AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings – A little gem of a novel

Allaying Art

Karen Jennings’ short 2021 Booker Longlisted novel follows Samuel, an old man living on an island in an unknown African country and one day his routine is abruptly disturbed by a body of a refugee being washed up on the shore of the island.

This is a powerful little novel by a small independent press ( Holland House Books). The book definitely is not pitied by Booker judges due to its small publication but is selected because it’s an absolutely marvellous novel by a writer who has something important to say.

It’s remarkable how Jennings in such a small novel conveys so much about the post colonial perspective and rebellion against dictatorship in an African country but leaves much room for interpretation. I loved how she is touching political themes, environmental themes but not going into the depth of it, but just touching a surface level.

The book…

View original post 110 more words

Book Review: An Island

neverimitate

an island

This review was written for and first published by Bookmunch.

An Island tells the story of Samuel, who is seventy years old when the tale opens. For the previous twenty-three years he has tended a lighthouse on a rocky islet, where he cultivates vegetables and keeps chickens. Requested supplies are delivered by boat each fortnight. Other than these brief visits, he lives alone.

Occasional bodies are washed up on his shores, refugees who have perished and who he buries. The authorities have no interest in those whose skin colour and facial features mark them as foreign.

The book is structured across four days that unfold in short segments with many flashbacks. On the first day Samuel finds the body of a man who turns out not to be as dead as he first appears. Although unwelcome, Samuel cannot bring himself to leave the incomer to perish. With some difficulty…

View original post 443 more words

A Hibiscus Coast

Book Review:

A Hibiscus Coast

by Nick Mulgrew

(Karavan Press)

In these turbulent South African times of violence and disquiet, many conversations have turned to emigration. In that context I found A Hibiscus Coast to be an honest, compelling and soothing look at family, migration and dispossession.

The author takes us to Durban North, 1997, where a suburban murder rocks a community, and drives one of its members to act upon a long held emigration strategy.

As in real life, nothing about emigration is simple. The characters are layered with different life events, losses and biases, and so we begin to see the messy, difficult, courageous and conflicted process unfold.

The main character, nineteen year old Mary, has to leave Durban ahead of her parents and is forced to make a new life for herself, within a South African ex-pat community in New Zealand.

Parallel to Mary’s story, we meet…

View original post 376 more words

SA Womxn Writers – Day 12: A Reflection on Publishing by Karina Szczurek of Karavan Press

Global Literature in Libraries Initiative

Karavan Press came into being in 2019 to offer authors a literary home for their books – home in the sense of shelter, safety and care.

As editor and publisher, I want to nurture authors and their creativity and establish strong bonds between writers and readers who are passionate about our words and stories. The vision for Karavan Press crystalised for me after reading Roberto Calasso’s L’impronta dell’editore (2013) and I was especially inspired by two South African literary projects founded around the same time and led by women: Rachel Zadok’s Short Story Day Africa (gallery below) and Joanne Hichens’s Short.Sharp.Stories (second gallery below).

The Short Story Day Africa Books

  • Rapunzel is Dead: ISBN: 9780620588850 GoodReads
  • Follow the Road: ISBN: 9781920590987 GoodReads
  • Feast, Famine and Potluck: ISBN: 9780620588874 GoodReads
  • Terra Incognita: ISBN: 9781920590918 GoodReads
  • Water: ISBN: 9781780263083 GoodReads
  • Migrations: ISBN: 9781780264059 GoodReads
  • ID: ISBN: 9781780264592 GoodReads
  • Hotel Africa: ISBN: 9781780265056

View original post 521 more words

Q&A: Words on the Times– Nick Mulgrew, founder & director of uHlanga Press

AiW note: To celebrate the past thirty years of independent publishing at African Books Collective (ABC), we are running a series highlighting the wonderful work of those who make up ABC. We will be talking to some of the publishers from the collective, gathering their Words on the Times, an AiW Q&A series that invites collective reflections on the way the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our work and our communities. Nick Mulgrew, uHlanga

