This is the 20th year of the fiction prize. The criteria stipulate that the winning novel should be one of “rare imagination and style … a tale so compelling as to become an enduring landmark of contemporary fiction”.
KEN BARRIS – CHAIR
Barris is a writer, editor and former academic. His fiction has been translated into German, Danish and Turkish, and he has won various literary awards for novels, short stories and poetry. These include the Ingrid Jonker Prize, the M-Net Book Prize, the Thomas Pringle Award, the University of Johannesburg Prize and the Herman Charles Bosman Prize.
Richards is an independent journalist with experience in radio and print. Founder of NPO: Woman Zone and the Women’s Library at Artscape, she’s author of Beautiful Homes and co-author of Woman Today: 50 Years of South African Women on Radio and Being a Woman in Cape Town. She is a speaker, media trainer and podcasts under Woman Zone Stories and Books Stories People on pointview.fm.
Mbao is a writer and essayist. He reviews fiction for the Johannesburg Review of Books and teaches South African literature at Stellenbosch University. His short story “The Bath” was listed as one of the 20 best stories of SA’s democracy, and he has compiled and edited the poetry collection Years of Fire and Ash: South African Poems of Decolonisation.
The award will be bestowed on a book that presents “the illumination of truthfulness, especially those forms of it that are new, delicate, unfashionable and fly in the face of power”, and that demonstrates “compassion, elegance of writing, and intellectual and moral integrity”.
GRIFFIN SHEA – CHAIR
Shea is the founder of Bridge Books, an independent bookstore in downtown Johannesburg, and the author of a young adult novel, The Golden Rhino. Bridge Books focuses on African literature, and on finding new ways of getting books to readers. The store’s non-profit African Book Trust is the lead partner in the Literary District project, a collaboration among booksellers, city agencies, businesses and other volunteers. Before opening Bridge Books, Griffin worked as a journalist for 15 years, mostly with the international news agency Agence France-Press (AFP).
Mathiane has been a journalist for more than 35 years. Her writing career began in 1975 as a reporter at The World newspaper, and she later joined Frontline magazine where she specialised in writing about life in South African townships. Since then she has worked for most of SA’s major newspapers. She has written three books: Beyond the Headlines, South Africa: Diary of Troubled Times, and Eyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story. She currently teaches isiZulu at a private primary school.
Ngqulunga is director of the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Johannesburg. He is the author of The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka Isaka Seme, which won multiple awards, including the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for non-fiction in 2018. Ngqulunga was educated at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and at Brown University in the US, where he obtained a doctoral degree.
“For writer, author, poet, doctor and teacher Dawn Garisch, writing is life. Listen as she explains how it’s helped her navigate her own journey – and also how it’s worked for so many others who have found themselves through her Life Righting Collective. Dawn is both our Finding Herself candidate and WZ Book Club Guest Author for April.”
A magical evening! Earlier today, we launched FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT by Stephen Symons at Wordsworth Books Gardens. Real bookshop, real people, live poetry reading! Stephen was in conversation with author Paul Morris and read from his stunning poetry collection as well as yet unpublished poems, which will feature in his forthcoming book … Watch this space!
Our gratitude to the booksellers of Wordsworth Books Gardens for their dedication and support. Thank you, Stephen and Paul – it was wonderful to listen to you talk about poetry and its magic. And thank you to all who attended the event. It was so good to interact with readers in real life again! Thank you.
“Her eyes had adjusted, and the lightwas that of another country.”
Durban North, 1997. Following two shocking and insidious incidents of violence, nineteen-year-old Mary Da Costa is flying to Auckland ahead of her parents to make a new start. She is riddled with reservations – New Zealand is where her late brother was supposed to move – and all she really wants to do is keep to herself and work on her art.
On arrival, Mary comes under the wings of the South African ex-pat community, struggling with its own tensions between homesickness and belonging. Finding work at a local dairy, she meets self-appointed Māori leader Nepukaneha Cooper – Buck, as he’s better known. He and his family have some history with these rugby-mad lovers of apartheid, even more now that they’re encroaching on his turf. If only he had the means to fight them off and realise his life-long dream of establishing a marae on the beautiful strip of coast he has always called home.
Meanwhile, adrift between past and present, Mary is forced to dig deep in order to find her own truths and place in the world.
Nick Mulgrew’s long-awaited debut novel – of grand metaphors, silences, absences, and two cities and countries in flux – is a delightfully innovative, surprising, and warm-hearted meditation on family, loss, and home, as well as a deft examination of dislocation, dispossession, and the cultural blind spots of two very different (and in some ways similar) communities.
Publication date: May 2021
About the author:
NICK MULGREW was born in Durban in 1990. He is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, the recipient of the 2016 Thomas Pringle and 2018 Nadine Gordimer Awards, and the director of the award-winning poetry press, uHlanga.
Raised in Durban North and Orewa, he currently lives in Edinburgh, and is a PhD candidate at the University of Dundee. A Hibiscus Coast is his fourth book, and first novel.
The intricacy of a body in the dark
These are the days of the clouds
and colours of his childhood,
of the secrets of forgotten garages
with unwilling doors
and small-paned windows,
of the mysteries of broken glass, rust
and enigmas of dust,
And of the sides of houses too,
of shadows leopard-crawling over mossed brick,
and cool green thoughts and concrete
crumbling to nothingness at the edge
of tired swimming pools
spun with holiday light.
The intricacy of a body in the dark,
how it reminds him of a life
lived a lifetime away, where memory
tastes of salted skin
after a day at a beach,
part sunlight, part ocean,
and at the tip of its tongue
the bitterness of its end.
He stands, looking out at the waves
and last scraps of surfers,
imagining someone else watching him
flared against sky leaking into cobalt.
He has been turning
a perfectly good key in a lock
over and over his whole life
but the door remains locked.
He imagines she stands behind the door
brushing the years between them from her hair.
Now everything is silent and made of first light,
except for the sound of that key turning helplessly
and the distant keening of gulls.
— Stephen Symons
As always, the reading by the featured poet will be followed by an open mic session for poets from the audience. Poets are welcome to read from their own work as well as from the work of a favourite poet.