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Archive for the ‘New Releases’ Category

Raymond Suttner’s Inside Apartheid’s Prison an intensely personal struggle memoir

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.

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Malebo Sephodi’s memoir, Miss Behave, challenges society’s beliefs about what it means to be an obedient woman

Upon encountering historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s quote, ‘well-behaved women seldom make history’, Malebo Sephodi knew that she was tired of everyone else having a say on who and what she should be.

Appropriating this quote, Malebo boldly renounces societal expectations placed on her as a black woman and shares her journey towards misbehaviour.

According to Malebo, it is the norm for a black woman to live in a society that prescribes what it means to be a well-behaved woman. Acting like this prescribed woman equals good behaviour.

But what happens when a black woman decides to live her own life and becomes her own form of who she wants to be? She is often seen as misbehaving.

Miss-Behave challenges society’s deep-seated beliefs about what it means to be an obedient woman. In this book, Malebo tracks her journey on a path towards achieving total autonomy and self-determinism.

Miss-Behave will challenge, rattle and occasionally cause you to scream ‘yassss, yassss, yassss’ at various intervals.

 
 
 
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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


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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, rsvp@jacana.co.za, 011 628 3200

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Ronnie Kasrils’s Alan Paton Award-winning book The Unlikely Secret Agent published in French

nullThe Unlikely Secret Agent

 
Jacana Media is delighted to announce that The Unlikely Secret Agent by Ronnie Kasrils, recipient of the 2011 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award, has just been published in French by Mardaga Publishing.

On hearing the news of the French edition, author Ronnie Kasrils had this to say: “I am particularly delighted that this book about an unsung heroine of South Africa’s national liberation struggle is appearing as a French-language publication.

“The anti-fascist resistance in Europe during World War Two has resonances in this book about a daring young woman who was prepared to sacrifice her freedom to a just cause. I believe French-speaking people of all ages will be inspired by this Scots-born woman who grew up in South Africa and became the first female operative in the clandestine armed struggle under Nelson Mandela’s command.”

Written after the death of his wife in 2009, The Unlikely Secret Agent tells the story of Eleanor Kasrils, one of the few white South African women to engage in armed struggle against the apartheid regime. A story written with humility and a pride that the reader can only share.

Ronnie’s response to Eleanor’s sudden death last year at home in South Africa was to write this extraordinary book at breakneck speed. It is a love story, a historical document of great importance, and a terrific tale of a clandestine success.

- Journalist and writer Victoria Brittain

A poignant and beautiful book.

- James McAuley, Washington Post

This “little” book about an “ordinary” woman with the heart of a lioness confirms the truth that our freedom was not free. From its pages rings out another truth that among the outstanding heroines and heroes of the South African struggle were those who did not set out to perform heroic deeds. These are the heroic combatants for freedom like the Unlikely Secret Agent, Eleanor Kasrils, the subject of this engrossing “little book”, who did the equally “little” things without which victory over the apartheid regime would have been impossible.

- Former President of the Republic of South Africa Thabo Mbeki

 
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Lost 100 kilometres out to sea, in the middle of a storm: Alone: The Search For Brett Archibald

AloneDon’t miss this new publication: Alone: The Search For Brett Archibald:

In April 2013 a global breaking-news story surfaced on social media and in the world press, and rapidly gathered momentum. A South African man had fallen overboard in the night during a storm in remote Indonesian waters, without anyone else on board realising. Eight hours later a frantic search was underway.

The incident caught the world’s attention as readers were instantly transported into the terror of the moment – imagine being left alone, 100 kilometres out to sea in the middle of a storm, watching your friends sail into the distance …

Had he been dealt a fraction more bad luck, Archibald would have died immediately. According to the experts, he should have died within 10 to 14 hours. But he chose not to die. Instead for 28-and-a-half hours Archibald endured – the ocean, the elements, the creatures of the deep, and his own inner demons.

Alone: The Search For Brett Archibald is the incredible but true story of what it takes to defy needle-in-a-haystack odds and survive what should have been certain death. Outdoor savvy, astonishing imagination, mental toughness, a refusal to give up hope and a canny rescuer with an unbelievable background ultimately saw him through. Most of all this is a story of the power of the human spirit that defies rational explanation.

I was at the Epic Kayak offices in the USA when I heard Brett had fallen overboard. I followed the story closely on Facebook but after 12 hours I turned to Greg Barton [Olympic gold medallist] and said, “There’s no way anyone can survive longer than that in the ocean – I certainly couldn’t do it.” This is an incredible, incredible story.

- Oscar Chalupsky, 12 times Molokai World Champion; multiple paddling, Iron Man & lifesaving champion; one of the world’s great watermen

About the author

Brett Archibald is an international businessman and entrepreneur, who built an impressive global career, which included directorship positions with a worldwide hospitality and travel corporation in Johannesburg, Sydney, Hong Kong and London. He now lives in Cape Town where he is the chairman and shareholder of an event and hospitality company.

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