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Sarah Nuttall reviews The Shouting in the Dark: Elleke Boehmer’s most exciting bio-fictional work since her debut

The Shouting in the DarkBy Sarah Nuttall

This book is for me Elleke Boehmer’s most exciting bio-fictional work since her debut novel Screens Against the Sky (1990). If that first book drew its energy from the depiction of an obsessional mother-daughter relationship, this one burns with an intense and destructive father-daughter relationship. Ben Okri calls it “a secret duel to the death between a father and daughter” and it plays out in a vividly historical sense. Boehmer’s narrator, who the reader has much difficulty not thinking of as herself (much like the narrator John in JM Coetzee’s Boyhood) becomes undone by her – in many ways – terrible father. What drives this story is Ella’s hatred of him, her desire to kill him, her wish for his death, her longing to be an orphan altogether.

Boehmer writes her way into the eruptions and emissions of intense emotion in this book, set in Durban in the 1970s, in ways she hasn’t before. That is, she inhabits her character’s affective life to a degree unreached in previous writing. Ella’s disgust at her father, and her derision for what she sees, as a girl, as her mother’s weakness, animates the prose. Her father spews and spills, every night on the verandah, his vitriol, his right wing politics, the pain of his shattering wartime experiences in the Dutch navy during World War II, his grief for the woman he in fact loved, her mother’s dead sister. Boehmer needed to find a prose form that could enter a highly charged and unrestrained emotional space, and she has done it brilliantly, in a highly crafted way.

If Coetzee’s Boyhood is, as with his other fictional and biofictional works, written with deep, if very restrained, emotion, brilliant verbal economies and narrative taughtness, Boehmer’s The Shouting in the Dark taps into a more expressive turn, which mirrors and mines the affective charge of a South African cultural and public life now avowedly post-TRC and shaped by new orders of private and public feeling, force and anger.

These are extracts from a longer piece that Sarah Nuttall is writing about Boehmers The Shouting in the Dark.

 
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A novel that rips a wormhole in the rainbow nation: Permanent Removal by Alan Cowell

Alan Cowell’s high-speed thriller rips a wormhole in the rainbow nation and throws us back to a time when right and wrong were fixed in blood and love came off second best.

- Charlotte Bauer

Permanent RemovalPermanent Removal is a beautifully written political thriller focusing on the nature of justice, truth, betrayal, socio-political and ethical quandaries, complicity and moral agency.

The novel introduces readers to a cast of players whose destinies intertwine in a particularly gruesome murder.

The novel is set in apartheid South Africa and the start of the Rainbow Nation. South African security forces set up a roadblock to intercept a car near the city of Port Elizabeth. Two of the four anti-apartheid activists in the car were secretly targeted for assassination. The police abducted the four and murdered them in cold blood. Their burnt bodies were found later near the Port Elizabeth suburb of Bluewater Bay. These murders are one of apartheid’s murkiest episodes.

On the day of the funeral, President PW Botha declared a State of Emergency. It was the beginning of the end.

They will use the flashing patrol light to force the sky-blue Honda to pull over – an old trick, but it often worked. They will manacle their captives and switch license plates. They will drive the four men back toward the dunes. In the first instance, there will be knives and bludgeons. Then gasoline to incinerate the bodies and the Honda. Dirty work, but someone had to do it.

Works such as Jacob Dlamini’s penetrating and discursive Askari and the recent publication on Eugene de Kock as state sanctioned perpetrator of various evils will be complemented in no small measure by this intriguing fictionalised exploration of political executions and culpability/loss during the apartheid heyday.

About the author

Alan S Cowell is an award-winning New York Times journalist. He was assigned to Johannesburg in the mid-1980s and was awarded the prestigious George Polk Award for courageous reporting. The government of the day ordered him to leave in early 1987 and he was not allowed to return until the early 1990s. Since then he has been a regular visitor, most recently covering the Oscar Pistorius trial and anchoring coverage of the death of President Mandela.

 
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Gerald Kraak Award and Anthology – Call for publishing partners

 
From Jacana:

The Jacana Literary Foundation (JLF) and Jacana Media are thrilled to announce the establishment of the annual Gerald Kraak Award and Anthology, made possible in partnership with The Other Foundation and through the generous funding of Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life foundation.

 


 
Created in honour of the late activist Gerald Kraak’s extraordinary legacy of supporting human rights, this award will advance his contribution to building a South Africa that is safe and welcoming to all. The unique and vital anthology will feature English language writing and photography from and about Africa. Exceptional works which explore, interrogate and celebrate the topics of gender, sexuality and human rights will be shortlisted, and given a voice through publication.

