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

Wole Soyinka, Wamuwi Mbao, Shayera Dark, Joanne Ruth Davis, Lebohang Mojapelo, Lidudumalingani, Imraan Coovadia, Jennifer Malec, Rešoketšwe Manenzhe, Nthikeng Mohlele, Mark Espin, Adekeye Adebajo, Jenny Robson, Fatima Okhousami, Okpanachi Irene Ojochegbe, Dominique Botha, Thula Simpson, Jeanne-Marie Jackson, Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Susan Williams, John Marnell, Tymon Smith, Victor Dlamini, Perfect Hlongwane, Akwaeke Emezi, Isobel Dixon, Achmat Dangor, and the inaugural Kendeka Prize winners

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

This month, Wamuwi Mbao is pleasantly surprised by Misfits: A Personal Manifesto, the new book by Michaela Coel, creator and star of the hit TV show I May Destroy You; Joanne Ruth Davis reviews The Wanderers by Mphuthumi Ntabeni—‘the voice of contemporary South African fiction’—and Shayera Dark reviews Ogadinma: Or, Everything Will Be All Right by Ukamaka Olisakwe.

Lebohang Mojapelo sat down, virtually, with Wole Soyinka, to talk about Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth—the Nobel Laureate’s first novel in fifty years.

Award-winning author Imraan Coovadia chats to The JRB Editor Jennifer Malec about the mechanisms of good and evil, emailing Wouter Basson, and his new book, The Poisoners.

‘Often we know ourselves and other people by the stories we construct’—we reveal writing advice from Abdulrazak Gurnah, recent recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of the publication of our founding Patron, the late Achmat Dangor’s seminal work of South African literature, Bitter Fruit, we present an excerpt from the book, prefaced by a publishing history by his longtime agent, the poet Isobel Dixon.

Elsewhere in the issue, read an excerpt from ‘Dinner with Dambudzo’ a new short story by Nthikeng Mohlele, from his new collection The Discovery of Love; dip into Hauntings, a forthcoming anthology edited by Niq Mhlongo, with Rešoketšwe Manenzhe; and sample Sanity Prevail, the new novel by Perfect Hlongwane.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila makes an appearance in this issue, with his new short story ‘The Lumumba Business’, from a new collection The American Way: Stories of Invasion, edited by Ra Page and Orsola Casagrande.

The JRB also exclusively presents the three winning stories from the inaugural Kendeka Prize for African Literature: ‘the best stories written by people with citizenship to an African country’.

If non-fiction is your bag, we feature an edited excerpt from the Introduction to The Pan-African Pantheon: Prophets, Poets and Philosophers by Adekeye Adebajo; recall the looting that was broadcast across the world in an exclusive excerpt from History of South Africa: From 1902 to the Present by Thula Simpson; and explore trans-continental immigration to South Africa from an LGBTQI perspective via an excerpt from John Marnell’s Seeking Sanctuary: Stories of Sexuality, Faith and Migration.

We also present excerpts from Jeanne-Marie Jackson’s new book The African Novel of Ideas: Philosophy and Individualism in the Age of Global Writing; Akwaeke Emezi’s Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir; and White Malice: The CIA and the Neocolonisation of Africa, by Susan Williams.

In our poetry section this month, read new work by Mark Espin, from his new pamphlet, April in Blank Verse. We also feature an excerpt from Donkerberg/Bloodwood, a bilingual anthology by the award-winning writer Dominique Botha.

Our guest City Editor Lidudumalingani shares eleven observations aobut the city.

From our Photo Editor Victor Dlamini this month, a portrait of Greg Tate in Johannesburg.

And while you’re reading, listen to love and sex, hope and freedom, a playlist compiled by Tymon Smith.

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




City Editor

New short fiction


New non-fiction




Exclusive: Read the Kendeka Prize for African Literature winning stories

The JRB Daily

Cover image: City Power Joburg, or ‘I wonder why the electricity doesn’t work’/Jennifer Malec

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