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Celebrate young black female writers this Saturday

Join Xarra Books this Saturday, 21 October for a day dedicated to celebrating young black female writers. Lorraine Sithole will chair the discussion.

“A literary dance with science” – the Mail & Guardian reviews Christa Kuljian’s Darwin’s Hunch

The announcement of the Homo naledi hominid fossils by Professor Lee Berger in September 2015 at Maropeng outside Johannesburg dominated the news and headlines for months internationally. The public reaction to the find indicated a fascination in the search for human origins, and that the concept of race and human evolution are linked in many people’s minds.

Christa Kuljian traces the history of South African palaeoanthropology and genetics research in order to make sense of science and race in the quest to understand human origins. Over time, the nature of the search has shifted and changed. What are we looking for after all?

Darwin’s hunch in 1871 was that humans evolved in Africa, but very few European scientists agreed. Raymond Dart wrote in Nature in February 1925 that the Taung Child Skull supported Darwin’s theory. Dart believed he had found the “missing link” between apes and humans. Again, few scientists agreed.

Over the past century, the search for human origins has been shaped by the changing social and political context. Reflecting colonial thinking, Raymond Dart followed the practice in the US and Europe of collecting human remains and characterising human skeletons into racial types. He thought that there was a Bushman racial type that might provide a clue to human evolution. In 1936, he led a Wits University expedition to the Kalahari to study this imaginary racial type. One of the people he met and measured was a young woman named /Keri-/Keri. She died two years later. Her body was embalmed and taken to Wits University where her skeleton became part of the Raymond Dart Skeleton Collection. The book uncovers the sad story of what happened to her remains. In addition to /Keri-/Keri, Kuljian introduces us to a range of people who were in the shadows of the well-known scientists.

The book shows how Prime Minister Jan Smuts supported the search for human origins in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, how the concept of human evolution was opposed by the apartheid government, and how the post-1994 South African government and President Thabo Mbeki, with encouragement from Phillip Tobias, celebrated the fact that Africa is the Cradle of Humankind. Yet the search continues. In 1987, the publication of ‘Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution’ suggested that all living humans could trace their ancestry back to Africa 200,000 years ago. Many scientists and the general public in the West were slow to accept such a claim. Genetic research continues today, based not on fossils or skeletons, but on DNA samples. Kuljian examines current thinking and approaches to the ongoing search and explains why for much of the past century so many scientists were reluctant to accept Darwin’s Hunch.

Nigel Willis, a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal, recently reviewed Kuljian’s Alan Paton Award 2017 shortlisted book for the Mail & Guardian:

Charles Darwin speculated that the origins of modern human beings may be traced to Africa. It took more than a century of hard research, exploration and scientific endeavour for his hunch to be vindicated.

Written in a gripping account that reads like a detective novel, Christa Kuljian provides a history of this validation of Darwin’s “hunch”. Kuljian is a writing fellow at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research. She took her first degree in the history of science at Harvard University, where prominent among her tutors was the world-renowned paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould.

In addition to a master’s degree at Princeton, she has another from the University of the Witwatersrand in creative writing. Her superb academic training illuminates this book.

Kuljian deals insightfully with the interrelationship between politics and science, especially the science of paleontology. Politics and its kindred spirit, ideology, influenced not only the prevailing assumptions about human origins but also the ability of paleontologists to raise funds to enable them to undertake their research. Political support may result in direct grants from government, but also heightens general consciousness, facilitating generous donations from private foundations and other institutions.

Kuljian draws parallels and distinctions between Jan Smuts, statesman, all round academic and pre-apartheid prime minister, and post-apartheid president Thabo Mbeki. The intellectual curiosity of both was stimulated by the prospect that the origins of modern human beings may have begun in South Africa. Both thought that research in this regard would help to “put South Africa on the map”. Mbeki thought that it would give black South Africans a sense of self-pride. To this idea Smuts was impervious.

Under apartheid, the Nationalist government was indifferent, if not hostile, to the idea that “the cradle of humankind” may lie in South Africa. It was afraid of the effect science may have on the ideology of “difference” between and, correspondingly, the inherent “separateness” of races.

Apartheid prime minister and also an academic, Hendrik Verwoerd was afraid that science may implode his theory that, as the first white person came ashore at the Cape, the first black person crossed the Limpopo. In Verwoerdian ideology, South Africa, apart from a few politically irrelevant San and Khoi-Khoi, was a wilderness, awaiting possession by white people. Thus reasoned, there had been no colonial displacement of blacks.

