Mia Arderne is a Cape Town writer. Mermaid Fillet, her crime noir debut novel was longlisted for the Sunday Times-CNA Literary Award. It was taught as a prescribed text in the University of Cape Town’s 2023 English Literary Studies curriculum. It addresses themes of mental illness, violence, queer identity, feminism and trauma. It is written in Kaaps, in the style of magical realism. Mia completed her MA in Creative Writing at UCT. She has bylines in the Mail & Guardian, Daily Maverick, and New Frame. She has also written short stories published by Penguin Random House.
Mermaid Fillet is so vivid, so hallucinatory, so deft and blistering and uniquely, maybe even perversely ZA. South Africa needs more fiction like this. – Lauren Beukes
David Attwell is Professor Emeritus at the University of York, where he was Head of the Department of English and Related Literature. He is also Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Western Cape. A teacher, literary critic, and historian of South African literature, his books include J. M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing, a finalist for the Alan Paton Prize; The Cambridge History of South African Literature, co-edited with Derek Attridge; Rewriting Modernity: Studies in Black South African Literary History; and Bury Me at the Marketplace, the collected letters of Es’kia Mphahlele, co-edited with Chabani Manganyi.
Sven Axelrad burst onto the literary scene in 2023 with his magical and quirky debut, Buried Treasure. It’s an enchanting adventure that explores what our names mean to us and who we are without them. It’s set in Vivo, a town with a pigeon-messaging service, a phone booth used for romantic encounters, and a number of residents who are not quite what they seem, including a prostitute, a professor, a prophetic flower-seller and old Mateus who runs the cemetery accompanied by his dog, God. When Axelrad is not writing novels he is an accountant who reads a lot. He is covered in tattoos, plays the guitar, and loves his dog. His second novel, God’s Pocket, will hit the shelves in May this year.
Saleem Badat is a Research Professor at the University of the Free State and the former vice-chancellor of Rhodes University and head of the advisory body to the Minister of Higher Education & Training. Tennis, Apartheid and Social Justice documents the historic 1971 first non-racial international tennis tour by young black players. It illuminates the collusion of international bodies with racism in tennis and the intrigues that destroyed tour player Hoosen Bobat’s dream of playing in the junior Wimbledon championships and becoming the first black South African to do so. There has been neither recognition of outstanding apartheid-era black tennis players nor any meaningful restitution. Tennis South Africa and its president refuse to address the matter, fueling ongoing bitterness.
Darrel Bristow-Bovey, a prize-winning screenwriter, travel writer, newspaper and magazine columnist and acclaimed author, brings a deeply personal touch to the legendary tale of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance. Born in South Africa, Bristow-Bovey’s fascination with the Endurance expedition began in childhood when his father shared his own journey south with Shackleton. Now, in a lyrical exploration spanning past and present, humanity and the natural world, he delves into why the story resonates more than ever. With a blend of literature, natural history, personal memoir, and the thrill of polar adventure, Bristow-Bovey celebrates the enduring human spirit. As the sunken Endurance whispers from the Weddell Sea, this tale reveals that in the face of self-inflicted disaster, miracles can still unfold. He divides his time between Cape Town, the UK and a hillside on the Greek Peloponnese.
Born in Durban, Elleke Boehmer is the author, most recently, of the ARB-commended short-story collection To the Volcano, and of the prize-winning fiction The Shouting in the Dark (EASA Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose, 2018). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, UK, and a member of the Dutch Academy of Letters. Elleke Boehmer is a founding figure in the field of postcolonial studies in English, and Professor of World Literature at Oxford, where she is also Co-Director of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing. Recent work includes Postcolonial Poetics and Indian Arrivals 1880-1915, which won the biennial ESSE prize. Her biography of Nelson Mandela has been widely translated. Forthcoming work includes Southern Imagining, a history, and a new novel, a love-story.
