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“I had to trust that I was able to hear his voice clearly” – Alison Lowry on posthumously completing Gerald Kraak’s Shadow Play

In the early evening I pulled up outside The Eyrie. The gate was open. I stepped through the space in the creeper-covered fence, expecting to find everything as usual, the kitchen door open, the scent of curry coming from inside and a strain of Coltrane drifting down to the pear orchard. Except that the house was gutted. The smoke I had smelled on the road, that I had put down to sundown cooking in the township, was suddenly and pungent. This was a different kind of smoke. I stood and stared. My feet would not move, forward or back.

When confronted with his call-up papers for the apartheid army, with his fellow student activists either scattered or in jail, Matthew chooses exile in Europe.

In Amsterdam, he reconnects with his friend Oliver, who is studying music there. As he falls into a different rhythm of life, as contended as he is in a loving relationship and a job in a music store, the pull of his homeland never leaves him.

When he receives an unexpected call from a former activist comrade, he makes a decision that will put at risk everything he has built in his new life. And when he meets Mandla for the first time, he knows there will be no going back.

Mandla went into exile long before ’76. After undergoing military training for the movement in Russia, and working as an operative in different African countries, he is infiltrated back into SA through Swaziland in order to fulfil and important mission.

His comrade and cover is a white graduate student, Rachel, who is simultaneously conducting research for her studies in a rural area where local communities are being systematically removed from their ancestral land and forced into poverty and degradation.

Theirs becomes a rare and precious friendship, tender and intimate. An unwelcome visitor disrupts their lives, however, and threatens their mission, causing damage and uncertainty in an already fragile relationship.

Editor’s note:

Gerald Kraak’s intention was that Shadow Play would be the middle volume in a trilogy, but his untimely death while he was writing the book meant that this would not be realised. As I understood it from those who were close to him, especially friends in an informal writing group where their various works in progress would be discussed and chapters shared, his intention was to bring the stories of Matthew, Oliver, Mandla and Pru to conclusion in present-day South Africa. It was also his intention that each novel would be a free-standing work.

The acclaimed first book, Ice in the Lungs, for which Kraak was joint winner of the European Union Literary Award, led the way. At the time of its publication in 2006 it was hailed as an important contribution to South African literature and the book flagged Kraak as a strong, new, reflective and challenging voice.

The themes he explored and would continue to explore in Shadow Play are universal ones – identity, belonging, difference, sexuality, acceptance, betrayal – ordinary in the naming but extraordinary from the pen of a writer as subtle and as sensitive as Kraak.

The political environment in South Africa during the period covered in Shadow Play – late 70s and early 80s – for anyone opposing the regime’s apartheid laws was one of repression, punishment, torture and death. The liberation struggle was largely fought underground and directed from countries abroad. If you were a young white male, conscription into the apartheid army was not a choice.

Many activists, like Kraak himself, chose exile rather than be called up to serve an illegitimate regime. His own years of exile were spent in Amsterdam and it is to this city that Matthew travels when he makes the same choice. It is where Shadow Play begins and where the book is largely set.

When Kraak’s literary executor approached me with the unusual request to complete his unfinished novel and to see it through to publication, I was intrigued, but I was hesitant.

As an editor, I spend much of my working day inside the heads and behind the words of writers. It is a sacred place, one in which I always try to tread lightly and with respect. Trust between writer and editor is key to a relationship that is perhaps more intimate than any other. The primary task of a fiction editor, in my view, is to listen. To listen to the words, to the voices who might speak them, to the author who has something to say but might not yet be saying it as effectively as he could. Then, preferably, to discuss in person, listen some more, read many drafts, make careful suggestions, and offer hopefully useful feedback throughout the process. It is a process that is animated by a continual two-way conversation between writer and editor.

It is not the editor’s footprints one wants to see on a novel in the end. The editor’s personal satisfaction lies elsewhere.

