Scenes from the second Karavan Press Literary Festival

The inaugural Karavan Press Literary Festival last year was a prayer. We were still in lockdown, still scared, and in-person literary events were scarce, but the longing for them after all the loss and depravation was overwhelming, and so the idea for a small, socially distanced, as safe as possible (under the circumstances) festival was born. Together, we made it happen, and it was a resounding success.

Much has changed since last year, but the longing has remained, and it seems that the Karavan Press Literary Festival is here to stay. The 2022 edition was another day of literary joy, and I want to thank everyone who made it happen!

EVENT 1 10:30-11:30  LOVE STORY

Love is in the air: Sally Partridge and Melissa A. Volker speak to Karina M. Szczurek about writing romance and love (feline guest appearance: Antonia Salieri)

EVENT 2 12:00-13:00  SHORT STORY

Rachel Zadok, founder of SHORT STORY DAY AFRICA, Joanne Hichens, founder of SHORT.SHARP.STORIES, and Lester Walbrugh, talk to Helen Moffett about the projects that define and nurture the short fiction landscape in South Africa and beyond

LUNCH   13:00-14:00  WOMEN OF SOIL

Lunch hour inspired by stories and recipes from Women of Soil: Changing Lives, snacks and drinks were served

EVENT 3 14:00-15:00  MEMOIR

Tracy Going, Erika Bornman, Joanne Hichens and Leslie Swartz discuss the memoir’s potential to change lives


Joy Watson and Mary Watson (via Skype) in conversation


Penny Haw, Helen Moffett and Justin Fox talk to Gail Gilbride about the histories that shaped their latest novels


Melissa Sussens, Kerry Hammerton, Stephen Symons and Justin Fox read from their collections

In the audience:

Apart from the gigantic gift of this day of shared literary wonder, I received three physical gifts: smiling sunflowers from Brenda, a lovely Christmas parcel from Sally and an inspiring book from Christy. Thank you, Everyone!

The day ended with a rabbit rescue mission that felt like something out of Alice in Wonderland – thank you, Joanne, for not abandoning my neighbours’ beautiful Sparkles (The Escape Artist) to her uncertain fate. We not only managed to catch her, but made sure that she returned safely home the next day.

The Karavan Press Team at the end of the day (after the successful rabbit rescue)!

Thank you to everyone who participated, attended, shared stories and food and wine, and bought and swapped books, and in general made us believe in miracles again!

See you next year! 🙂

Sunday Times Literary Awards: AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings shortlisted for the Fiction Prize

The shortlists of the prestigious Sunday Times Literary Awards have been announced and we are thrilled that An Island by Karen Jennings is nominated for the Fiction Prize! Congratulations, Karen, and all the other shortlisted authors.

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.

JUDGES: Ekow Duker (chair), Nomboniso Gasa, Kevin Ritchie


I’m sure we can all remember our school days when the teacher would pose a question to the class. Some pupils would immediately strain to answer. Others might look at each other in puzzlement, the answer tantalisingly out of reach. This year’s judging of the Fiction Prize was a little like that. Some novels by their magisterial telling of an important story, screamed at the judges to, “Pick me! Pick me!”. Others were more restrained, quietly confident in their ability to narrate a memorable tale. Each of the five books that made this year’s shortlist met the criteria but in remarkably different ways. An Island by Karen Jennings is a masterful depiction of a fragile life lived in near-solitude. With its cast of indentured labourers and colonial administrators, Joanne Joseph’s Children of Sugarcane took us on a meticulously detailed journey from India to the cruel fields of Natal, and back again. All Gomorrahs Are The Same by Thenjiwe Mswane gently lifts the veil of familiarity that shrouds the existence of three women, allowing us a powerfully intimate view into their inner lives. Damon Galgut’s The Promise, winner of the 2021 Booker Prize, is a compelling study of a once privileged family in terminal decline. Finally, and without any warning to buckle up, Junx by Tshidiso Moletsane, flung us headlong into the exhilaration of inner-city Joburg.

KAREN JENNINGS (Karavan Press)

Jennings doesn’t continue the postmodernist leitmotifs of living on an island which were established by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and JM Coetzee’s response to it in Foe. Our reviewer wrote: “Instead of writing ‘back’ to another text, she digs deeper into the long term impact of a colonist rule, and the twisted dictatorship that follows it. This allegorical tale could be read as a warning of the long lasting impact of fear, violence, depravity and poverty and the role isolation plays in feeding these conditions.” Our judges said: “Haunting in its depiction of a life lived in solitude, where the past is more real than the present. She is masterful in building the suspense, stone by blood-soaked stone.”

Read the full press release here: The 2022 Sunday Times Literary Awards shortlist