Biographer, novelist win our literary awards
● 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.”