Karen Jennings’s taut, tenebrous novel describes what happens when Samuel, a septuagenarian lighthouse keeper and the sole inhabitant of a small island off the coast of an unnamed African country, acquires an uninvited houseguest.
An Island is the only small-press published novel on this year’s Booker prize longlist, and if its chances of making the final cut feel slender, its deft execution and the seriousness of its political engagement serve as a potent reminder of all that such titles add to the literary ecosystem. Those same qualities should also win it readers well beyond awards season.The Observer
A FRACTURED LAND by MELISSA A. VOLKER longlisted for the Page Turner Award – Book Award 2021!
Fantastic news! Melissa A. Volker’s A Fractured Land has been longlisted for the Page Turner Award – Book Award 2021.
Melissa A. Volker is a reader, writer, beauty therapist and water woman. She blogs about surfing and stand up paddle boarding; writes eco-fiction, romance and short stories. She lives in Cape Town with her husband, two daughters and a cat. Her first eco-romantic thriller, A Fractured Land, was published in the US in 2018 and was republished along with her second novel, Shadow Flicker, by Karavan Press in South Africa in 2019. Shadow Flicker won the Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa’s Strelitzia prize for the most promising manuscript in 2017. Melissa’s short story, ‘Spa Ritual’, was published in the South African anthology: Hair – Weaving and Unpicking Stories of Identity. Her new novelette, The Pool Guy, is coming soon.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett interviewed Karen Jennings for the Guardian
The South African author struggled to find a publisher for her Booker-nominated novel An Island, which only had a print-run of 500 copies. She talks about rejection, her country and believing in herself
Karen Jennings is still in shock. It has been a few days since the announcement that her novel, An Island, has been longlisted for the Booker prize, and the 38-year-old South African author looks as though she’s reeling. Considering the novel’s difficult route to publication, you can understand why. She doesn’t even have an agent.
“It was incredibly difficult to find a publisher,” she says, via video chat from Brazil, where she has spent the pandemic alongside her Brazilian husband, a scientist. Due to being essentially stranded there, she has yet to hold an actual physical copy of the book in her hands. “I finished the novel in 2017. And no one was interested. When I did finally get a small publisher in the UK and a small publisher in South Africa to co-publish, they couldn’t get anyone to review the book. We couldn’t get people to write endorsement quotes, or blurbs.”Guardian
Karen Jennings on Afternoon Drive with John Maytham
Listen to Karen Jennings’s moving interview with CapeTalk’s John Maytham:
‘Earlier this week, we heard that two South Africans, both of them University of Cape Town graduates, have been long-listed for the prestigious Booker Prize – Karen Jennings and Damon Galgut. Well today, we speak to Karen, who made it onto the prestigious list for her book, “An Island”, which follows the tale of an old lighthouse keeper who finds the unconscious body of a refugee on his beach.’
AN ISLAND by KAREN JENNINGS longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize!
Karavan Press is thrilled and deeply honoured to announce that An Island by Karen Jennings has been longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. Co-published with UK publisher, Holland House Books, An Island tells the story of Samuel, a lighthouse keeper.
Samuel has lived alone for a long time; one morning he finds the sea has brought someone to offer companionship and to threaten his solitude …
A young refugee washes up unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by no one but Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. Unsettled, Samuel is soon swept up in memories of his former life on the mainland: a life that saw his country suffer under colonisers, then fight for independence, only to fall under the rule of a cruel dictator; and he recalls his own part in its history. In this new man’s presence he begins to consider, as he did in his youth, what is meant by land and to whom it should belong. To what lengths will a person go in order to ensure that what is theirs will not be taken from them?
A novel about guilt and fear, friendship and rejection; about the meaning of home.
“The far southern extremities of our planet produce remarkable, distilled, and ravaged tales. An Island has to be counted as among the most remarkable of these. Karen Jennings offers a chilling, immersive portrait of Samuel, a lighthouse keeper on a remote island off the African continent. He is a man at the edge of history, until the arrival of a refugee stranger returns him to everything he most needs to forget. A gripping, terrifying and unforgettable story.” — Elleke Boehmer
THE 2021 BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST ANNOUNCEMENT
Sunday Times/CNA Literary Awards 2021 longlists announced!
We are thrilled to share the news that the Sunday Times/CNA Literary Awards 2021 longlists have been announced and two Karavan Press books are among the longlisted titles:
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.