The Johannesburg Review of Books Vol. 5, Issue 2 (April 2021)

Wamuwi Mbao, Damon Galgut, Mercy Dhliwayo, Richard Poplak, Bhakti Shringarpure, Peace Adzo Medie, Femi Kayode, Panashe Chigumadzi, Phumlani Pikoli, Ayanda Billie, Siza Nkosi Mokhele, Maneo Mohale, Masai Sepuru, Thenjiwe Mswane, Cherie Jones, Neema Shah, Victor Dlamini, Jennifer Malec

Welcome to the second issue of Volume 5 of The Johannesburg Review of Books.

We publish this issue in sombre spirit, as multidisciplinary artist and award-winning author Phumlani Pikoli passed away tragically this week, aged thirty-three. Phumlani was an inspiring and passionate writer, and we remember him as perhaps he would have liked to be remembered, by reading his work. In this edition we feature an excerpt from his debut collection of short stories, The Fatuous State of Severity.

Elsewhere in this issue, Wamuwi Mbao reviews Claudia Rankine’s new book Just Us, calling it ‘perhaps the most profound meditation on race and violence to emerge in the first two decades of this century’. Richard Poplak has read Jordan B Peterson’s ‘aggressively, almost wantonly unreadable’ new book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life, so you don’t have to, and Bhakti Shringarpure appraises Monica Popescu’s At Penpoint: African Literatures, Postcolonial Studies, and the Cold War.

Mercy Dhliwayo talks to The JRB Editor Jennifer Malec about her debut collection of short stories, Bringing Us Back, newly published by Vhakololo Press; Ghanaian author Peace Adzo Medie chats to us about writing, reading and her new novel His Only Wife; and Femi Kayode ruminates on being ‘other’ in your home country, the nature of evil, and his debut novel, Lightseekers.

Our guest City Editor Lidudumalingani recognises Joburg’s street vendors, our unacknowledged everyday archivists.

We feature an exclusive excerpt from The Promise, the forthcoming novel by Damon Galgut, which will be released in South Africa in May, as well as samplers from a trio of debut novelists: Cherie Jones’s How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Neema Shah’s Kololo Hill and Thenjiwe Mswane’s All Gomorrahs Are The Same.

We also offer an excerpt from Panashe Chigumadzi’s essay ‘Hearing the Silence’, from the brilliant new book Surfacing: On Being Black and Feminist in South Africa, edited by Desiree Lewis and Gabeba Baderoon.

We present a selection of poetry by Ayanda Billie, Siza Nkosi Mokhele, Maneo Mohale and Masai Sepuru, from Years of Fire and Ash: South African Poems of Decolonisation, a new anthology edited by Wamuwi Mbao.

From our Photo Editor Victor Dlamini this month, a portrait of the late Nawal El Saadawi, writer, psychiatrist, feminist and radical socialist.

And, while you’re reading, listen to our autumn megamix playlist, compiled by Tymon Smith.

Here’s the complete breakdown of Vol. 5, Issue 2, which you will also find on our issue archive page:



City Editor






The JRB Daily

Cover image: Jennifer Malec

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