Continue reading Judge Willis’s review here.
 

Darwin's Hunch

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Rehana Rossouw’s new novel illuminates the tensions inherent in the second year of Nelson Mandela’s presidency

New TimesFrom the acclaimed and award-winning author of What Will People Say? Rehana Rossouw takes us into a world seemingly filled with promise yet bedevilled by shadows from the past. In this astonishing tour de force Rossouw illuminates the tensions inherent in these new times.

Ali Adams is a political reporter in Parliament. As Nelson Mandela begins his second year as president, she discovers that his party is veering off the path to freedom and drafting a new economic policy that makes no provision for the poor. She follows the scent of corruption wafting into the new democracy’s politics and uncovers a major scandal. She compiles stories that should be heard when the Truth Commission gets underway, reliving the recent brutal past. Her friend Lizo works in the Presidency, controls access to Madiba’s ear. Another friend, Munier, is beating at the gates of Parliament, demanding attention for the plague stalking the land.

Aaliyah Adams lives with her devout Muslim family in Bo-Kaap. Her mother is buried in religion after losing her husband. Her best friend is getting married, piling up the pressure to get settled and pregnant. There is little tolerance for alternative lifestyles in the close-knit community. The Rugby World Cup starts and tourists pour up the slopes above the city, discovering a hidden gem their dollars can afford.

Ali/Aaliya is trapped with her family and friends in a tangle of razor-wire politics and culture, can she break free?

Told with Rehana’s trademark verve and exquisite attention to language you will weep with Aaliya, triumph with Ali, and fall in love with the assemblage that makes up this ravishing new novel.

Rehana Rossouw was born and rooted in Cape Town, but is currently in self-imposed exile in Johannesburg. She has been a journalist for three decades and has also taught journalism and creative writing. She has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Wits University.

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Consuelo Roland fans: the second book in her Lady Limbo series has hit the shelves!

Paola Dante is a driven project manager employed by a large multinational information technology corporation who reads war strategy books for relaxation. In general she prefers computers to people with their random uncontrolled emotions. Long ago she made a decision that matters of the heart were inherently messy and should be kept at arm’s distance. But her husband had surprised her; she had no resistance against Daniel.

Now she sees herself as a survivor who has successfully moved on from the traumatic events and terrible truth surrounding her husband’s sudden disappearance years before. But the truth is that ever since the night he walked out on their marriage back to his old ways she’s found it hard to get on with normal life.

An unlikely and ill-equipped mother, she stands alone between their adopted daughter Simone and the criminal kingpin who wants the teenage girl for his own ends and has set the savage wolves on her.

To save her daughter − and herself − once and for all, Paola will face her every fear, her every mistake, and the past she thought she’d finally processed and left behind.
 
 
Praise for Lady Limbo:

“Consuelo Roland has written a surprising and intriguing tale about marriage, life and the exceptions we make for those we love.” – Dee Andrew, Slipnet

“Highly, highly recommending this excellent book by Consuelo Roland, who won me over earlier this year with her extraordinary debut novel, The Good Cemetery Guide. Everything I loved about that book – impeccable craft skills, dry wit, full-bodied characters, lovely turns of phrase – is present in Lady Limbo, but Roland has taken it to the next level with a more complex, suspenseful plot. The international intrigue and a fast-paced story kept me engaged without detracting from Paola’s journey, the emotional core of the book, as she searches for her husband and ultimately for herself. – Amazon.com review by just another bookworm.

Consuelo Roland is the author of The Limbo Trilogy, a mystery-suspense series set in Camps Bay, seaside playground for the rich. Her latest novel, Wolf Trap, follows Lady Limbo, the first volume in the trilogy, published to critical acclaim in 2012. She lives in South Africa with her husband.

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Listen: Raymond Suttner’s AmaBookaBooka interview

First published by Oceanbooks, New York and Melbourne, and University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg in 2001, Raymond Suttner’s Inside Apartheid’s Prison was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton award in 2002.

In the public imagination the struggle that saw the end of apartheid and inauguration of a democratic South Africa is seen as one waged by black people who were often imprisoned or killed for their efforts. Suttner, an academic, is one of a small group of white South Africans who was imprisoned for his efforts to overthrow the apartheid regime.

He was first arrested in 1975 and tortured with electric shocks because he refused to supply information to the police. He then served eight years for underground activities for the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP).

After his release in 1983, he returned to the struggle and was forced to go underground to evade arrest, but was re-detained in 1986 for 27 months; 18 of these being spent in solitary confinement.

