[The JRB Daily] Top 10 of 2021—a look back at our most popular articles of the year

With our last issue of 2021, the Fiction Issue, The JRB reached the milestone of publishing our 200th individual contributor. Over nearly five years we have published some incredible writers, with articles that have surprised us with their popularity, taking off around the world. Here we take a look back at our hottest posts from 2021.

The JRB Top 10 of 2021

10. Karen Jennings chats to Jennifer Malec about her Booker Prize-longlisted novel, An Island

‘I’ll be honest, it was a very lonely time in my life. Even though the novel was being published, I felt that I had failed—that everybody hated it and that I had disappointed my publishers. In fact, I decided to give up writing and to rethink my life.’

In July 2021, Karen Jennings was longlisted for the Booker Prize for her novel An Island. In this interview, she chats to The JRB Editor Jennifer Malec about how the book almost made her give up writing completely.

9. A Cape tragedy—Stephen Langtry reviews Martin Plaut’s new book Dr Abdullah Abdurahman: South Africa’s First Elected Black Politician

Martin Plaut’s biography of Abdullah Abdurahman, reviewed in our February 2021 issue by Stephen Langtry, brings to the surface the story of a largely forgotten but important figure in the history of South Africa and the former Cape Colony.

8. Read an excerpt from Panashe Chigumadzi’s essay ‘Hearing the Silence’

‘Black women’s imaginative works are wreaths lain on the graves of ancestors so that they may not weep.’

From our April 2021 edition, an excerpt from a new essay by The JRB Contributing Editor Panashe Chigumadzi, from Surfacing: On Being Black and Feminist in South Africa, edited by Desiree Lewis and Gabeba Baderoon.

7. ‘Nobody is dead. It’s a word, that’s all.’—Read an exclusive excerpt from The Promise, the forthcoming novel by Damon Galgut

In our April 2021 issue, we published an exclusive excerpt from Damon Galgut’s The Promise, ahead of its release in the United Kingdom in April; in South Africa in May; and in the United States in June. The novel went on to win the prestigious Booker Prize.

6. ‘The Wood Carving’, a new short story by Kiprop Kimutai

My body seared. I couldn’t help but ask what kind of witchcraft this was.

‘It’s an optical illusion,’ he said. ‘I play with light when working with wood.’

He showed me his hands. The palms were calloused and deep brown, like leather. He looked at me as if he could see me, see spaces in me that were shadowy and cold. I turned away. 

From our 2021 Fiction Issue, an atmospheric and soul-stirring new short story by Kiprop Kimutai.

5. Chris Mann, 1948—2021, RIP

The noted South African poet, playwright, academic and performer Chris ‘Zithulele’ Mann died in March. A prolific writer, Mann published more than a dozen volumes of poetry, and received many awards for his work, including the Olive Schreiner Prize, the South African Performing Arts Councils’ Playwright of the Year award, the Thomas Pringle Award, and the English Academy of South Africa’s gold medal.

4. Read ‘Five Years Next Sunday’ by Idza Luhumyo, winner of the 2019/20 Short Story Day Africa Prize

This year, The JRB exclusively published the winning stories from the Short Story Day Africa Prize. This year’s winner was Idza Luhumyo from Kenya, for her story ‘Five Years Next Sunday’. Zambian writer Mbozi Haimbe earned 1st Runner up for her story ‘Shelter’, and Alithanayn Abdulkareem of Nigeria was 2nd Runner with ‘Static’.

3. Damon Galgut talks with Mark Gevisser about his new novel, The Promise

‘Like other writers I’m always looking for unusual ways to tell stories, because most of the stories have been told by now, it’s just the ways of telling that are new.’

In our June 2021 issue, Damon Galgut was in conversation with Mark Gevisser for the launch of his latest novel, The Promise, which went on to win the Booker Prize.

2. Read Sisonke Msimang’s essay from Our Ghosts Were Once People: Stories on Death and Dying

‘Grief—a word that seemed too small to encompass the world I had been plunged into’

In a new anthology on death and dying, Sisonke Msimang writes about the multiple losses faced when her mother passed away. She not only had to deal with her own grief but also that of her six-year-old daughter, who had lost her grandmother, she writes in Our Ghosts Were Once People, edited by Bongani Kona.

1. Richard Poplak reviews Jordan B Peterson’s new book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life

‘Aggressively, almost wantonly unreadable’

Richard Poplak’s review of 12 Rules for Life was our most popular post of 2018, and his review of Peterson’s new ‘book’ repeats the feat. While 12 Rules was a snapshot of an intellectual moment, however paltry, Beyond Order, Poplak writes, is ‘the literary equivalent of colonoscopy by cake shovel’.

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