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.

FICTION PRIZE CRITERIA
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

CHAIR OF JUDGES EKOW DUKER SAYS:

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.

AN ISLAND
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

Sunday Times Literary Awards longlists announced

The longlists for SA’s most prestigious annual literary awards for non-fiction and fiction – the Sunday Times Literary Awards – have been announced in partnership with Exclusive Books. Karavan Press has two titles on each list. Congratulations to all longlisted authors, and extra literary hugs to Karavan Press authors: Karen Jennings, Nick Mulgrew, Nancy Richards and Cathy Park Kelly!

FICTION PRIZE

FICTION LONGLIST

This is the 21st year of the Sunday Times 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”.

JUDGES

EKOW DUKER — CHAIR
Oil-field engineer turned banker turned writer, Ekow Duker grew up in Ghana, studied in the UK, the US and France and now lives and works in Joburg. His debut novels, White Wahala and Dying in New York, were published in 2014 and were followed in 2016 by The God Who Made Mistakes, and in 2019 by his fourth and most ambitious novel, Yellowbone.

KEVIN RITCHIE
Ritchie spent 27 years at what is today Independent Media, including editing the company’s smallest daily newspaper, the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley, and its flagship, The Star, in Joburg. He received several journalism awards during his career and wrote the two-volume Reporting the Courts – A Handbook for South African Journalists. He also co-authored The A-Z of South African Politics (Jacana 2019). After leaving journalism in 2018, Ritchie founded a media consultancy which provides communication services, training for journalists and communicators and coaching for editors and CEOs. He writes a syndicated weekly opinion column in the Saturday Star.

NOMBONISO GASA
Writer and political analyst, Gasa is a research fellow at the Centre for Law and Society and Adjunct Professor at the School of Public Law at the University of Cape Town. In the early ’90s, Gasa was part of the ANC’s Commission for the Women’s Emancipation of Women. Gasa has been published widely in newspapers and academic journals, including Women in South African History (HSRC), which she edited in 2007. She has sat in several public positions, including the Commission for Gender Equality, Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Development Bank of Southern Africa. Gasa has a long history in politics, feminism and women’s rights activism extending to her teenage years which saw her arrested several times by the apartheid government.

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NON-FICTION PRIZE

NON-FICTION LONGLIST

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”.

JUDGES

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).

NOMAVENDA MATHIANE
Mathiane has been a journalist for over 35 years. Her writing career began in 1975 as a reporter at the World Newspapers 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 the major South African newspapers. Her last journalist job was writing for Business Day as the legislature reporter. Mathiane 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.

BONGANI NGQULUNGA
Ngqulunga is with the University of Johannesburg where he currently serves as director of the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS). He is the author of The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka IsakaSeme, which won multiple awards, including the Sunday Times Non-Fiction Award in 2018. Ngqulunga was educated at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and at Brown University in the US, where he obtained a doctoral degree.

C.A. Davids interviews Karen Jennings for Electric Literature

When I think about writing, I think about words as stones and the end product as being a dry-stone wall or maybe a path made with stones. That is how the word should be; a path or a wall that everyone needs and everyone can use. You’re not picking up diamonds and creating a tiara for a few. This is the basic stuff of life: words and communicating. 

Electric Literature

Click here to read the interview: Electric Literature

AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings published by Hogarth Books in the US

Happy US publication day to An Island by Karen Jennings!

The book arrives with great reviews:

“No plot summary can do justice to a story woven this carefully, whose strength lies in its deliberate pacing and sharp dispensation of detail. Samuel is as real as a shaking hand.”

New York Times

“Much of the story reads like an allegory, but Jennings, despite her insight, never implies that Samuel’s actions are generalizable to a nation. This is simply how isolation, humiliation and disappointment at the hands of friends, family and institutions crafted one man.”

Star Tribune

And the team at Hogarth Books shares on Instagram:

“When An Island arrived on our desks last summer, several of us here at Hogarth closed our laptops for the afternoon and read it in one sitting. It’s that kind of book–short, fable-like, written in a timeless quality that makes it feel like it’s been with us forever. And its ending–it has an ending we’ve been thinking about ever since. This is one of those books that you will turn over in your mind again and again, with no simple interpretation or single meaning, and that you will desperately want to discuss with one of your best book friends. Returning to Lydia Millet’s question: An Island is history written via literature. Don’t miss it.”

Hogarth Books

Don’t miss the comment on the post by no other than Sarah Jessica Parker:

“Oh wowza!!!!!! Can’t wait!!!’x”

An Island by Karen Jennings launched last night at EB Cavendish

Photo by Penny Haw

A lot stood in its way – geography, a pandemic, international lockdowns and other more mundane challenges – but, at last, we managed to be on the same continent and in one place, in a bookshop that was open and could welcome readers, and could finally celebrate the book that brought us all together: An Island. The novel itself has been through quite a lot since its official publication in December 2020. A Booker longlist, a K. Sello Duiker Memorial Award and around twenty different editions world-wide (published and planned) later, and we could officially launch Karen’s stunning novel.

Thank you to Linda and the entire team at Exclusive Books Cavendish for making the event happen, to Karen for sharing her stories with us, and to all who attended. An evening to remember!

Photo by Annette Snyckers

AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings to be launched at EB Cavendish

After the incredible journey that Karen Jennings and An Island have travelled since the publication of the highly acclaimed novel, it is simply wonderful to be able to finally launch the book officially at a bookshop in the company of the author, who is now living in South Africa again. Please join us on the 24th of March at Exclusive Books for this special occasion!

Karen will be in conversation with Karina Szczurek. We look forward to seeing you there and celebrating together!

Karavan Press authors at the Adam Small Fees

Cathy Park Kelly, Nancy Richards and Karen Jennings will be participating in the Adam Small Literary Festival in Pniel this year.

SATURDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2022 
PNIEL MUSEUM TEETUIN

13.45 – 14.15: Cathy Park – Boiling a Frog Slowly: A Memoir of Love Gone Wrong
14.15 – 14.45: Nancy Richards – The Skipper's Daughter
14.45 – 15.15: Karen Jennings – An Island: Longlisted for Booker Prize

Adam Small Fees