The Johannesburg Review of Books Vol. 2, Issue 1 (January 2018, The Conversation Issue)

JohannesburgWelcome 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

The Conversation Issue



Short fiction




The JRB Daily


Header image: Jennifer Malec


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