Awards short list dominated by recent history
The short list for the Sunday Times Literary Awards, the country's top book prizes, reveals that the upheavals of South Africa's traumatic past remain a preoccupation with writers.
The announcement of the finalists for the 22nd Alan Paton Award for non-fiction and the 11th Sunday Times Fiction Prize were made last night at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.
The festival is co-sponsored by this newspaper and is widely regarded as the country's premier book event. The short-listed books for the Alan Paton prize are:
- Finish & Klaar, by Adriaan Basson (published by Tafelberg);
- The Unlikely Secret Agent by Ronnie Kasrils (Jacana);
- Steeped in Blood by David Klatzow and Sylvia Walker (Zebra);
- Fighting for Justice by Jay Naidoo (Picador Africa); and
- The War for South Africa by Bill Nasson (Tafelberg).
"This is empowering," said Basson, who followed the trial of disgraced national police commissioner Jackie Selebi in Finish and Klaar.
Kasrils was equally thrilled about the judges' verdict on his book, a moving memoir of his wife, Eleanor, who died last year.
Columnist, author and convener of the Platform for Public Deliberation at the University of Johannesburg, Dr Xolela Mangcu, chaired this year's Alan Paton Award judging panel.
He said judging was getting tougher, as the quality of entries was improving every year.
"The short list is an excellent example of what the American sociologist C Wright Mills called the sociological imagination," Mangcu said.
"This is the kind of imagination that 'enables us to grasp history and biography and the relation between the two within society'.
"These books bring us to a far more nuanced understanding of the struggle against apartheid as both political and personal."
The short list for the Fiction Prize is:
- Not A Fairytale by Shaida Kazie (Umuzi);
- Deeper Than Colour by James Clelland (Jacana);
- Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer (Hodder & Stoughton);
- Young Blood by Sifiso Mzobe (Kwela); and
- Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavic (Umuzi).
"As always, choosing five books was a difficult task for the judging panel for this year's fiction prize," said books editor of the Sunday Times, Tymon Smith.
Author and academic Michiel Heyns, who chaired this year's fiction judging panel, said: "History will always be a topic of exploration for authors in South Africa, and this year was no exception, with writers examining the political intrigues and psychological trauma in the dark shadows of our recent past."
The two winners will be announced in Johannesburg on June 25.