With Shadow Play, instead of those conversations, and the drafts that would usually take shape as a result of them, I had silence. This meant that I would have to listen extra carefully and pay a different kind of attention to my author.

Shadow Play was unfinished in many ways. I took from the executor a couple of hard copy volumes, a flashdrive, and early and later notes, some typed, some scribbled in pen, often not very legibly, and by different hands. It wasn’t easy to discern which of the hard copies was the latest version, and the versions on the flashdrive were different too. In addition, the hard copy had coloured stickers, notes to self, notes from other readers, admonitions, reminders, instructions to return to a sectionanother time, sections scored through with frustrated pencil lines, and much else.

In other words, a somewhat typical stage in a writer’s journey. There was a present-day storyline, which was clearly thought out, but also a back story, which needed to intersect with the present day but missed it on several marks – a timeline that was complicated and a trajectory that was in danger of disappearing or turning back on itself and getting tangled in unpickable knots.

I sensed that this back story had been the more troubling challenge for Kraak, because it had not been fully reconciled or imagined; it was the story that elicited most of the ‘notes to self’. It began but it did not end. It meandered in the middle. The voice was tentative but it was potentially the underlying strength and the pivotal protest song in the novel. It was the parallel stories of exile, subterfuge, ideology and shared by separate lives of Matthew and Mandla that were the key, I believed, to unlocking and presenting a powerful and compelling narrative.

In the absence of Kraak himself to guide or admonish me, in the end I had to trust that I was able to hear his voice clearly, to interpret his intentions, and that in crafting it to the best of my ability I have been true to the spirit of the novel and have done the author justice.

I have done my best to inhabit his world and to reflect it back to his readers in the way he wanted it to be seen. If there are footprints to be discerned, I hope they are not mine. I hope they are Mandla’s, making his way home by starlight through the treacherous elephant grass across the Swaziland border, and Matthew finding his own way back to his homeland via the cobbled streets of Amsterdam in the chill of an early spring. – Alison Lowry, Johannesburg, January 2017

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Ice in the Lungs

Book launch – Spy: Uncovering Craig Williamson by Jonathan Ancer

Join author Jonathan Ancer in conversation with author, journalist and tweet writer, Gus Silber discussing Craig Williamson, the apartheid ‘super-spy’ turned killer.

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 26 April 2017
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg. | Map
  • RSVP: Savannah Lucas, Jacana Media,, 011 628 3200

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Book launch: Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk by C.M. Elliott

C.M. Elliott will be in conversation with Jenny Crwys-Williams on the continued adventures of Detective Inspector Jabulani Sibanda.

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 20 April 2017
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Jenny Crwys-Williams
  • RSVP: Savannah Lucas,, 011 628 3200

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Book launch: Eye of a Needle by Cornelia Fick

David Krut Projects and Cornelia Fick invite you to the launch of Eye of a Needle and Other Stories.

Eye of a Needle is a great read for lovers of literary and experimental fiction.

This debut collection was written with a compassionate eye for the fragile positions of women, the dispossessed and the poor. While experimenting with different styles and forms of storytelling, Cornelia Fick displays an acute insight into the mysteries of human nature. This collection of forty stories varies widely, from a one-line story to a short novella.

Told in the first, second and third person the stories in the collection are designed to take the reader on a journey. The stories themselves are thought provoking and often set in Apartheid South Africa. Fick writes with wit, insight and humour.

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Pitch your book to Jacana publishers!


From Pitch to Publication
Like many publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts, we receive a large number of submissions every week. This means hours spent wading through many emails as we try to give every author feedback on their work. Writers often try to arrange meetings with publishers, convinced that meeting the publisher in person will persuade them to publish the book, but with only so many hours in a day this isn’t always feasible.

The Pitching Session
We are offering you the chance to participate in a twenty-minute session where you’ll be able to pitch your book to a panel comprising a media representative, three publishers and a high-powered bookseller. This is your chance to impress and persuade us in person to consider your work for publication. We realise this isn’t an approach that will work for all authors, but if you would like to be one of the twenty candidates who will present at the Live Pitching Session on 4 August 2017, we encourage you to submit an entry on our website.

You will need to tell us why we would be interested in hearing your pitch. Take a look at the following websites for some ideas:

Accompanying your manuscript should be one page outlining:
• How you are going to help us sell your book?
• What target market can you reach with your book?
• How does your book fit into the Jacana brand?

We will consider pitches in the following genres:
• Lifestyle
• Children’s
• Fiction
• Politics/Current Affairs/History
• Memoir/Biography/Auto-Biography
• Natural History/Travel
• Cookery/Baking
• Business
• Self-help

Click here to submit your entry and for further information.

Queries can be emailed to:

Please note that we will only be giving feedback on submissions that interest us after the pitching session has taken place. If you have not heard from us by the end of August 2017, please consider your submission unsuccessful.

Win a copy of Lindiwe Hani’s Being Chris Hani’s Daughter

Twenty-four years have passed since the assassination of the leader of the South African Communist Party, Chris Hani.

In honour of his memory, we’re giving away three copies of Lindiwe Hani’s Being Chris Hani’s Daughter, co-written by Melinda Ferguson.

When Chris Hani, leader of the South African Communist Party and heir apparent to Nelson Mandela, was brutally slain in his driveway in April 1993, he left a shocked and grieving South Africa on the precipice of civil war.

But to 12-year-old Lindiwe, it was the love of her life, her daddy, who had been shockingly ripped from her life.

In this intimate and brutally honest memoir, 36-year-old Lindiwe remembers the years she shared with her loving father, and the toll that his untimely death took on the Hani family.
She lays family skeletons bare and brings to the fore her own downward spiral into cocaine and alcohol addiction, a desperate attempt to avoid the pain of his brutal parting.

While the nation continued to revere and honour her father’s legacy, for Lindiwe, being Chris Hani’s daughter became an increasingly heavy burden to bear.

“For as long as I can remember, I’d grown up feeling that I was the daughter of Chris Hani and that I was useless. My father was such a huge figure, such an icon to so many people, it felt like I could never be anything close to what he achieved – so why even try? Of course my addiction to booze and cocaine just made me feel my worthlessness even more.”

In a stunning turnaround, she faces her demons, not just those that haunted her through her addiction, but, with the courage that comes with sobriety, she comes face to face with
her father’s two killers – Janus Walus, still incarcerated, and Clive Derby Lewis, released in 2015 on medical parole. In a breathtaking twist of humanity, while searching for the truth behind her father’s assassination, Lindiwe Hani ultimately makes peace with herself and honours her father’s gigantic spirit.

Enter on our Facebook page by telling us – in no more more than two sentences – why you should receive a copy of this singular memoir. Entries close Monday 17 April.

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Fiction Friday: read an extract from Rehana Rossouw’s award-winning novel What Will People Say?

Novelist Rehana Rossouw was the 2017 recipient of a Humanities and Social Sciences Award, hosted by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, in the category single-authored fiction for her debut novel What Will People Say?

Read an extract from Rossouw’s acclaimed novel about the Fouries – a family living in the heart of the Cape Flats at the height of the struggle era – here:

Kevin was waiting at the school gate when Nicky and Shirley strolled out arm in arm at the end of the school day. He stepped forward as they came near. “Greetings ladies, can I escort you today?”

Shirley giggled. “Of course you can, right Nicky?”

Nicky didn’t want Kevin walking with them. He was only after one thing. She hadn’t gone to the SRC meeting at second break; she was too busy sukkeling with Shirley’s problem. She still hadn’t found a solution. As she expected, it didn’t take long – two steps out of the gate and Kevin started on her.

“So Nicky, I was expecting to see you in the meeting this afternoon. There’s work to be done. We planning to bring the country to a stand still for the tenth anniversary of the ’76 uprising.”

Thick, dark irritation filled her face. What must she do to get Kevin to leave her alone? Nicky didn’t want him to escort her anywhere. She wanted to be alone with Shirley; she was planning on going home with her. Shirley shouldn’t be alone on a kak day like this. “I had other things on my mind, okay?”

“What can be more important than the struggle?”

Nicky stopped and planted her fists in her hips, staring daggers at Kevin. “A lot, you idiot. Shirley, for an example. She’s much more important than your blerrie struggle. She got a big problem. Her mother wants her to leave school and go work in the factory with her.”

Kevin turned to Shirley, his face squeezed up like a lemon. “You’ll be a semi-skilled worker fed to the machine to become another alienated unit of capitalist labour.”

Nicky felt like her head was about to burst open like a dropped watermelon, the irritation was so thick. No one could get to her like Kevin. “Speak English Kevin! This isn’t time for a political speech. Shirley needs help. She’s not an issue. She’s only sixteen and she must go work to feed her brothers. You such a blerrie fool!”

Kevin looked like a foster child on his way back to the orphanage.

“Of course I think that’s really kak, Nicky! There must be a way out. We must strategise, see what we can come up with.”

Shirley smiled at him. “You think you can see a way out of it?”

Kevin gave a couple of firm nods. “Let me think on it for a while. As Lenin would say: What is to be done? That’s what we must figure out.”

Nicky stared at their backs as Shirley and Kevin walked away without her. That boy had a nerve! Didn’t he see he wasn’t wanted?

She was going to come up with a solution for Shirley’s problem. They didn’t need him. Why was Shirley hanging onto his words like he was her saviour? She rushed to catch up with them.

The girls’ route home took them past the taxi rank at the Hanover Park Town Centre. The rank fed routes into town, Claremont, Wynberg and Mitchells Plain. Gaartjies shouted out destinations and ushered people into revving sixteen-seaters; pushing flesh and parcels inside as they slid the doors shut.

Nicky, Shirley and Kevin wove their way along the pavement between people streaming to the rank and the hawkers lining the sides. Most were selling vegetables, but there were also stalls with tinned goods, bags of bright orange chips and loose cigarettes. A bakkie blocked the pavement, its back piled high with snoek. A plump man covered with a red-stained, yellow plastic apron gutted and beheaded his silver, toothy catch while customers waited. The fish was wrapped in newspaper and exchanged for a five-rand note. Nicky could smell the sea on the bakkie as she walked past.

Continue reading at

What Will People Say

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Listen to Lindiwe Hani discuss her father and the aftermath of his death at the launch of Being Chris Hani’s Daughter

This was a different launch. It was live on air – on Kaya FM. John Perlman interviewed Lindiwe Hani at the launch of her book Being Chris Hani’s Daughter, written with Melinda Ferguson. The crowd came to hear her talk about her life – dealing with the loss of her father, bearing the burden of his legacy, her addiction to cocaine and alcohol, and eventually coming face to face with the two men that murdered her father – Janusz Waluś and Clive Derby-Lewis.

Listen to the podcast:

Being Chris Hani's Daughter Book details













Book launch and exhibition: Traces and Tracks: A Thirty-Year Journey with the San by Paul Weinberg

Jacana Media and Origins Centre invite you to the launch and exhibition of Traces and Tracks – A Thirty-Year Journey with the San.

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Book launch: Being Chris Hani’s Daughter

MFBooks Joburg and The Mall of Rosebank in partnership with Zebra Square invite you to the launch of Being Chris Hani’s Daughter, by Lindiwe Hani and Melinda Ferguson.

In this intimate and searingly honest memoir, Lindiwe Hani recalls the 12 years she shared with her father, Chris, her hero, and the toll that his untimely death took on the Hani family. When she comes face-to-face with her father’s killers, she is finally able to confront her demons.

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