The shortlists for the 2023 Sunday Times Literary Awards have been revealed.
The two awards—the Non-fiction Award and the Fiction Prize—celebrate ‘the best of South African non-fiction and fiction’ from the previous year. Each winner receives R100,000, marking the award as one of the richest literary prizes on the continent.
This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the non-fiction award, and the 22nd year of the fiction prize.
For the non-fiction award, the criteria is: ‘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 judges for the award this year are Duma Gqubule (chair), Judy Dlamini and Julian Rademeyer.
2023 Sunday Times Non-fiction Award shortlist
- My Land Obsession: A Memoir by Bulelwa Mabasa (Picador Africa)
Judges’ comments: ‘An engaging memoir. It’s inspirational, factual and relevant with many angles that define our past going back generations.’
- Unforgiven: Face to Face with my Father’s Killer by Liz McGregor (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
Judges’ comments: ‘A powerfully told story of the consequences of a terrible crime, unimaginable grief and a quest to confront a killer. This resonates deeply, particularly in a country where the vast majority of murders go unsolved.’
- Dear Comrade President: Oliver Tambo and the Foundations of South Africa’s Constitution by André Odendaal, with editorial contributions by Albie Sachs (Penguin Non-fiction)
Judges’ comments: ‘A rich, refreshing, methodical, easy-to-read book that has particular relevance today amid deepening political cynicism.’
- The Blinded City: Ten Years In Inner-City Johannesburg by Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon (Picador Africa)
Judges’ comments: ‘An extraordinary book shedding light on inner-city life in Johannesburg. This is particularly relevant now.’
- Manifesto: A New Vision for South Africa by Songezo Zibi (Pan Macmillan)
Judges’ comments: ‘Well researched, argued and written. This is a fierce, timely, beautifully written assessment of South Africa today, what needs to be done to fix it and a call to action in the face of betrayal.’
The fiction prize judges are Ekow Duker (chair), Kevin Ritchie and Nomboniso Gasa. The criteria stipulate that the winning novel should be one of ‘rare imagination and style … a tale so compelling as to become an enduring landmark of contemporary fiction’.
2023 Sunday Times Fiction Prize shortlist
- The Heist Men by Andrew Brown (Penguin Fiction)
Judges’ comments: ‘This isn’t an everyday cops and robbers story. Brown’s personal history, skill and intimate knowledge of South Africa’s troubled past and present elevate this book above the usual crime literature. Well researched, absorbing and timely.’
- How to Be a Revolutionary by CA Davids (Umuzi)
Judges’ comments: ‘Masterful. A fascinating book made up of three different stories, to create a whole that is increasingly relevant in a multi-polar world where people’s pasts have to be grappled with to be made sense of.’
- The Quality of Mercy by Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu (Penguin Fiction)
Judges’ comments: ‘Powerful and thought-provoking, the book effortlessly captures the different classes and customs, prejudices and fears as Rhodesia morphs into Zimbabwe.’
- An Unusual Grief by Yewande Omotoso (Jonathan Ball Publishers/Cassava Republic Press)
Judges’ comments: ‘A brave and vivid story of a mother’s grief and attempts to uncover who her daughter was and what happened to her. Omotoso’s writing about trauma, loss and imperfection is outstanding.’
- The Errors of Dr Browne by Mark Winkler (Penguin Fiction)
Judges’ comments: ‘An interesting story drawn from an obscure witchcraft case that would later have a bearing on the Salem trials, which leads to loud echoes of what has happened and is still happening here. Well researched and masterfully written.’
Last year’s Sunday Times Literary Award winners were Mignonne Breier, who won the Non-fiction Award for her book Bloody Sunday: The Nun, the Defiance Campaign and South Africa’s Secret Massacre, and Tshidiso Moletsane, Fiction Prize winner for his novel Junx.