The Johannesburg Review of Books Vol. 5, Issue 4 (August 2021)

Karen Jennings, Yagnishsing Dawoor, Sindi-Leigh McBride, Thulani Angoma-Mzini, Agatha Zaza, Wamuwi Mbao, Lidudumalingani, Ben Williams, Victor Dlamini, Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, Sisonke Msimang, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Brandon Taylor, Futhi Ntshingila, Mandla Langa, Ashraf Kagee, Razina Theba, António Tomás, Lisa Taddeo

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

This month, Editor Jennifer Malec chats to Karen Jennings about how An Island, recently longlisted for the Booker Prize, almost made her decide ‘to give up writing and to rethink my life’. We also feature an excerpt from the novel.

Also on the Booker longlist is Damon Galgut, for his novel The Promise. You can read our interview with him, from our previous issue, here, and an excerpt from the book here.

Wamuwi Mbao reviews Sorrowland, the new novel by Rivers Solomon, which features ‘a compellingly affecting hero figure for the remaking of the human’, Yagnishsing Dawoor reviews Ananda Devi’s When the Night Agrees to Speak to Me, an ‘impassioned investigation of the possibilities of feminist rage’, and Sindi-Leigh McBride writes how Fernweh, Teju Cole’s latest photobook, feels like a palliative moment amid the uncertainty, loss and raw grief of the pandemic.

In the context of increasing scrutiny on the literary production of white writers, The JRB Publisher Ben Williams offers up some ideas on the cultural assumptions that underpin how white writing operates.

Thulani Angoma-Mzini presents an appraisal of the stories that appeared on this year’s Caine Prize shortlist, a showcase of the best of the past year’s African writing.

We feature new short fiction by Agatha Zaza, and poetry by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, from her award-winning collection Zikr.

Our guest City Editor Lidudumalingani gives deference to the worshippers who gather in the streets, parks and open lands of Johannesburg.

There’s a feast of fiction in this issue. In addition to an excerpt from An Island, we feature extracts from Brandon Taylor’s new short story collection Filthy Animals, Mandla Langa’s forthcoming novel The Lost Language of the Soul, Ashraf Kagee’s By the Fading Light, Futhi Ntshingila’s forthcoming novel They Got To You Too, as well as Animal, the debut novel by bestselling author Lisa Taddeo.

In our sampling of new non-fiction, read excerpts from Sisonke Msimang’s essay on grief, from the new collection Our Ghosts Were Once People: Stories on Death and Dying, edited by Bongani Kona; Female Fear Factory, the highly anticipated new book from Pumla Dineo Gqola; Razina Theba’s new memoir A Home on Vorster Street; and an exclusive excerpt from António Tomás’s Amílcar Cabral: The Life of a Reluctant Nationalist.

From our Photo Editor Victor Dlamini this month, a portrait of a time more than of a writer, although the image contains two writers. The time, of course, is of before.

Here’s the complete breakdown of Vol. 5, Issue 4, which you will also find on our issue archive page:




City Editor

New short fiction


New non-fiction




Exclusive: Read the Short Story Day Africa winning stories

The JRB Daily

Cover image: Vaccination view, Jennifer Malec

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *