Tshidiso Moletsane, winner of the 2022 Sunday Times Literary Awards fiction prize, has died

31 May 2024 - 13:24
By Mila de Villiers
Tshidiso Moletsane, the acclaimed debut novelist of 'Junx'.
Image: Image: Supplied Tshidiso Moletsane, the acclaimed debut novelist of 'Junx'.

Tshidiso Moletsane, winner of the 2022 Sunday Times Literary Awards in partnership with the Exclusive Books fiction prize, has died. 

Moletsane was awarded the prize for his debut novel Junx, published by Penguin Random House in September 2021.

He was lauded by the judges as “a tour de force” and for his “bold, raw and surprisingly elegant Gonzo-style writing”. The chair of the 2022 judging panel, Ekow Duker, said the book “stood out in a quadrant all on its own”, and that it was “an exceptional novel written in a style that is in your face and brutally honest”.

On the genesis of his award-winning novel, Moletsane in October 2022 wrote, “By the time I was 19, I had received what felt like hundreds of rejections of my work. It turns out getting published is pretty hard.

“When I started writing Junx, I found my voice. I settled into a style and tone I considered quite exciting. But even then, it took me years to finish. A significant chunk had to be discarded, as I struggled with the content. I worried about the novel’s length, and I wasn’t sure about some of the decisions I made with the story (I’m still not sure, really).

“I wanted to write a good story, but even more than that, I wanted it to be fun to read. When I found out Junx had been shortlisted by the Sunday Times, I thought, ‘You know what, maybe I can actually do this.’”

Sunday Times Books editor Jennifer Platt gives Moletsane his 2022 Fiction Prize award.
Image: Image: Alaister Russell Sunday Times Books editor Jennifer Platt gives Moletsane his 2022 Fiction Prize award.

Sewela Langeni, the owner of Book Circle Capital — an independent bookshop in Melville, Johannesburg, that focuses on African literature — also paid homage to Moletsane.

“I had the honour of meeting Tshidiso twice: once at Book Circle Capital to film an interview with him, and the second time at a pop-up bookshop at an event where he was hosted by the University of Johannesburg’s department of English and creative writing.

“Tshidiso came across as an intelligent, funny, respectful and humble young man who found all the fuss around him and Junx quite unexpected, especially after winning the Sunday Times Literary Awards fiction prize. He said it was a story he had been writing since he was in high school. It was a collection of fictionalised stories borrowed from his life and the lives of his friends. He wrote the story to show the anger young South Africans feel in the face of a range of societal issues that can negatively affect their mental health.

“He spoke about his relationship with his family, and especially his relationship with his mom, which I found very endearing.

“In an interview filmed at Book Circle Capital with Tshwanelo Serumola, he spoke candidly about the pressure that comes with having written a debut novel that wins a massive award. The South African literary space has really lost a fine talent. My deepest condolences to his mom, Lerato Moletsane, and the rest of his family.”

About Junx:

Moletsane’s brave story begins at a party in Dobsonville. A guy shares a joint with Ari — an imaginary friend, angel and demon — and a rollercoaster of a night begins. The plot features stolen cars, brothels, sex, drugs and anxiety. It’s a trip of a book that is not only exciting, but also cheekily and bluntly pokes fun at the South Africa we live in.

The family declined to comment on his death.