Gerald Kraak (1956-2014) was a passionate champion of social justice, an anti-apartheid activist and the head of the Atlantic Philanthropies’ Reconciliation and Human Rights Programme in South Africa. He authored two books, including the European Union Literary Award-winning exploration of South African politics, Ice in the Lungs (Jacana, 2005), and directed a documentary on gay conscripts in the apartheid army. He will be remembered for being kind and generous, delightfully irreverent and deeply committed to realising an equal and just society for all.

Rather than general discussions of these subjects, pieces which engage with gender and sexuality in ways that promote new understandings of and insights into human rights on our continent will be sought. A cash prize is awarded to the author of the winning piece.

Gender, sexuality and human rights are under threat across Africa. The more they are threatened, the more important it is for us to help share ideas which promote equal rights for all. Because the contributions will be received from Africa, it is essential for them to be spread throughout Africa. We hope that brave, like-minded publishers will join us in this endeavour.

We want to make the publishing process as simple and affordable as possible. Our idea would be to supply committed publishers based in countries across Africa with print-ready files of the anthology in early 2017, to enable them to publish and sell the book in their country of operation. There would be no production costs or content creation responsibilities to be borne by them.

We would want involvement from all in the naming of the award and anthology and call for submissions in February 2016.

If you as a publisher share these aims, we’d love you to talk to us and tell us more about yourselves.

Please email klara@jacana.co.za by 10 February, 2016 to express your interest.

 
About The Jacana Literary Foundation

The Jacana Literary Foundation (JLF) is a not-for-profit organisation which seeks to promote and foster writing excellence from South and southern Africa through a number of initiatives. By securing funding for key projects, the JLF aims to publish literature that might not otherwise see publication for purely commercial reasons.

This allows the JLF’s publishing partner, Jacana Media, to produce literature which supports the concept of bibliodiversity. We believe that it is through the reading and writing of local creative works that the truths of our lives are best told.

About The Other Foundation

The Other Foundation is an African Trust that gathers support for those who are working to protect and advance the rights, wellbeing and social inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities – and gives support in a smart way that helps groups to work better for lasting change. To learn more, please visit: www.theotherfoundation.org


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Panashe Chigumadzi is Discussing Sweet Medicine with Readers and Friends Over Breakfast in New York

Invitation to Breakfast Discussion of Sweet Medicine

 
Sweet MedicinePanashe Chigumadzi will be speaking about her book Sweet Medicine in New York at a breakfast hosted by AfriPop.

Chigumadzi will be discussing her book with AfriPop editor Yolanda Sangweni, Glory Edim, the founder of Well-read Black Girl, and journalist and author Wadzanai Mhute at Ode to Babel in Brooklyn from 11 AM until 1 PM. A light breakfast will be served at the event.

The first 20 people to RSVP will receive a complimentary copy of the book.

Be there, good people of New York!

Event Details

  • Date: Saturday, 5 December 2015
  • Time: 11 AM to 1 PM
  • Venue: Ode to Babel
    772 Dean Street
    Brooklyn
    New York | Map
  • Panel: Yolanda Sangweni, Glory Edim and Wadzanai Mhute
  • Refreshments: A light breakfast will be served
  • RSVP: AfriPop

 
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Christopher J Lee Argues for the Complexity and Continued Importance of Frantz Fanon in A New Jacana Pocket History

A Jacana Pocket History: Frantz Fanon“Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.” – Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Psychiatrist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Frantz Fanon (1925 – 1961) is one of the most important intellectuals of the 20th century. Born on the island of Martinique, he died in the United States from cancer, following a meteoric career that took him to France, Algeria, Tunisia, and numerous places in between. He presented powerful critiques of racism, colonialism and nationalism in his classic books, Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961). Yet Fanon remains controversial, given his advocacy of violent struggle, and, consequently, is often misunderstood.

“Christopher Lee has written a delightfully compelling introduction to the works, life and times of Frantz Fanon. Well researched and thoroughly grounded, Lee’s study admirably situates Fanon in the broadest historical context, while subtly explaining Fanon’s powerful legacy today. This book taught me many things, revealing in intriguing ways the works of a black thinker from Martinique who so passionately embraced the Algerian Revolution, and so ardently desired to be embraced by it.” – Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

This biography seeks to demythologise Fanon by situating his life and ideas within the historical circumstances he encountered. Synthesising a range of secondary literature with first-hand readings of his work, it elevates enduring aspects of Fanon’s legacy, while also countering interpretations of his writing that have granted uncritical omniscience to his views. Written with clarity and passion, Lee’s account ultimately argues for the complexity of Frantz Fanon and his continued importance today.

