Bi­og­ra­pher, nov­el­ist win our lit­er­ary awards

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By JEN­NIFER PLATT

● Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga and Harry Kalmer were an­nounced the win­ners of the 2018 Sun­day Times Lit­er­ary Awards, in association with Por­cu­pine Ridge, at a gala event in Jo­han­nes­burg last night.

The awards are con­sid­ered the most pres­ti­gious lit­er­ary ac­co­lade in South Africa.

Ngqu­lunga re­ceived the 29th Alan Pa­ton Award for non­fic­tion for The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Bi­og­ra­phy of

Pix­ley ka Isaka Seme, and Kalmer was the re­cip­i­ent of the Barry Ronge Fic­tion Prize for A Thousand Tales of Jo­han­nes­burg. Both ti­tles are pub­lished by Pen­guin Books. The au­thors each re­ceived R100 000.

Ngqu­lunga is deputy di­rec­tor of the Jo­han­nes­burg In­sti­tute for Ad­vanced Study and was pre­vi­ously the spokesman for for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. He holds a PhD from Brown Univer­sity in the US.

He had writ­ten the book not only to tell the fas­ci­nat­ing story of the life of a com­pli­cated man like Seme, but to write about “the his­tory of this coun­try and the hur­dles we have over­come to get to where we are to­day”, he said.

“Some­times when we look at the po­lit­i­cal prob­lems we face to­day we tend to glo­rify the past and present it as if ev­ery­thing was per­fect. The story of Seme demon­strates that our past is as com­plex as our present.”

The Alan Pa­ton judg­ing panel agreed. They said the book was “a rev­e­la­tory, in­spir­ing study of a man and a move­ment that re­ver­ber­ates right up to to­day. It is a schol­arly, well-re­searched book that il­lu­mi­nates our flawed roots and our flawed na­tion­hood, pre­sented through the com­plex and mer­cu­rial char­ac­ter of Seme.”

Award-win­ning play­wright Kalmer was the 18th re­cip­i­ent of the fic­tion prize, named af­ter Barry Ronge, arts com­men­ta­tor and one of the founders of the Sun­day Times Lit­er­ary Awards.

Kalmer, who has writ­ten six nov­els and 23 plays, said his book started off with the ti­tle, but it was the xeno­pho­bic at­tacks of May 2008 that had been the trigger.

The fic­tion judges said: “Jo­han­nes­burg emerges as a fas­ci­nat­ing beast of a city, and this is a novel way of cel­e­brat­ing it. The out­stand­ing writ­ing and in­no­va­tive struc­ture — along with mem­o­rable char­ac­ters — make this an in­stant clas­sic.”

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