[The JRB Daily] Media24 Books Literary Prizes winners announced, including Jonny Steinberg, Trevor Sacks and Edyth Bulbring

Header image: Jonny Steinberg, Trevor Sacks, Zirk van den Berg, Loftus Marais, Edyth Bulbring, Fanie Viljoen, Theodore Key

The winners of the 2020 Media24 Books Literary Prizes have been announced.

The annual awards recognise the best work published during the previous year by the Media24 Books division, including NB Publishers (through imprints such as Human and Rousseau, Tafelberg, Kwela Books and Queillerie) as well as Jonathan Ball Publishers.

Prizes to a combined value of over R200,000 are awarded in six categories.

Update: The JRB has reached out to Media24 Books for a comment on the distinct lack of diversity in this year’s awards. We will publish a follow-up story addressing this. See here for some writers’ reactions to the awards.

Writer and scholar Jonny Steinberg, debut novelist Trevor Sacks and multi-award-winning Young Adult author Edyth Bulbring are among this year’s recipients.

The winners were announced in a virtual awards ceremony last night.

Eloise Wessels, managing director of Media24 Books, said in her opening remarks: ‘To be in a position to continue rewarding our authors in these straightened and constricting, almost stifling, times is particularly gratifying.’

Jonny Steinberg won the Recht Malan Prize for Nonfiction for One Day in Bethlehem. The book tells the story of Fusi Mofokeng, a man who spent nineteen years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit.

According to the judges:

Steinberg explores difficult questions about the unreliability of memory, the nature of truth and the way in which South Africa’s racist past continues to haunt the present … By excavating—in meticulous detail—the story of one man’s entanglement with, first, the apartheid and, then, the ‘post-apartheid’ criminal justice system, the book also shines a light on the country’s troubled criminal justice system and forces the reader to ask whether it is possible to speak of ‘justice’ in what has become known as post-apartheid South Africa … An unforgettable book that reminds the reader that ‘the past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

Also on the non-fiction shortlist were Adam Habib’s Rebels and Rage: Reflecting on #FeesMustFall and Lawfare: Judging Politics in South Africa by Michelle le Roux and Dennis Davis.

The Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English Fiction went to Trevor Sacks for Lucky Packet, a novel about a young Jewish boy growing up in a predominantly Afrikaans community in the Northern Transvaal in the nineteen-eighties.

The judges said:

The book is beautifully written, and though a story about a child, it is careful not to cheat us with sentimentality. Instead it is honest, and handles its heavier moments with a light touch. Lucky Packet is a wonderfully accomplished novel.

Also on the English fiction shortlist were Okay, Okay, Okay by Finuala Dowling and Yellowbone by Ekow Duker.

The WA Hofmeyr Prize for Afrikaans Fiction was awarded to novelist Zirk van den Berg for Ek wens, ek wens, about a mortician who meets a terminally ill child and starts believing in wishes again.

Also shortlisted were Hond se gedagte by Kerneels Breytenbach and Die biblioteek aan die einde van die wêreld by Etienne van Heerden.

Loftus Marais received the Elisabeth Eybers Prize for Afrikaans and English poetry for Jan, Piet, Koos and Jakob. The other shortlisted titles were Chinatown: Gedigte by Ronelda Kamfer, Kryt by Hennie Nortjé and Sikhahlel’ u-OR: A Praise Poem for Oliver Tambo by Mongane Wally Serote.

Edyth Bulbring won her second MER Prize for Youth Novels for The Choice Between Us, the story of two Johannesburg girls and two acts of betrayal, set more than fifty years apart.

The judges called it ‘a beautiful book with a story and characters that fascinate from the very first page’,

The runners-up were Toring van Jasmyn by Derick van der Walt and Brand by Fanie Viljoen.