ABC is an African owned, worldwide marketing and distribution outlet publishing books from Africa. ABC’s wide-ranging catalogues promote big and small academic presses, children’s books publishers, NGO and writers’ organisations, and literary presses. They also run the website readafricanbooks.com which profiles the work of African publishers and books. We started the series with a Q&A and Words on the Times with ABC CEO, Justin Cox

Today, we talk with Nick Mulgrew, founder and director of uHlanga Press

View original post 1,189 more words

Karavan Press to publish first poetry collection: FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT by STEPHEN SYMONS

It is with delight that I share the news of Karavan Press’s first poetry collection: FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT by Stephen Symons. As designer/typesetter, Stephen has been part of the Karavan Press family since the very beginning. It is wonderful to welcome him to the press as an author! Next year, we will also be publishing Stephen’s debut collection of short stories. But first: the poetry!

“Stephen Symons’s new collection is engineered for flight, gliding its way between the heavy and the weightless, memory and forgetting. It is a self-proclaimed ‘language of feathers’ that makes this flight possible, a spiritual athleticism that brings to mind George Herbert, whose idea was that the ‘fall furthers the flight in me.’ Symons’s skill is in creating a fathomable sphere for the dimensions of war, contextualizing the enormous facts with small detail, whether referencing Amichai’s ‘diameters of bombs/and sadness of open closets’ or exploring the weightless dross of childhood in the beautiful piece ‘My son was conscripted.’ Symons creates an epicentre of violence by means of an exquisite prose poem sequence that reverberates even to the quietest poems in the book. But the work, as in all of Symons’s poetry, keeps thrusting us back into the present with all its perfect natural math as counter to aftermath: a child’s laughter; sunlight trickling over mossed stones; a ballet of cormorants. This is a beautiful book by one of South Africa’s most tender poets of witness.”

— David Keplinger, author of Another City (Milkweed Editions, 2018), and The Long Answer: New and Selected Poems (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2020)

FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT by Stephen Symons will be published in November 2020.

Stephen Symons has published poetry and short-fiction in journals, magazines and anthologies, locally and internationally. His debut collection, Questions for the Sea (uHlanga, 2016) received an honourable mention for the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, and was also shortlisted for the 2017 Ingrid Jonker Prize. His unpublished collection Spioenkop was a semi-finalist for the Hudson Prize for Poetry (USA) in 2015. His second collection, Landscapes of Light and Loss, was published by Dryad Press in 2018.

Symons holds a PhD in History (University of Pretoria) and an MA in Creative Writing (University of Cape Town). He lives with his family in Oranjezicht, Cape Town.

Writing While Feminist – a writing prompt series.

Wonderful idea! Thank you, Jen.

Jen Thorpe

At the start of the COVID19 lock down I saw a lot of people saying that they were going to use this time to GET SHIT DONE. Hm, I thought, not me. I feel like I need a nap. Nap I have done, dear reader. Many a nap has been had.

But I have also been writing.

In 2019, I completed what I’m pretty sure will be my first of many times reading The Artists Way – an incredible book on creativity and living a creative life written by Julia Cameron. One of the things that I have found so helpful from that project was the morning pages. Cameron encourages you to write at least three pages in a journal every day as a practice, much like people who practice meditation. The aim of this writing isn’t to produce a masterpiece, or even to write anything useful. It’s more of…

View original post 473 more words

Lockdown musings on survival

The publishing industry has always included an element of chance that we all accept and live with. From the question of which manuscript gets published – through editing, proofreading, designing, printing, distribution and promotion – to finally book selling and buying, few things are predictable. We are part of a creative industry, sustained mostly by the sweat and blood of artists. There are few creative people in this for the money. If you are a writer, from your usual royalties, you might be able to buy yourself a packet of cigarettes on the black market right now. Hardly anyone can live off writing alone. We all hustle and keep other jobs to sustain our love for the written word.

