(Published in the Sunday Times: 21/04/2019)
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Alan Paton Award. It was in 1989, as apartheid began to crumble, that the newspaper announced the new prize, saying: "It suggests both a tribute and a hope. The tribute is to Alan Paton, one of SA's great sons, while the hope is that the prize will encourage writers in SA to pursue the same standards of excellence and commitment which Paton set for himself." For three decades it has done just that.
Sylvia Vollenhoven - Chair
Vollenhoven is a writer, journalist and filmmaker whose work has won many awards including the 2016 Mbokodo Award for Literature and the Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights in the Arts. Vollenhoven was the SA producer for the BBC mini-series Mandela the Living Legend, and is also a Knight Fellow, funded by the John S and James L Knight Foundation with additional support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"If there is truth in the assertion that catharsis is the road to healing, then the annual Alan Paton longlist reflects a nation imbibing and dispensing some serious mass medicine. The authors have explored aspects of SA as diverse as corruption, the land question, perlemoen poaching and spousal abuse. There are investigations into crime as well as into the history and significance of boer war generals or 20th century music trends.
"SA and Zimbabwe's struggles for freedom are picked apart mercilessly. In the process the Rainbow Nation notion is left wounded, feared dead. We are no longer basking in the indulgent glow of a post-liberation society. The #fallist generation holds up unforgiving mirrors.
"About half of the authors are female. One young writer interrogates recent history from a female and spiritual perspective. Another young woman uses the minutiae of personal memorabilia to make the connection between family and global events. In this collection, our best contemporary authors are seeking solutions, answering complex questions and proposing new ways of looking at the road we have travelled."
Clay has more than 40 years of experience in the media, covering radio, print and online journalism. She has a BA Degree in English and Drama from UCT and an MA in Journalism Leadership from the University of Central Lancashire, UK. Clay has reported for the Rand Daily Mail and Capital Radio, and wrote for the FT and US News and World Report. A life-long campaigner for freedom of expression and a free, independent media, she spent 15 years as head of the Graduate Journalism Training Programme at what is now Tiso Blackstar and retired in January 2017. She continues to coach and lecture.
Helepi is the co-owner of African Flavour Books, an independent bookstore in Vanderbijlpark in the Vaal Triangle. Helepi, who has a degree in chemical engineering from UCT, worked at a petrochemical company for more than 15 years. It was his passion for African literature that drove him and his wife, Nokuthula, to start African Flavour Books in 2015. His focus is to grow the bookstore beyond its walls to be a vehicle for showcasing local talent and developing it.
Heist! South Africa's Cash-in-Transit Epidemic Uncovered
Anneliese Burgess (Penguin Random House)
My Father Died for This
Lukhanyo and Abigail Calata (Tafelberg)
Born in Chains: The Diary of an Angry "Born-Free"
Clinton Chauke (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
These Bones Will Rise Again
Panashe Chigumadzi (Jacana Media)
Breaking a Rainbow, Building a Nation: The Politics Behind the #mustfall Movements
Rekgotsofetse Chikane (Picador Africa)
Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a Brown Woman in a White South Africa
Haji Mohamed Dawjee (Penguin Random House)
Poacher: Confessions from the Abalone Underworld
Kimon de Greef and Shuhood Abader (Tafelberg)
Confronting Apartheid: A Personal History of South Africa, Namibia and Palestine
John Dugard (Jacana Media)
Brutal Legacy: A Memoir
Tracy Going (MF Books / Joburg)
Beaten But Not Broken
Vanessa Govender (Jacana Media)
Your People Will Be My People: The Ruth Khama Story
Sue Grant-Marshall (Protea Boekhuis)
The Café de Move-on Blues: In Search of the New South Africa
Christopher Hope (Penguin Random House)
Rainbow Nation My Zulu Arse: A Voyage Around Mzansi - Rants and Raves Included
Sihle Khumalo (Umuzi)
You Have to be Gay to Know God
Siya Khumalo (Kwela Books)
Everyone is Present
Terry Kurgan (Fourthwall Books)
Becoming Him: A Trans Memoir of Triumph
Landa Mabenge (MF Books / Joburg)
The Lost Boys of Bird Island: A Shocking Exposé from within the Heart of the NP Government
Mark Minnie and Chris Steyn (Tafelberg)
And Then Mama Said... Words that Set My Life Alight
Tumi Morake (Penguin Random House)
Born to Kwaito: Reflections on the Kwaito Generation
Esinako Ndabeni and Sihle Mthembu (Blackbird Books)
Imprisoned: The Experience of a Prisoner Under Apartheid
Sylvia Neame (Jacana Media)
The Land is Ours: South Africa's First Black Lawyers and the Birth of Constitutionalism
Tembeka Ngcukaitobi (Penguin Random House)
Louis Botha: A Man Apart
Richard Steyn (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
I Beg to Differ: Ministry Amid the Teargas
Peter Storey (Tafelberg)
The Echo of a Noise: A Memoir of Then and Now
Pieter-Dirk Uys (Tafelberg)
Ministry of Crime: An Underworld Explored
Mandy Wiener (Pan Macmillan)
Ken Barris - Chair
Barris is a writer, editor and photographer, 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, M-Net Book Prize, Thomas Pringle Award, University of Johannesburg and the Herman Charles Bosman Prize.
