Monday, April 12, 2010

I took my own advice and ordered from Africa Book Centre's sale, and a lovely parcel has arrived with SPRING WILL COME by William N. Zulu and MORE THAN A CASUAL CONTACT by Jeremy Cronin.

I am a fan of woodcuts, linocuts and the like. There is such a fineness of detail that appeals to my eye. Not that many South Africans work with woodblocks. The most well-known is probably John Muafangejo, following his death other artists are establishing themselves, and William Zulu is one of them. This is his autobiography and since I grew up in the same area he did, I am looking forward to dipping in. Coincidentally, the artist Sophie Peters is worth looking at if you are interested in this kind of thing.

Jeremy Cronin made a huge impression on me as a teenager with his first collection, INSIDE (1983). It was the height of apartheid when I first read him and we were living through a state of emergency. So many people were detained without trial, and Cronin's work seemed entirely relevant.

I saw your mother
with two guards
through a glass plate
for one quarter hour
on the day that you died.

'Extra visit, special favour'
I was told, and warned
'The visit will be stopped
if politics is discussed.
Verstaan - understand!?'
on the day that you died.

I couldn't place
my arm around her,
around your mother
when she sobbed.

Fifteen minutes up
I was led
back to the workshop.
Your death, my wife,
one crime they managed
not to perpetrate
on the day that you died.

He is now the South African Deputy Minister of Transport.

Monday, April 05, 2010

This coming Wednesday we will have more news on the 2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, but in the meantime, Marie Heese and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani are this year's queens of the shortlists - below are the full Africa regional shortlists if you've missed them over the past month (other regions available here)

The shortlisted writers for Africa's Best Book are:
Trespass by Dawn Garisch (South Africa)
Eyo by Abidemi Sanusi (Nigeria)
Refuge by Andrew Brown (South Africa)
Kings of the Water by Mark Behr (South Africa)
The shortlisted writers for Africa's Best First Book are:
Come Sunday by Isla Morley (South Africa)
Jelly Dog Days by Erica Emdon (South Africa)
Harmattan Rain by Ayesha Harunna Attah (Ghana)

Now, anyone who works with books from across the continent will tell you that South Africa and Nigeria dominate the African publishing scene (followed by Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania), but I was struck by the excessive proliferation of South African and Nigerian titles on the list this year (2009 was not much better, to be honest)! Luckily, I was visiting South Africa last month as the shortlists were announced and in the hopes of reading a few before the final announcement, I picked up one or two of the shortlisted titles - more on those later.