But now, like many other sectors of the economy, we are all facing The Great Unknown, way beyond the usual Russian roulette that is writing and publishing. Books can still be written and prepared for printing, but they cannot be printed, distributed, sold and bought in bookshops right now. Unless they are ebooks, of course. But there is a reason why ebooks have not replaced the book in our lives, and I still can’t bring myself to consider ebooks seriously. I have not become a publisher to bring ebooks into this world. I am old-fashioned and stubborn that way. I have always been in love with the book as a physical object. Karavan Press has only one title available as an ebook and only because I promised the author that I would brave e-publishing for her. I did and we produced a great e-version of a beautiful real book, but I cannot imagine it without the real thing being in the world. What consequences the lockdown will have for publishing is extremely difficult to predict, like everything else right now, and I think we are all apprehensive. We are all busy reinventing the world. Or just sitting still and waiting. Karavan Press is probably the smallest fish in the local publishing pond; we only started bringing out books in July last year. For us, this is not only uncharted territory, this is “here be dragons”.

Jacana Media tweeted the following today: “ARE BOOKS ESSENTIAL? In our small book publishing industry in SA, we believe they are. But can we ask President Cyril Ramaphosa to reconsider the government’s stance that books are non-essential?”

It is important to open up this conversation. I was asked for comment and wrote the following:

“In general, I agree. Books are essential in ways that a tweet can’t articulate, but relaxing the lockdown for one form of creativity would not be fair to others. Also, I don’t want readers or booksellers risking lives, their own and others’. There must be other avenues of support.”

“As a reader, I am trying to support the book industry by pre-ordering and paying for books for after the lockdown and reading and reviewing the ones I already have at home. I’m not an ebook reader, so this is my way of sustaining the booksellers/publishers for now.”

“As a writer, luckily I still have some paid work. And, as always, I am mostly writing for the love of it. I have seen in the past that I can survive nearly anything as long as words are not taken away from me. I write because I don’t know how else to be.”

“As a publisher, I don’t know whether Karavan Press will survive the cash-flow situation in the next few weeks. We are infants in the business, but I will do whatever I can to keep our dreams alive. I am confident that together with our authors & readers we will pull through.”

How? I don’t know. But I think of the amazing people I work with at Karavan Press – writers, designers, editors, proofreaders, distributors, booksellers, festival organisers, interviewers, reviewers and, of course, readers – I picture their faces, real, individual faces, and I know that I believe in this literary ecosystem and I believe it is worth saving, sustaining and supporting. To do it financially, cash-flow will be essential, especially for the smaller and independent fish in the pond that are already swimming against impossible currents.

I think that it is important not to break the chain that links the writer to the reader, that is why as a reader I am pre-ordering books and paying for them now. I am happy to wait for them to be printed and delivered to the bookshops for me to pick up after the lockdown. Luckily, books don’t go off. My gut-feeling is that if the booksellers manage to survive, the rest of the system will pull through with them. Where the government could step in, apart from the general relief measures that are being introduced right now? Not sure. All I can think of are ideas I have seen elsewhere in the world. Acknowledge that writers are vital contributor to the well-being of society and pay them properly for their work. Offer extensive, well-monitored grant schemes for authors, editors, proofreaders, designers. Support literary festivals. Reconsider VAT for books. Make sure that every library in the country can buy books on a regular basis that is curated for their readers’ wishes and needs. None of this is easy – it hasn’t been before either.

I think what is most important right now is that as individuals and collectively we understand our own expectations and responsibilities and communicate with the relevant parties about solutions to problems that arise as we all stumble along. I have been in touch with Karavan Press authors – published and in the process of being published by Karavan Press – in the beginning of the lockdown and together we will attempt to get to the other side of this scary, unprecedented time. I have asked for patience and kindness. Their responses made me believe that we will make it. Together.