy. Mark Winkler’s story is a subtle reflection on collective guilt and individual isolation, and Dawn Garisch’s portrayal of the struggle for connection is intelligently and beautifully observed. The youngest author in the line-up is Rešoketšwe Manenzhe with her engaging debut about migrancy and the destruction wreaked on a mixed-race family by the so-called Immorality Act.
FICTION AWARD SHORTLIST
Dawn Garisch (Karavan Press)
Set on a farm in the Eastern Cape, and taking place over one day, this is a finely wrought meditation on motherhood, not only in personal and human terms, but also with regards to ourselves as destructive children of the earth.
The History of Man
Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu (Penguin Fiction)
A brilliant portrait of a white, male colonialist seen through the eyes of a black woman writer. Emil Coetzee was a supporting character in Ndlovu’s prize-winning predecessor The Theory of Flight, and here she places him in the centre of the story, examining the forces that created this “man of empire”.
Rešoketšwe Manenzhe (Jacana Media)
Taking place more than 100 years ago, this is a highly original novel about migrancy that incorporates myth and ritual and the stories of extraordinary ordinary women. On this journey, someone will get lost, someone will give up and turn back, and someone may go all the way to the end.
A Sin of Omission
Marguerite Poland (Penguin Fiction)
A wrenching, deeply felt story about Stephen Malusi Mzamane, a young Anglican priest, trained in England but now marooned in a rundown mission in Fort Beaufort. He is battling the prejudices of colonial society, and the church itself, when he is called to his mother’s rural home to inform her of his elder brother’s death.
Due South of Copenhagen
Mark Winkler (Umuzi)
A skilled examination of memory and culpability. Max Fritz lives quietly in a small Lowveld town, the editor of the local newspaper. Seemingly contented, he is shadowed by his childhood, and by the border war he was forced to take part in. When news of a boyhood friend reaches him, the past rears up painfully.
Read all about the Fiction & Non-Fiction shortlists here: