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Mon Sep 01 13:17:31 SAST 2014

The Sunday Times Fiction Prize

Lifestyle Books | 14 May, 2011 17:220 Comments

As always, the task of choosing five books was difficult and fraught for the judging panel for this year's Fiction Prize.

  • NOT A FAIRY TALE by Shaida Kazie Ali, Umuzi
  • DEEPER THAN COLOUR by James Clelland, Jacana
  • THIRTEEN HOURS by Deon Meyer, Hodder & Stoughton
  • YOUNG BLOOD by Sifizo Mzobe, Kwela
  • DOUBLE NEGATIVE by Ivan Vladislavic, Umuzi

The criteria

It seems unfair to have to select only five novels for the opportunity to win the R75000 prize, but it had to be done and in the end the panel felt that the shortlist they chose reflects the diversity of local fiction and the encouraging mix between more established and new voices that is always an important part of the process.

Shaida Kazie Ali's Not A Fairy Tale impressed the panel with its examination of the world of Muslim women in South Africa and was described by the panel, as "an entertaining and affecting tale and an engrossing read - funny and sad at the same time. A very promising debut."

James Clelland's Deeper than Colour is the second consecutive winner of the EU Literary Award to appear on the Fiction Prize shortlist. Its tackling of the difficulties of post-traumatic stress disorder earned its spot on the shortlist, affecting the judges as a "vivid, pungent chronicle of a disturbed mind with a novel and interesting premise".

Crime king Deon Meyer's Thirteen Hours, beautifully rendered into English by KLSeegers, not only fully satisfies its genre but also exceeds it with a strong sense of location and verisimilitude.

The characters are "so fully conceived that they seem, as the cliché has it, to assume a life of their own. This, together with his complete visualisation of every situation, down to the smallest detail, gives Meyer's riveting plot its substance and depth, and gives it the edge on others in the genre."

The third debut novel on the shortlist is Young Blood by Sifiso Mzobe, a tale of carjacking and car theft that announces the arrival of a major new talent on the local literary scene. The judges commended the novel for the manner in which it sketches the social milieu and the way that "street slang and thieves' argot are very convincingly rendered".

Ivan Vladislavic, the only author to have won both the Fiction Prize and the Alan Paton Award, returns with Double Negative, the novel written as part of his collaboration with photographer David Goldblatt.

The judges admired the story's beautiful writing and noted: "Vladislavic probably has the best command of metaphor of any South African writer, an unfailing eye for urban landscape, and almost as strong a sense of human individuality."

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

"The panel was pleased and impressed with the variety of experience that found expression in these novels. Each of the five books depicts, with precision, passion and often humour, a precise milieu. They produce a shortlist as vivid, varied, surprising and disconcerting as the country that produced it." - Chairman of the judging panel Michiel Heyns

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