About the author

Christopher J Lee is based at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is the editor of Making a World after Empire: The Bandung Moment and Its Political Afterlives (2010), which was recently shortlisted for the 2015 Africa-Asia Book Prize, and the author of Unreasonable Histories: Nativism, Multiracial Lives, and the Genealogical Imagination in British Africa (2014). He has previously taught in the United States and Canada at Stanford, Harvard, Dalhousie, and at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He received his PhD in African history from Stanford University.

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New York Times Journalist Pens Novel about a Township Killing that Changed History

nullAlan S Cowell’s latest novel, Permanent Removal, is an intense political thriller, set during the deadly 1980s in apartheid South Africa.

Cowell comes to Jacana Media with impeccable credentials both as a writer and as a close observer of this country. Jacana Media publishing director Bridget Impey bought the rights for publication at the Frankfurt Book Fair from New York-based Inkwell Management in October 2015.

Cowell was assigned by the The New York Times to Johannesburg in the mid-1980s, and was awarded the prestigious George Polk Award for his courageous reporting. Cowell was ordered to leave the country in early 1987, and was not allowed to return until the early 1990s.

Since then he has been a regular visitor, most recently covering the Oscar Pistorius trial and anchoring coverage of the death of President Mandela. Though his latest novel is set around the beginning of the 21st century, it introduces readers to a cast of players whose destinies intertwine in a particularly gruesome murder, raising questions of guilt, legacy and redemption that haunt South Africa to this day.

Publication is planned for March 2016.

The Paris CorrespondentThe Terminal SpyA Walking Guide

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Don’t Miss the Launch of Elleke Boehmer’s Enthralling New Novel, The Shouting in the Dark, in Joburg

Shouting in the DarkJacana Media and David Krut Projects invite you to the launch of The Shouting in the Dark by Elleke Boehmer.

JM Coetzee had this to say about the novel: “The story, as disturbing as it is enthralling, of a girl’s struggle to emerge from under the dead weight of her father’s oppression while at the same time searching for a secure footing in the moral chaos of South Africa of the apartheid era.”

Boehmer’s acclaimed biography of Nelson Mandela (2008) has been translated into Arabic, Malaysian, Thai, Kurdish, Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. She has published several other books, and was a judge of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize.

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A Country Made of Oil and Goodwill – Ricardo Soares de Oliveira Launches Magnificent and Beggar Land

Ricardo Soares de Oliveira

The launch of Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola since the Civil War by Ricardo Soares de Oliveira was a magnificent event. The author’s profoundly interesting discussion kept guests enthralled for the better part of an hour as he spoke about Angola, the extensive research he undertook to write the book, how he sees the country now and what he envisions for its future.

Antonio Tomas and Ricardo Soares de OliveiraMagnificent and Beggar LandAngolan anthropologist Antonio Tomas, who is currently at Stellenbosch University, joined De Oliveira in conversation. Tomas invited the author to give those present an idea of the whole project.

De Oliveira reflected on his first-hand experience of Angola in the late war years, and immediately after it had ended. He said, “Angola went through a war that lasted, in one shape or another, for about 41 years: the anti-colonial war, the cold war proximum that South Africa was intimately involved with and, finally, the last years of the 20th Century. This period destroyed much of the country and left a legacy. We don’t know how many people died, but up to a million Angolans are said to have died during this period. The country was entirely destroyed.”

He said the reconstruction mode didn’t start immediately after the war, partly because of the low oil price. “Oil had been the lifeline for the Angolan regime which had been the second largest oil producer in Africa, and this had enabled the regime to win the war.” Because of the enormous resources expended to win the war, he says, “the regime was cash strapped at the beginning of the peace period. For a few years the situation was unsettled”. However, he says, by 2007 the political project of reconstruction was afoot, and it was surprisingly full.

De Oliveira cited three conditions that allowed Angola to pursue an autonomous and somewhat eccentric path to national reconstruction:

“The first one is that this wasn’t a woolly peace process, unlike many others in post-Cold War Africa that ended with power sharing and UN-brokered peace accords. Angola was an old-fashioned destruction of the rebels by the government which allowed it to define the terms of the peace in its own uncompromising terms. It allowed it to think about peace as a rebuilding of the country in its own image. This was an important prerequisite for the project that ensued,” he said.

