[The JRB Daily] 2018 Alan Paton Award for Non-fiction shortlist announced

The shortlists for this year’s Sunday Times Literary Awards have been announced!

The Alan Paton Award for Non-fiction and the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize celebrate ‘the best of South African non-fiction and fiction’ from the previous year. The winners each receive R100 000.

The Alan Paton Award criteria stipulate that the prize should 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’.

Last year’s winner was Greg Marinovich, for his book Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre.

The shortlist of five books was selected by judges Sylvia Vollenhoven (chair), Edwin Cameron and Paddi Clay. The winner will be announced on Saturday, 23 June 2018.

Vollenhoven says, in the Sunday Times announcement:

When nations sink into division and despair creativity points to a way forward. The collective power and style of the five authors (three of them women) on this year’s shortlist represent the finest artistic vision for the future. Literary flair is coupled with excellent research that takes us into places we need to visit. Exploring recent history a remarkable opus dissects Zimbabwe like no other, the man who founded the ANC is honoured in all his complexity and we get to know exactly why we owe the former Public Protector such a huge debt of gratitude. Balancing the political with the personal, two achingly beautiful memoirs give us deep insight into the family terrain where all our horrors and delights originate.

2018 Alan Paton Award for Non-fiction shortlist

(notes from Sunday Times Books LIVE)

  • Kingdom, Power, Glory: Mugabe, Zanu and the Quest for Supremacy (1960–87), Stuart Doran (Bookstorm)

The judges voted quickly and unanimously to shortlist this massive book. It is an exhaustive, meticulously detailed history of Zimbabwe’s formative years that draws on previously classified information and throws new light on such events as the Gukurahundi massacres. One judge called it: ‘Monumentally researched, monumentally annotated and evidenced, and monumentally impressive.’

  • No Longer Whispering to Power: The Story of Thuli Madonsela, Thandeka Gqubule (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

The biography of the former public prosecutor reminds us of the enormous impact she made during her seven years of tenure. Gqubule reveals details of Madonsela’s life, as well as her investigations, findings and their consequences, in what one judge described as ‘an energetic, passionate whirl of words’.

  • Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home, Sisonke Msimang (Jonathan Ball Publishers) 

The judges regarded Msimang’s memoir to be one of the best entries in terms of style. It charts her way from childhood through multiple identities and roles, beginning with her early years in exile in Zambia and Kenya, young adulthood and college years in North America, and returning to South Africa in the nineteen-nineties.

  • The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Bongani Ngqulunga (Penguin Books)

The panel hailed this biography as an important part of Afrocentric history, an even-handed and scholarly study of a complex man and the conflicting and fluctuating strains of Pan Africanism and Zulu chauvinism. Seme was just thirty when he founded the organisation, but he eventually brought it to its knees.

  • Colour Me Yellow: Searching for My Family Truth, Thuli Nhlapo (Kwela Books)

Shunned by her paternal family while growing up, journalist Thuli Nhlapo embarked on a painful journey to find her ‘true’ identity. The judges were moved by its brutal honesty, finding in her story the roots of so much of the nation’s dysfunction, ‘a smaller story illuminating a greater picture’.


The JRB Editor Jennifer was at the announcement:

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