In this novel, I explore aspects of separation and connection. Several mothers I know are estranged from their adult children, and many of us are disconnected from nature, intuition and creativity. I track the nuanced task of knowing when to intervene and when to withhold action in the lives of our own or other women’s children.
However, there are situations where we need to cut – initiation, divorce, surgery. Breaking Milk uses the metaphor of milk and cheese-making to ground these preoccupations during one day in the life of Kate, a geneticist who became a farmer when ethics in her lab were compromised. I job-shadowed a friend to learn about this ancient craft that employs patience and invisible micro-organisms to preserve milk.
I am interested in the idea “you can be right, or you can have relationships”; also how our intelligence has had some disastrous consequences for the natural world on which we depend.
Embedded in these concerns is the role of women in society – what it takes to say no, and how a woman finds her feet after divorce. The books that have informed my inquiry are Disgrace by JM Coetzee, and Accident: A Day’s News by Christa Wolf.Sunday Times Books
Read about the organic cheese farm that inspired the setting for Dawn Garisch’s Breaking Milk: FYNBOSHOEK
Follow the cheese farm on Instagram: FYNBOSHOEK CHEESE FARM
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.
CHAIR OF JUDGES KEN BARRIS COMMENTS:
It is always difficult to select a shortlist in a competition at national level, and this year the fiction prize included books published in both 2019 and 2020. It was also a two-year period in which many of SA’s best and brightest novelists happened to publish, from gravitas-rich veterans to brilliant newcomers. It was a daunting but immensely enriching task for the panel, and we finally settled on five excellent novels.
Marguerite Poland is in scathing form in her heartbreaking tale of a young black missionary in the Eastern Cape, while Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu writes about colonialism and toxic masculinity with biting accuracy. Mark Winkler’s story is a subtle reflection on collective guilt and individual isolation, and Dawn Garisch’s portrayal of the struggle for connection is intelligently and beautifully observed. The youngest author in the line-up is Rešoketšwe Manenzhe with her engaging debut about migrancy and the destruction wreaked on a mixed-race family by the so-called Immorality Act.
FICTION AWARD SHORTLIST
Dawn Garisch (Karavan Press)
Set on a farm in the Eastern Cape, and taking place over one day, this is a finely wrought meditation on motherhood, not only in personal and human terms, but also with regards to ourselves as destructive children of the earth.
The History of Man
Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu (Penguin Fiction)
A brilliant portrait of a white, male colonialist seen through the eyes of a black woman writer. Emil Coetzee was a supporting character in Ndlovu’s prize-winning predecessor The Theory of Flight, and here she places him in the centre of the story, examining the forces that created this “man of empire”.
Rešoketšwe Manenzhe (Jacana Media)
Taking place more than 100 years ago, this is a highly original novel about migrancy that incorporates myth and ritual and the stories of extraordinary ordinary women. On this journey, someone will get lost, someone will give up and turn back, and someone may go all the way to the end.
A Sin of Omission
Marguerite Poland (Penguin Fiction)
A wrenching, deeply felt story about Stephen Malusi Mzamane, a young Anglican priest, trained in England but now marooned in a rundown mission in Fort Beaufort. He is battling the prejudices of colonial society, and the church itself, when he is called to his mother’s rural home to inform her of his elder brother’s death.
Due South of Copenhagen
Mark Winkler (Umuzi)
A skilled examination of memory and culpability. Max Fritz lives quietly in a small Lowveld town, the editor of the local newspaper. Seemingly contented, he is shadowed by his childhood, and by the border war he was forced to take part in. When news of a boyhood friend reaches him, the past rears up painfully.
Read all about the Fiction & Non-Fiction shortlists here:
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.