Welcome to the first issue of Volume 2 of The Johannesburg Review of Books.
This month we said goodbye to Keorapetse Kgositsile, South Africa’s National Poet Laureate, who passed away in Johannesburg on 3 January at the age of seventy-nine. ‘Bra Willie’ was fondly regarded and highly respected in the South African, and international, literary community, and the response to his death is testament to this.
Following on from our popular December Fiction Issue, which was meant to ease you into the end of the year, we had planned to begin 2018 with a Conversation Issue, a selection of interviews with writers that aimed at setting up a literary dialogue for the year ahead. With Kgositsile’s passing the conversation has taken a melancholy turn, but he will live on through his words, and we should continue the discussion around literature, and specifically African literature, that he was so passionate about.
Fittingly, in our cover image this month, the Brixton Tower (far right) beams its chatter over Johannesburg and the sprawl beyond.
This issue, then, is twofold: conversations with writers on the one hand, and items in memoriam our departed Poet Laureate on the other.
Elinor Sisulu and Nthikeng Mohlele have composed literary memorials to Bra Willie, while The JRB Photo Editor Victor Dlamini shares his best photographs of the former Poet Laureate, as well as a podcast he recorded with him in 2008. We also feature one of the last video interviews Kgositsile did, on our YouTube channel.
As part of our Conversation Issue, this month we present no fewer than six interviews, with six very interesting authors—including Jonathan Franzen, who we managed to pin down during his brief visit to South Africa at the end of last year.
We also feature conversation pieces of a different kind: the debut isiZulu short story from esteemed author Fred Khumalo; City Editor Niq Mhlongo’s keynote address from the BRICS Literature Forum in China; a powerful personal essay by Kwezilomso Mbandazayo on two books, published a decade apart, that centre on Fezeka Ntsukela Kuzwayo, Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser; and found poetry unearthed by The JRB Patron Makhosazana Xaba in Mohale Mashigo’s novel, The Yearning.
If it’s poetry you’re after, meanwhile, we’re proud to publish two poems from the new collection by Angifi Dladla.
In Francophone news, read about the new book by Leïla Slimani that’s taking France, and the world, by storm, and find out more about Guinean author Tierno Monénembo, who has just been honoured with the Grand Prix de la Francophonie.
Finally, David van Schoor has added a response to the dialogue between him and Sarah Ruden concerning his review of her translation of Augustine’s Confessions.
Here’s the complete breakdown of Vol. 2, Issue 1, the Conversation and In Memoriam Issue, which you will also find on our issue archive page:
In Memoriam: Keorapetse Kgositsile
- Elinor Sisulu remembers Keorapetse ‘Bra Willie’ Kgositsile (including tributes from Njabulo Ndebele, Fred Khumalo and Sandile Memela)
- Nthikeng Mohlele remembers Keorapetse ‘Bra Willie’ Kgositsile
- Watch a video of Keorapetse ‘Bra Willie’ Kgositsile on the importance of platforms for African literature
- [Photo Editor] Listen to Victor Dlamini’s 2008 interview with Keorapetse ‘Bra Willie’ Kgositsile
- [Photo Editor] Gallery: Victor Dlamini’s portraits of Keorapetse ‘Bra Willie’ Kgositsile
The Conversation Issue
- ‘The family is a great convenience for a writer’—Jonathan Franzen talks to Ben Williams in South Africa
- ‘I’ve become emboldened and do not give a shit anymore’—Award-winning author of Penumbra Songeziwe Mahlangu talks to Mbali Sikakana
- ‘We bury our stories and wonder why we are in so much pain’—Mohale Mashigo talks to Jennifer Malec about The Yearning
- Using language without restraint to show the energy of the ‘wretched of the earth’—Fiston Mwanza Mujila chats to Bongani Kona
- ‘Lagos is home, the place where I don’t have to explain myself’—Chibundu Onuzo chats to Wamuwi Mbao about Welcome to Lagos
- ‘Readers of African novels published in the West are a lot more diverse now’—Anietie Isong chats about his debut novel Radio Sunrise
- Two new poems by Angifi Dladla
- Found Poetry by Makhosazana Xaba, from Mohale Mashigo’s novel The Yearning
- New short fiction: Fred Khumalo’s debut isiZulu short story ‘Kwakungcono eGibhithe’, from the new anthology Izinkanyezi Ezintsha
- Kanga and Khwezi: Kwezilomso Mbandazayo challenges the memorialisation of Fezeka Ntsukela Kuzwayo
- [City Editor] Niq Mhlongo reveals how he missed his own debut book launch, leading to an astounding moment at the Abantu Book Festival twelve years later
- « Le bébé est mort. » Leïla Slimani explodes the French home in the newly translated Lullaby
- Guinean author Tierno Monénembo honoured with Grand Prix de la Francophonie
The JRB Daily
- The Johannesburg Review of Books’s Book of the Year
- The JRB 2017 Top Fifty: Our fifty most popular posts from Vol. 1
- Shortlist announced for the 2017 Gerald Kraak Award for writing and photography on gender, human rights and sexuality in Africa
- Judging panel announced for 2018 Caine Prize
- ‘This is unlike any other literary festival’—Sifiso Mzobe and Shubnum Khan talk writing at the Abantu Book Festival
- 2017 Abantu Book Festival focuses on legacy: Libraries, free books for children, and plans to rotate around South African cities
- 2017 9mobile Prize for Literature longlist announced
- 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize longlist announced
Header image: Jennifer Malec