In the last months of this detention Suttner was allowed to have a pet lovebird, which he tamed and used to keep inside his tracksuit. When he was eventually released from detention in September 1988 the bird was on his shoulder.

Suttner was held under stringent house arrest conditions, imposed to impede further political activities. He however defied his house arrest restrictions and attended an Organisation for African Unity meeting in Harare, where he remained for five months. Shortly after his return to SA, when he anticipated being re-arrested, the state of emergency was lifted and the ANC and other banned organisations were unbanned.

The book describes Suttner’s experience of prison in a low-key, unromantic voice, providing the texture of prison life. This ‘struggle memoir’ is also intensely personal, as Suttner is not averse to admitting his fears and anxieties.

The new edition contains an afterword where Suttner describes his break with the ANC and SACP. But he argues that the reasons for his rupturing this connection that had been so important to his life were the same ethical reasons that had led him to join in the first place. He remains convinced that what he did was right and continues to act in accordance with those convictions.

Suttner recently was a guest on the Daily Maverick‘s AmaBookaBooka podcast series. Listen to his conversation with Jonathan Ancer here:


 
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Listen: Raymond Suttner discusses Inside Apartheid’s Prison on Power FM

First published by Oceanbooks, New York and Melbourne, and University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg in 2001, Raymond Suttner’s Inside Apartheid’s Prison was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton award in 2002.

In the public imagination the struggle that saw the end of apartheid and inauguration of a democratic South Africa is seen as one waged by black people who were often imprisoned or killed for their efforts. Suttner, an academic, is one of a small group of white South Africans who was imprisoned for his efforts to overthrow the apartheid regime.

He was first arrested in 1975 and tortured with electric shocks because he refused to supply information to the police. He then served eight years for underground activities for the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP).

After his release in 1983, he returned to the struggle and was forced to go underground to evade arrest, but was re-detained in 1986 for 27 months; 18 of these being spent in solitary confinement.

In the last months of this detention Suttner was allowed to have a pet lovebird, which he tamed and used to keep inside his tracksuit. When he was eventually released from detention in September 1988 the bird was on his shoulder.

Suttner was held under stringent house arrest conditions, imposed to impede further political activities. He however defied his house arrest restrictions and attended an Organisation for African Unity meeting in Harare, where he remained for five months. Shortly after his return to SA, when he anticipated being re-arrested, the state of emergency was lifted and the ANC and other banned organisations were unbanned.

The book describes Suttner’s experience of prison in a low-key, unromantic voice, providing the texture of prison life. This ‘struggle memoir’ is also intensely personal, as Suttner is not averse to admitting his fears and anxieties.

The new edition contains an afterword where Suttner describes his break with the ANC and SACP. But he argues that the reasons for his rupturing this connection that had been so important to his life were the same ethical reasons that had led him to join in the first place. He remains convinced that what he did was right and continues to act in accordance with those convictions.

Listen to Suttner’s recent conversation with Iman Rapetti for Power FM:


 

Inside Apartheid's Prison

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The signs of invertebrates’ day-to-day activities are all around us. Lee Gutteridge shows us where to look…

The Invertrebrates of Southern Africa

This book intensively covers a never-before-explored aspect of Southern African nature and is an essential new addition to the library of every nature lover.

It was researched and written over the last four and a half years to open a door to a little known micro-world that exists all around us. Invertebrates – which include commonly seen creatures such as butterflies, spiders, beetles, worms and scorpions – are everywhere.

The signs of their day-to-day activities are all around us if we know where to look.

The life cycles and behaviours of many animals are discussed, with a special focus on interactions between mammals and invertebrates – a fascinating subject in itself.

While working on this book, Lee Gutteridge spent many hours in the field with expert entomologists and arachnologists, many of whom commented that; even though they had spent a lifetime in the field, this experience, of invertebrate tracking, had changed the way that they see the invertebrate world.

With funding received from the Oppenheimer family, 250 copies will be donated to indigenous trackers, whose knowledge Lee appreciates and respects.
 
 
Lee Gutteridge is an experienced, enthusiastic and well-known wild life author, nature guide and trainer. With 25 years of experience in the bush, he has come to realise that guiding is not just about knowledge, but more importantly about how we share it with our guests from around the world. He personally trains for many well-known and highly experienced guide and tracker teams at some of the southern and central African region’s top lodges, with programmes focusing on a wide range of subjects including track identification skills.