"It has been a joy reading most of the books on the Barry Ronge Prize longlist, given the excellence and variety of this year's crop.
"Children at risk and under fire were beautifully explored in several of the novels, with well-informed treatments of autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, and homelessness.
"There were narratives of failed and successful love, and a couple of fascinating magical realist novels. As always, there were journeys into the apartheid past, with some speaking more directly into the present than others.
"Two of the novels opened windows into the harsh lives of ordinary people that middle-class citizens tune out so well. One relates the experiences of a family after the AIDS-induced death of a loved one. The other is about a group of undocumented immigrants from Zimbabwe, coming to Johannesburg in search of a better life, focusing on their vulnerability and total absence of protection.
"There was a fair sprinkling of translated works, and genre fiction was also well represented (one spy, two crimes, and one science-fiction and fantasy apiece).
"The judges noted a disappointing cross-section of badly edited work, resulting in repetitive, sometimes disorganised narrative, and overburdened dialogue. We understand that publishers face resource constraints, but felt that this is something requiring more attention.
"That said, the best of these novels were glorious. It's in the nature of judgement to exclude as much as select, so difficult choices will have to be made in the end!"
Richards is an independent journalist with many years of experience in radio and print. She is the founder of NPO: Woman Zone and the Women's Library (initiatives to encourage women of different backgrounds, cultures and communities to share their stories with one another). She's the author of 'Beautiful Homes' and co-author of two books - 'Woman Today: 50 Years of South African Women on Radio' and 'Being a Woman in Cape Town'. Richards is a speaker, media trainer and proud to be a board member of Soil for Life - a non-profit that helps people learn how to grow healthy, organic food.
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.
Babatunde's Heroic Journey: from Nigeria to Ukraine via Russia
Nape à Motana (Sulis International Press)
Willem Anker (Kwela Books)
NR Brodie (Pan Macmillan)
A Spy in Time
Imraan Coovadia (Umuzi)
Beyers de Vos (Penguin Random House)
Maire Fisher (Umuzi)
Maya Fowler (Umuzi)
All Things Bright and Broken
Carol Gibbs (Jacana Media)
Barry Gilder (Jacana Media)
A Tree for the Birds
Vernon Head (Jacana Media)
The White Room
Craig Higginson (Picador Africa)
An Unquiet Place
Clare Houston (Penguin Random House)
The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in His Head
John Hunt (Umuzi)
The Ones with Purpose
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele (Kwela Books)
The Hum of the Sun
Kirsten Miller (Kwela Books)
Called to Song
Kharnita Mohamed (Kwela Books)
Nthikeng Mohlele (Picador Africa)
The Theory of Flight
Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu (Penguin Random House)
The Broken River Tent
Mphuthumi Ntabeni (Blackbird Books)
Sue Nyathi (Pan Macmillan)
Too Many Tsunamis
Vincent Pienaar (Penguin Random House)
Claire Robertson (Umuzi)
Zirk van den Berg (Kwela Books)
Theo & Flora
Mark Winkler (Umuzi)
The Season of Glass
Rahla Xenopoulos (Umuzi)