The second aspect relates to the country’s oil production. De Oliveira says, “In 2002 Angola was already a major oil producer, producing just less than a million barrels a day. By 2008, Angola was producing about two million barrels a day. In 2002, the oil price was at $22/barrel. By 2008, it was $147/barrel. The Angolan GDP went from $12 billion in 2002 to somewhere near $130 billion last year. The growth and development that this allows for is obvious. During the decade that the book explores, the Angolan economy has become the third largest in sub-Saharan Africa, three times larger than the Kenyan economy and larger than the whole of east Africa together.

“We’re thinking of a very different scale to the usual post-war reconstruction trajectory in Africa or elsewhere. Yet another number that gives you an inkling of what was made available by these numbers. From 2006 until 2014, every year the Angolan budget was larger than the OECD Aid to Africa as a whole. With the amounts that were conjured out of the ground during this period, if you add the war victory to the autonomy, you can start to see why Angola, especially after 2005, was able to define the peace in its own way.

The third factor contributing to Angola’s national reconstruction was the coming of China. “Until 2004 Angola was trying to negotiate with the traditional western governments for some sort of aid. Western donors were not forthcoming. They argued that corruption was rife in Angola and that the oil institutions had to be reformed before any meaningful donor money could be brought into the country. By 2004 China entered the picture, providing Angola with an estimated $20 billion in credit loans, building another wall of autonomy enabling the regime to further its national project of reconstruction.

The book tries to understand the project of national reconstruction. It tries to understand the victor’s vision, what they tried to bring about, and what has actually happened in the last decade.

Tomas and De Oliveira engaged in the topic further, leading to a fascinating and in-depth question and answer session. Those who attended were well rewarded with an insightful presentation on this incompletely understood country. The author signed copies of his book bought by interested members of the audience, and accepted their well wishes and congratulations.


 

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The Shouting in the Dark by Elleke Boehmer: “A Powerful Novel of Memory, Family Politics and Awakening” – Ben Okri

The Shouting in the DarkJacana is proud to announce the new novel by Elleke Boehmer, The Shouting in the Dark, out in September:

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“The Shouting in the Dark is a powerful novel of memory, family politics and awakening”Ben Okri

“Unforgettable prose about an extraordinary time and place … the delicate intersection between the personal and the political has seldom been so skilfully explored; readable, tangible and haunting.”Naomi Wolf

Late at night Ella watches her elderly father on the veranda, raging at the African sky. Caught between her mother’s mysterious grief and her father’s shattering wartime experiences, between the Holland of their past and apartheid South Africa, Ella fights hard to make it through her childhood in one piece. Her one enchantment is her forbidden love for the teenage gardener, Phineas. Years later, as an activist seeking political refuge in the Netherlands, Ella discovers her father never registered her birth. Now she must confront her father’s ghosts, and create a new future for herself.

About the author

Elleke Boehmer is the author of Screens against the Sky (shortlisted David Hyam Prize, 1990), Bloodlines (shortlisted SANLAM prize), and Nile Baby (2008), and also the short-story collection Sharmilla and Other Portraits (2010). Her edition of Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys was a 2004 summer bestseller. Her acclaimed biography of Nelson Mandela (2008) has been translated into Arabic, Malaysian, Thai, Kurdish, Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. She has published several other books including Stories of Women (2005), the anthology Empire Writing (1998), and Indian Arrivals: Networks of British Empire (2015). She was a judge of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize and lives in London.

Boehmer will be at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town in September.

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BlackBird Books Presents Piggy Boy’s Blues, Award-winning Muso Nakhane Toure’s Debut Novel

 
Piggy Boy's BluesJacana Media and BlackBird Books are proud to present Nakhane Touré’s debut novel Piggy Boy’s Blues, to be published in September:

Nakhane Touré’s debut novel, Piggy Boy’s Blues, is for all intents and purposes a portrait of the M family. Centred mostly on the protagonist, Davide M, and his return to Alice the town of his birth, the novel portrays a Xhosa royal family past its prime and glory.

Davide’s journey, from the city to pastoral Alice for peace and quiet, is not what he or the characters living in the forgotten and dilapidated house have bargained for. His return disturbs and troubles the silence and day-to-day practices that his uncle, Ndimphiwe, and the man he lives with have kept, resulting in a series of tragic events.

Set mostly in the Eastern Cape (modern and historical) – in Alice and Port Elizabeth – Piggy Boy’s Blues is a novel about boundaries, the intricacies of love and how the members of the M family sometimes fail at navigating them.

About the author

Nakhane Touré is a multimedia artist born in a small town in the Eastern Cape called Alice. He was raised predominantly in Port Elizabeth and is now based in Johannesburg. After beginning his studies in literature at The University of Witwatersand, he embarked on a music career, resulting in him releasing an album – Brave Confusion – which went on to win a South African Music Award for Best Alternative Album.

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