[The JRB Daily] 2021 Sunday Times/CNA Literary Awards shortlists announced

The shortlists for the 2021 Sunday Times/CNA Literary Awards have been revealed.

The awards celebrate ‘the best of South African non-fiction and fiction’, usually published in the preceding year. This year, however, books published between 1 December 2018 and 1 December 2020 are eligible.

Jennifer Platt, Sunday Times Book Editor, commented:

‘After a break of a year, when Covid-19 disrupted the awards, we are pleased to announce the finalists for these prestigious prizes that recognise the finest contemporary writers in South Africa.’

In 2019, Terry Kurgan won the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction for her book, Everyone is Present: Essays on Photography, Family and Memory (Fourthwall Books), and Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu won the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize for her novel The Theory of Flight (Penguin Random House).

For the Nonfiction Award, the criteria is that: ‘The winner should demonstrate the illumination of truthfulness, especially those forms of it that are new, delicate, unfashionable and fly in the face of power; compassion; elegance of writing; and intellectual and moral integrity.’

The panel of judges for the Nonfiction Award is Griffin Shea (chair), Nomavenda Mathiane and Bongani Ngqulunga. Shea says:

‘Last year was a “missing year” for the South African book world. The Sunday Times literary awards were absent; book launches and festivals were cancelled. In an effort to compensate for the lack of the 2020 awards, we selected a longlist that covered two years, with twice as many books as usual. This literary feast showed us the courage of South Africa’s journalists, the intelligence of our academics, and the heart of our memoirists.

‘Mark Gevisser’s exhaustively researched book places South Africa firmly in the global moment of burgeoning queer identity. Jacob Dlamini takes the monumental Kruger National Park and shows how little we know about its history, while Andrew Harding peers minutely into the complexities around land, crime and race. Telita Snyckers shocks with her revelations of the venality of the tobacco industry, and the book-burnings that greeted the release of Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s important exposé were an appalling reminder of apartheid censorship.

‘Choosing a shortlist this year was doubly challenging, but we hope doubly rewarding for readers.’

Sunday Times Nonfiction Award shortlist

  • Safari Nation: A Social History of the Kruger National Park by Jacob Dlamini (Jacana Media)
  • The Pink Line: Journeys Across the World’s Queer Frontiers by Mark Gevisser (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
  • These Are Not Gentle People by Andrew Harding (Picador Africa)
  • Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture by Pieter-Louis Myburgh (Penguin Nonfiction)
  • Dirty Tobacco: Spies, Lies and Mega-Profits by Telita Snyckers (Tafelberg)

For the Fiction Award, the criteria is that: ‘The winner should be a novel of rare imagination and style, evocative, textured and a tale so compelling as to become an enduring landmark of contemporary fiction.’

The panel of judges for the Fiction Award is Ken Barris (chair), Nancy Richards and Wamuwi Mbao. Barris says:

‘It is always difficult to select a shortlist in a competition at national level, and this year the fiction prize included books published in both 2019 and 2020. It was also a two-year period in which many of South Africa’s best and brightest novelists happened to publish, from gravitas-rich veterans to brilliant newcomers. It was a daunting but immensely enriching task for the panel, and we finally settled on five excellent novels.

‘Marguerite Poland is in scathing form in her heartbreaking tale of a young black missionary in the Eastern Cape, while Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu writes about colonialism and toxic masculinity with biting accuracy. Mark Winkler’s story is a subtle reflection on collective guilt and individual isolation, and Dawn Garisch’s portrayal of the struggle for connection is intelligently and beautifully observed. The youngest author in the line-up is Rešoketšwe Manenzhe with her engaging debut about migrancy and the destruction wreaked on a mixed-race family by the so-called Immorality Act.’

Sunday Times Fiction Award shortlist

  • Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch (Karavan Press)
  • The History of Man by Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu (Penguin Fiction)
  • Scatterlings by Rešoketšwe Manenzhe (Jacana Media)
  • A Sin of Omission by Marguerite Poland (Penguin Fiction)
  • Due South of Copenhagen by Mark Winkler (Umuzi)


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