27 thought-provoking books make the long-list for the Alan Paton Award

Alan paton longlist

The 27 books which have been long-listed for the Alan Paton Award in this year’s Sunday Times Literary Awards. Photo: BooksLive

Estelle Sinkins takes a look at the books on the long-list for the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction.

FORMER letters editor and feature writer for The Witness, Christopher Merrett, has been been long-listed for the 2017 Alan Paton Award for non-fiction, along with fellow authors – André Odendaal, Krish Reddy and Jonty Winch – for the book Cricket and Conquest: The History of South African Cricket Retold (BestRed).

A project of Cricket South Africa recently (CSA) the book is the first volume of a trilogy that represents the authentic history of cricket in South Africa.

It spans the period from 1795, when the first references are made to cricket being played in this country, to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The other two volumes will continue cricket’s story up to the present day.

“This magnificent work is the result of one of the many resolutions CSA enacted after the Transformation Indaba held in 2013,” said CSA President, Chris Nenzani, at the book’s launch last year. “It is indeed more than a work on cricket as wherever the game was played it has played an important role in social cohesion and overcoming prejudices.

“This book contributes hugely to the rich history of the game we all love and will give everyone who has ever played the game in this country their rightful place in history.”


Cricket and Conquest: The History of South African Cricket Retold by André Odendaal, Krish Reddy, Christopher Merret and Jonty Winch. Photo: Supplied

Another book with KwaZulu-Natal connections is Eyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story (Bookstorm), in which respected journalist and author Nomavenda Mathiane tells the story of her grandmother, who was a child during the Anglo-Zulu War.

Also on this year’s long-list are:

Hosted by the Sunday Times, in association with Porcupine Ridge, the shortlist for the Alan Paton Award will be announced in May. The winner will receive R100 000.

This is the 28th year that an award will be bestowed on a book that presents “the illumination of truthfulness, especially those forms of it that are new, delicate, unfashionable and fly in the face of power”, and that demonstrates “compassion, elegance of writing, and intellectual and moral integrity”.

The judges are Pippa Green (chairperson), Tinyiko Maluleke and Johann Kriegler.

Speaking about the 27 books named on the longlist Green said: “This is more than usual but reflects the excellence and originality of many of the non-fiction books published in 2016.

“They include a number of memoirs, biographies and autobiographies, which tell the stories of intimate family relationships against a backdrop of the huge historical forces that have swept the last century.

“There are books about and by key public figures; there are those that focus on fascinating people who are not well known, such as stowaways, gangsters, police officers, miners, transgender people, and foot soldiers.

“There are important topics covered too: the history of the independent trade union movement, of science, of African languages, as well as key moments of disjuncture in our current society.

“The books raise critical questions about our past, present and future. Together they tell a story of our fractured and bound humanity, not only in South Africa but around the world and through time.”

Last year’s Alan Paton Award winner was Pumla Dineo Gqola for her book Rape: A South African Nightmare, published by MF Books Joburg.


Pippa Green is communications and media manager of the Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth.

Head of the journalism programme at the University of Pretoria from 2009 to 2014, she was educated at the University of Cape Town and Columbia University in New York City, where she earned an MSc in journalism.

She is also the author of Choice, not Fate: The Life and Times of Trevor Manuel (2008) and is a recipient of many awards such as the Nieman Fellowship.

Tinyiko Maluleke serves as adviser to the principal and vice-chancellor at the University of Pretoria, and is an extraordinary professor at the University of South Africa.

He has been a visiting professor at various universities, including Hamburg University in Germany and Duke University in the United States. He is an elected member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, a columnist for the Mail & Guardian and Sunday Independent newspapers, and reviews books for the Sunday Times.

After 25 years at the bar and 20 on the bench, when Johann Kriegler’s term as a Constitutional Court judge ended he looked forward to sitting on the stoep and catching up on all the books he’d missed out on. It didn’t work out like that.

Having chaired the Independent Electoral Commission for the 1994 elections, he has been engaged by the African Union, the United Nations and a variety of NGOs in a range of electoral and judicial activities across the world.

At home, arbitrations, advocacy training and his activities in human-rights and rule-of-law organisations occupy much of his time.


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