Six South African books nominated for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature

SIX South African books have been long-listed for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature, writes ESTELLE SINKINS.

They are: The Peculiars by Jen Thorpe (Penguin Random House); The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo (PanMacmillan, South Africa), Piggy Boy’s Blues by Nakhane Toure (Blackbird Books imprint of Jacana Media, SA), Dub Steps by Andrew Miller (Jacana Media, South Africa), The Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange (Umuzi Publishers, South Africa) and Nwezelenga: The Star Child by Unathi Magubeni (Black Bird Books Imprint of Jacana Media, South Africa).

The longlist is made up of entries from first-time authors whose books were published in the past 24 months.

The South African authors are joined on the list by: Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya (Coffee House Press, United States), The Peculiars by Jen Thorpe (Penguin Random House, USA), Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John (Cassava Republic, Nigeria), and And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile (Farafina an imprint of Kachifo Limited, Nigeria).

Speaking at the announcement, Matthew Willsher, chief executive officer of Etisalat Nigeria, said: “The novels in this year’s longlist represent a good number of African publishing companies. Each novel reflects a very interesting and dynamic perspective that will provoke intense conversations about different personal and societal issues.”

The judging panel, comprising Nigerian novelist and poet, Helon Habila (chairperson), South African writer/activist Elinor Sisulu and Ivorian writer and Africa39 laureate Edwige Rene Dro, now has the task of selecting three authors for the shortlist, which will be unveiled in December.

The winner of the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature will be announced in March 2017 and will receive £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, and an Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia to be mentored by renowned Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.



Jen Thorpe, author of The Peculiars.

The Peculiars by Jen Thorpe
Set in a Cape Town as peculiar as its characters, The Peculiars is Jen Thorpe’s heart-warming and humorous debut.
Phobias abound at the Centre for Improved Living, where Nazma goes for help. She’s crazy about baking and desperately wants to become a pastry chef, but her fear of driving keeps her stuck working in a train-station kiosk, where she sells stale food to commuters while dreaming of butter croissants and fresh strudel.
The Centre is also a lifeline for Sam, who is scared to death of being robbed and spends his days in his pyjamas in front of his computer, his house alarm always armed.
Like the rest of the patients, Nazma and Sam want to face their fears, but will four weeks at the Centre be enough to change their lives? And will the two allow their budding romance to bloom without letting their phobias get in the way?
Meanwhile, the Centre risks losing its funding, a fear that Ruby, the Centre’s eccentric director, must face while she tries to manage the patients’ fears.

Mohale Mashigo, author of The Yearning. Photo: Supplied

 The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo

Marubini is a young woman who has an enviable life in Cape Town, working at a wine farm and spending idyllic days with her friends … but something dark has been lurking in the shadows of her life from as far back as she can remember. It’s only a matter of time before it reaches out and grabs at her.

Mohale Mashigo’s The Yearning is a memorable exploration of the ripple effects of the past, of personal strength and courage, and of the shadowy intersections of traditional and modern worlds.


Nakhane Toure, author of Piggy Boy’s Blues. Photo: Supplied

Piggy Boy’s Blues by Nakhane Toure

Nakhane Toure’s debut novel, Piggy Boy’s Blues, is centred mostly on the protagonist, Davide M., and his return to Alice the town of his birth, the novel portrays a Xhosa royal family past its prime and glory.

His return disturbs and troubles the silence and day-to-day practices that his uncle, Ndimphiwe, and the man he lives with, have kept, resulting in a series of tragic events.

Piggy Boy’s Blues is a novel about boundaries, the intricacies of love and how the members of Davide’s family sometimes fail at navigating them.


Andrew Miller, author of Dub Steps. Photo: Supplied

Dub Steps by Andrew Miller

Dub Steps is an award-winning science fiction novel in which ordinary characters try to understand what it is to be alive following the sudden and inexplicable deaths of millions of people.

Nature comes back, Johannesburg becomes wonderfully overgrown, designer pigs watch from the periphery walls, and the small group of survivors have to find ways of living with their own flaws and the flaws of each other.

There are no clichés in Andrew Miller’s book, but there is plenty of humour, originality and an unusual interrogation of the fact of being alive.


Jacqui L’Ange. Photo: Supplied

The Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange

Sometimes the thing you find is not the one you were looking for. When botanist Maddy Bellani is asked to travel to Brazil to collect rare seeds from a plant that could cure cancer, she reluctantly agrees. Brazil is the country of her birth and home to her estranged father.

Her mission is challenging, as the plant specimen is elusive, and its seeds guarded by a sect wary of outsiders. Maddy must also find her way in a world influenced by unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies and the selfish motives of others.

Entrancing and richly imagined, Jacqui L’Ange’s modern love story takes you from the flora of Table Mountain to the heart of Afro-Brazilian spiritualism.


Unathi Magubeni. Photo: Supplied

Nwezelenga: The Star Child by Unathi Magubeni

With a rich vocabulary that is poetic and uncluttered, Unathi Magubeni’s debut novel begins with Nokwakha giving birth at her village home.

When it’s discovered that the child is an albino, however, the midwife convinces her that it is a curse and she should snuff the life out of it before it takes another breath. The dreadful deed is done by the river, but the “all-knowing one” has other plans …

With an assured voice and eloquent prose, Magubeni invites readers into the life of Nwelezelanga, the child who should not have been. The book contrasts the themes of darkness and light, and embraces the unknown and unseen in a way no one else has.



One thought on “Six South African books nominated for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature

  1. Pingback: Five South African books nominated for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature - The Mill

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