The Johannesburg Review of Books Vol. 7, Issue 4 (October 2023)

Wamuwi Mbao • Makhosazana Xaba • vangile gantsho • Zikhona Valela • Fungai Machirori • Irene Staunton • Sanya Osha • Isobel Dixon • Victor Dlamini • Tymon Smith • Lauren Beukes • Ben Okri • Mark Shaw • Tessa Dooms • Lynsey Ebony Chutel • Chikọdịlị Emelụmadụ • Charne Lavery • Sarah Nuttall • Christopher EW Ouma • Angela Makholwa • Christopher Mlalazi • Buntu Siwisa

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

In this issue, Wamuwi Mbao reviews Black Racist Bitch by Thandiwe Ntshinga, ‘the sort of book some readers will absolutely love, and others will find unreadable’, while Zikhona Valela engages with Jonny Steinberg’s Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage, finding it to be a fascinating, if flawed, enquiry.

In the fourth 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 vangile gantsho about poetry as spiritual practice, Black history, and writing within a community. Fungai Machirori, meanwhile, sits down with renowned publisher Irene Staunton to recall the heady days of post-independence literature in Zimbabwe.

Sanya Osha reflects on the visionary and paradoxical Christopher Okigbo, in a piece that includes an interview with the enigmatic poet’s biographer Obi Nwakanma.

In our survey of new and forthcoming fiction, we present for your enjoyment excerpts from Lauren Beukes’s dazzlingly inventive new speculative thriller, Bridge, and Ben Okri’s powerful and personal new book, Tiger Work. Elsewhere in the issue, dip into Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ’s award-winning debut novel, Dazzling; The Reed Dance Stalker, the topical new novel by Angela Makholwa; Buntu Siwisa’s sweeping and soulful debut about life for an African student at Oxford, Paperless; and Langabi: Season of Beasts by Christopher Mlalazi, the first book from Mother, a new imprint dedicated to fantasy, science-fiction, Afrofuturism and horror.

In non-fiction, we present an excerpt from Breaking the Bombers: How the Hunt for Pagad Created a Crack Police Unit by Mark Shaw, a story that has never before been told in full; a rumination on the troubled history of Afrikaans from Coloured: How Classification Became Culture by Tessa Dooms and Lynsey Ebony Chutel; and Christopher EW Ouma’s essay from Reading From the South: African Print Cultures and Oceanic Turns in Isabel Hofmeyr’s Work, a new set of essays edited by Charne Lavery and Sarah Nuttall.

In our poetry section, we’re delighted to share an excerpt from Isobel Dixon’s new collection, A Whistling of Birds.

From our Photo Editor Victor Dlamini this month, a literary portrait of Arundhati Roy.

And while you’re reading, enjoy Embrace your existential dread, a playlist compiled by Tymon Smith.

Here’s the complete breakdown of Vol. 7, Issue 4, which you will also find on our issue archive page:





Fiction excerpts




The JRB Daily

Cover image: Joburg=Mars/Jennifer Malec

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