The MER Prize for Illustrated Children’s Books was shared by author Fanie Viljoen for Die dag toe die draak kom: ’n Boek vir meisies, and illustrator Theodore Key for Die hasie van fluweel. Also shortlisted were authors Mari Grobler for Bella en Sebastiaan and Dihanna Taute for Die legendariese Lua Verwey 2, and illustrators Vian Oelofsen for Liewe Heksie en die pampoene and Tumi K Steyn for Die dag toe die draak kom: ’n Boek vir meisies.

The six judging panels were: For the Recht Malan Prize: Pierre de Vos, Johanna van Eeden and Pauli van Wyk; for the Herman Charles Bosman Prize: Johan Jacobs, Molly Brown and Karl van Wyk; for the WA Hofmeyr Prize: Francois Smith, Sonja Loots and Bibi Slippers; for the Elisabeth Eybers Prize: Rustum Kozain, Charl-Pierre Naudé and Andries Visagie; for the MER Prize for Youth Novels: Naomi Meyer, Henriëtte Linde-Loubser and Magdel Vorster; and for the MER Prize for Illustrated Children’s Books: Jaco Jacobs, Aldré Lategan and Magdel Vorster.

Wessels says: ‘Like with all good things, finding good book reviewers and literary judges is extremely difficult. This year, we have again had the pleasure of the services of an excellent team of judges. I’d like to thank them for their wonderful insight and commentary.’

Watch the 2020 award ceremony here:

Media24 Boeke Literêre Pryse / Media24 Books Literary Prizes

Kyk saam met ons na die regstreekse aankondiging van die Media24 Boeke Literêre Pryse se wenners op 18 Junie om 18:00. || Join us for the live announcement of the winners of the Media24 Books Literary Prizes on 18 June at 18:00.

Posted by Netwerk24 on Thursday, June 18, 2020

17 thoughts on “[The JRB Daily] Media24 Books Literary Prizes winners announced, including Jonny Steinberg, Trevor Sacks and Edyth Bulbring”

  1. Really? You couldn’t find any worthy writers if colour? Very disappointing and frankly not acceptable!

    1. Yes, Kerryn, the major problem here is the composition of the judging panels. So insular and myopic. Defeats the idea of growing a truly vibrant literary culture in this country.

      1. Keep in mind that this is a News24 award: nb, Kwela, Jonathan Ball, etc, so not representative of other noteworthy South African literary awards which therefore have a broader scope. Fred K is absolutely right in that it is the judging panel and nit the books themselves that is the problem. Most unfortunate.

  2. What a fvking joke! Hendrik Verwoerd and Adolf Hitler would be proud.
    All all white panel of winners awarded by an all white panel of judges.

    Racism lives in your hearts! We will be voting with our feet

    1. I’m shocked and offended by your stupidity…why may a white person not win an award on merit.stop being such a racist

  3. Judging by Media24’s editorial policy where black voices are put down and diversity in newsroom management is not promoted, I am not surprised.

    1. I’m shocked and offended by your stupidity…why may a white person not win an award on merit.stop being such a racist

  4. let’s forget about the winning books/writers for a while. Let’s look at the judging panels… Case closed.

  5. Why must their always be poc when it has to do with awards…what has happened with winning a price based on merit and not because of the colour of their skin. If all off the winners are white and on merit, so what, if all of the winners are poc and on merit, so what. But why must a white person we who really did a remarkable job and deserves to win the award above anybody else, must now step aside so that a poc can get the award because how dare a white person win. GFY peeps. stop this racism.

    1. Sipho, who is not Sipho, look at the composition of the judging panels. What does that tell you? Or is it willful blindness on your part? In case you don’t read books, there are many meritorious books written by writers who are not white. Structural racism and a resistance to acknowledge talent across all cultures is just too painful to ignore. Say what you will, “Sipho”.

    2. so, “Sipho”, what do you say now? Media24 has apologised for their sloppiness. They realise they were wrong, you sorry ass.

  6. What criteria was used to select the panel and books/authors? Systematic racism is a dream killer in South Africa. Why am I even surprised, it’s Media24 after all…

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