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Sat Nov 29 09:23:36 SAST 2014

The Fiction Prize

Tymon Smith | 07 May, 2011 17:170 Comments

South Africans writing fiction - from crime to humour and everything in between - are bringing invigorating energy to a flourishing industry

Newcomers sit easily in the company of their more established peers on the 32-title longlist for this year's fiction prize, continuing a strong and varied tradition of local fiction writing in post-apartheid South Africa that has seen the industry mushroom at an ever more surprising and encouraging pace.

As always in the past few years, crime writing continues to be a popular genre, from Sue Rabie's Blood at Bay to Mike Nicol's Killer Country. The range of crimes and periods of history covered in the crime genre are vast and there are a number of fascinating detectives and criminals being created by local crime writers.

Local women's fiction is also on the rise with Fiona Snyckers, Cynthia Jele, Marita van der Vyver and Elise Chidley producing novels that tickle the funny bones and produce much-needed avenues for escape and reflection.

Young writers are also well represented, with Kopano Matlwa, Alastair Bruce, Zukiswa Wanner, Sifizo Mzobe, Shaida Kazie Ali, Alex Smith, Rosamund Kendall and Lauren Beukes all expressing an invigorating and topical energy that breathes new life into everything from living in the townships to dystopian futures.

It was also good to see that many writers who have had their debut novels on previous longlists have continued to produce work and are now into their second and third novels, improving and expanding their range and voices.

History will always be a topic of exploration for authors in South Africa and this year was no exception, with Julian de Wette, Chris Marnewick and James Clelland examining the political intrigues and psychological trauma in the dark shadows of our recent past.

While it was felt that there may have been too few female voices present, and that in many cases editing continues to be an important but overlooked area, the judges were still encouraged by the general quality and strength of individual voices that emerged from the titles published over the last year.

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