The winners of the 2021 Sunday Times/CNA Literary Awards have been announced.
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, after a pandemic-induced prize hiatus last year.
Marguerite Poland has won the Sunday Times/CNA Fiction Award for her novel A Sin of Omission, and Andrew Harding has been awarded the Sunday Times/CNA Nonfiction Award for his book These Are Not Gentle People.
Both winners receive R100,000.
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 was Ken Barris (chair), Nancy Richards and Wamuwi Mbao. Barris said:
‘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.’
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 was Griffin Shea (chair), Nomavenda Mathiane and Bongani Ngqulunga. Shea said:
‘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.’
In 2019, Terry Kurgan won the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction for her book, Everyone is Present: Essays on Photography, Family and Memory, and Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu won the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize for her novel The Theory of Flight.