The Johannesburg Review of Books Vol. 7, Issue 1 (February 2023)

Makhosazana Xaba • Maneo Refiloe Mohale • Wamuwi Mbao • Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu • Sindi-Leigh McBride • Carina Venter • Sanya Osha • Nthikeng Mohlele • Simon van Schalkwyk • Lebohang Mojapelo • Morabo Morojele • Jerry Chiemeke • Abubakar Adam Ibrahim • Troy Onyango • David Ralph Viviers • Yara Nakahanda Monteiro • Nana Nkweti • Caio Simões de Araújo • Nanjala Nyabola • Tymon Smith • Jennifer Malec

Welcome to the first issue of Volume 7 of The Johannesburg Review of Books!

(It’s 2023. The JRB just keeps on coming. Glorious.)

As our first cover image of the year illustrates, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day. We hope you’re feeling good—or at least not too bad. Either way, your circumstances are about to improve. Here is your little candle for the weekend, your warm cuppa. A jolt of electric literary opinion awaits—who knows, it may even be vigorous enough to power some of your less demanding appliances.

Here, under the weeping jacarandas, we tramp on.

In this issue, Wamuwi Mbao reviews The Inheritors by Eve Fairbanks, ‘historical storytelling done well’; Sindi-Leigh McBride explores Koleka Putuma’s Hullo, Bu-bye, Koko, Come In, a joy to behold even when the subject is devastating; Carina Venter considers Mr Entertainment: The Story of Taliep Petersen by Paula Fourie, a book about embrace, but also about the chokehold of segregation; and Jerry Chiemeke gets to grips with Believers and Hustlers by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo, winner of the Chinua Achebe Prize for Literature, a novel that explores the sinister underbelly of organised religion in Nigeria.

In the first in a series of long-form interviews to be hosted on this platform, which will focus on contemporary poetry collections by Black women and non-binary poets, The JRB Patron Makhosazana Xaba chats to Maneo Refiloe Mohale about sensory delights, Black histories and iambic pentameter. Elsewhere, The JRB Editor Jennifer Malec speaks to Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu about casting spells, writing with empathy, and winning one of the world’s richest literary awards, and Lebohang Mojapelo and Morabo Morojele discuss the latter’s forthcoming novel Three Egg Dilemma, to be published this month, fifteen years after his critically acclaimed debut.

Sanya Osha pays tribute to Toyin Falola at seventy—a Pan-Africanist luminary for the digital age.

In our poetry section, we present caustic new work from Academic Editor Simon van Schalkwyk, while from our Photo Editor Victor Dlamini this month, a portrait of poet Charl-Pierre Naudé.

In our survey of new and forthcoming fiction, read an exclusive excerpt from A Little Light, the forthcoming collection of short stories by Nthikeng Mohlele; dip into Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s highly anticipated forthcoming novel, When We Were Fireflies; and sample Nana Nkweti’s debut short story collection Walking on Cowrie Shells. We’re delighted to share an excerpt from Yara Nakahanda Monteiro’s novel Loose Ties, translated from the Portuguese by Sandy Tamele, which was recently longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award—the world’s richest annual literary prize. Lovers of all things literary will also be pleased to see extracts from For What Are Butterflies Without Their Wings, the debut short story collection from Troy Onyango, and Mirage, the debut novel by David Ralph Viviers.

In non-fiction, we present ‘Necessary, Righteous Rage’, an excerpt from Nanjala Nyabola‘s new book Strange and Difficult Times: Notes on a Global Pandemic, as well as an excerpt from Caio Simões de Araújo’s chapter ‘Pajubá’, from the significant new essay collection Changing Theory: Concepts from the Global South.

And while you’re reading, enjoy Remember, with your noise cancelling headphones on, you can’t hear anyone scream, a playlist compiled by Tymon Smith, our Minister of Audioacity.

Here’s the complete breakdown of Vol. 7, Issue 1, which you will also find on our issue archive page:





Fiction excerpts

New non-fiction



The JRB Daily

Cover image: Joburg a.m. clouds/Jennifer Malec

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