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The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for Writing 2017 collection

The Goddess of Mtwara and Other StoriesThe Goddess of Mtwara and Other StoriesThe Goddess of Mtwara and Other StoriesThe Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Caine Prize for African Writing is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. The prize was launched in 2000 to encourage and highlight the
richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally. The focus on the short story reflects the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition.

This collection brings together the five 2017 shortlisted stories, along with stories written at the Caine Prize Writers’ Workshop, which took place in April 2017.

The Workshop authors are:
Lidudumalingani (South Africa), last year’s winner
Abdul Adan (Somalia/Kenya), previously shortlisted
Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria), previously shortlisted
Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe), previously shortlisted
Cheryl Ntumy (Botswana/Ghana)
Daniel Rafiki (Rwanda)
Darla Rudakubana (Rwanda)
Agazit Abate (Ethiopia)
Esther Karin Mngodo (Tanzania)
Lydia Kasese (Tanzania)
Zakariwa Riwa (Tanzania)

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Launch: Inside Apartheid’s Prison by Raymond Suttner (4 October)

First published by Oceanbooks, New York and Melbourne, and University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg, in 2001, Inside Apartheid’s Prison was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton award in 2002.

In the public imagination the struggle that saw the end of apartheid and inauguration of a democratic South Africa is seen as one waged by black people who were often imprisoned or killed for their efforts. Raymond Suttner, an academic, is one of a small group of white South Africans who was imprisoned for his efforts to overthrow the apartheid regime.

He was first arrested in 1975 and tortured with electric shocks because he refused to supply information to the police. He then served eight years for underground activities for the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP).

After his release in 1983, he returned to the struggle and was forced to go underground to evade arrest, but was re-detained in 1986 for 27 months; 18 of these being spent in solitary confinement.

In the last months of this detention Suttner was allowed to have a pet lovebird, which he tamed and used to keep inside his tracksuit. When he was eventually released from detention in September 1988 the bird was on his shoulder.

Suttner was held under stringent house arrest conditions, imposed to impede further political activities. He however defied his house arrest restrictions and attended an Organisation for African Unity meeting in Harare, where he remained for five months. Shortly after his return to SA, when he anticipated being re-arrested, the state of emergency was lifted and the ANC and other banned organisations were unbanned.

The book describes Suttner’s experience of prison in a low-key, unromantic voice, providing the texture of prison life. This ‘struggle memoir’ is also intensely personal, as Suttner is not averse to admitting his fears and anxieties.

The new edition contains an afterword where Suttner describes his break with the ANC and SACP. But he argues that the reasons for his rupturing this connection that had been so important to his life were the same ethical reasons that had led him to join in the first place. He remains convinced that what he did was right and continues to act in accordance with those convictions.

Inside Apartheid's Prison

Book details

Sara-Jayne King talks about Killing Karoline on SAfm

Killing Karoline deals with important topical issues relating to adoption, identity, race, mental health and addiction.

Born Karoline King in 1980 in Johannesburg South Africa, Sara-Jayne (as she will later be called by her adoptive parents) is the result of an affair, illegal under apartheid’s Immorality Act, between a white British woman and a black South African man. Her story reveals the shocking lie created to cover up the forbidden relationship, and the hurried overseas adoption of the illegitimate baby, born during one of history’s most inhumane and destructive regimes.

Killing Karoline follows the journey of the baby girl (categorised as ‘white’ under South Africa’s race classification system) who is raised in a leafy, middle-class corner of the South of England by a white couple. It takes the reader through her formative years, a difficult adolescence and into adulthood, as Sara-Jayne (Karoline) seeks to discover who she is and where she came from.

Plagued by questions surrounding her own identity and unable to ‘fit in’ Sara-Jayne begins to turn on herself. She eventually returns to South Africa, after 26 years, to face her demons. There she is forced to face issues of identity, race, rejection and belonging beyond that which she could ever have imagined. She must also face her birth family, who in turn must confront what happens when the baby you kill off at a mere six weeks old returns from the dead.

Sara-Jayne King is a mixed-race South African/British journalist and radio presenter whose career spans over a decade and has taken her across the globe in search of remarkable stories and fascinating characters. While studying for an LLB degree in the UK, Sara-Jayne realised her passion lay elsewhere and, after graduating, she went on to complete a Master’s in Journalism in 2004. Her career began as a junior journalist in local radio in London and since then has included roles in the Middle East and Africa, most recently as a senior editor for news channel eNCA and presenter for Primedia’s talk radio station Cape Talk.

Listen to Nancy Richards’s recent interview with Sara-Jayne here:

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