Andrew Brown is the author of seven novels and two works of non-fiction. Coldsleep Lullaby won the Sunday Times Literary Award and Refuge was short-listed for the Africa Commonwealth Book Prize. His most recent novel, The Bitterness of Olives, was published in September last year and tells the story of ordinary people living in contemporary Palestine, searching for the solace of friendship and love. Oppression and trauma affect their choices and increasingly polarise their lives. Andrew Brown is an advocate and a police reservist, working as the SAPS liaison officer for the Child Protection Unit at Red Cross Children’s Hospital. His two works of non-fiction are about being in the South African Police Service.
Megan Choritz is a writer, playwright, actor, theatre director and improviser. While she has spent years involved in all things creative – mainly for the stage – she has written poems, short stories, a yet to be made screenplay and her debut novel Lost Property. Lost Property has been described as nostalgic, wonderfully humorous, and a truly South African story with universal appeal. With its poetic and magical prose, it is a brilliant example of how deeply personal autofiction can be. It follows the journey of Laine and her dysfunctional family, and how this impacts on Laine’s not very good choice of husband, whom she discovers has been secretively living out a monstrous lie.
Imraan Coovadia has written six novels. His debut novel, The Wedding, was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Award, the Ama-Boeke Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award. He won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the University of Johannesburg Prize for his novel, High Low In-between, and the M-Net Literary Award for The Institute for Taxi Poetry. He will be talking about his recent pieces of non-fiction, The Poisoners: on South Africa’s Toxic History and Revolution and Non-Violence in Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Mandela. He thinks of these pieces as experiments in writing a history of good and evil: on the one hand Gandhi and Mandela’s experiments in self-improvement and social transformation; on the other hand, the campaign of political poisoning from Wouter Basson to Jacob Zuma and Andre de Ruyter, which show us how evil, secrecy, and suspicion took hold in our society.
Photo credit: Roz Misselhorn
Darryl Earl David
Darryl Earl David – maverick extraordinaire – recently published his memoir, BookBedonnerd! The Road to Elsewhere. With a sting in his tail, he tells it all. Darryl is the most experienced pioneer of book festivals in South Africa – over the years he has curated more than a hundred. Many are in far-flung areas of the Karoo, such as in Richmond, that fairytale town Darryl branded as Africa’s only Book Town way back in 2007. BookBedonnerd, the book festival that is synonymous with Book Town Richmond is one of the most joyous festivals around. Darryl also managed against all expectations to have the city of Durban elevated to a Unesco City of Literature, Hermanus to a Unesco City of Gastronomy and Howick a Unesco City of Craft and Folk Art. All three Unesco projects were firsts on the African continent. Darryl is also the author of three coffee table books on country churches of South Africa. And he may well be the only Indian lecturer of Afrikaans in Africa.
C.A. Davids recently won The Sunday Times Literary Prize for her second novel, How to be a Revolutionary. It also won the University of Johannesburg’s Literature Main Prize and the Book Lounge’s Book of the Year. It is a novel about the costs of remembering the past and the far more dire consequences of forgetting it. From Shanghai to Cape Town to Harlem, How to be a Revolutionary explores connections among ageing revolutionaries on three continents. The characters need each other to make sense of complicity, disillusionment and intimate betrayals. Being a confident young revolutionary is part of a collective experience. Being a confused older revolutionary, most of the time, is awfully lonely. Davids delivers a politically charged story of love and espionage. She is currently an artist-in-residence at the University of Johannesburg.
Professor Ashwin Desai is one of South Africa’s foremost sociologists. He has carved out a research niche – neighbourhood social history, where there is often a twist in a footnote, keeping readers alert to the power of desire and redemption, in the otherwise cold sweep of historical and economic processes. Desai’s canon includes accounts of urban space across South Africa: an eight-block casbah in Durban, colonial fields in Grahamstown (Makhanda) where Black rugby thrived, an award-winning book on soccer in Wentworth, and most recently a searing paean to a cricket ground, Of Fathers, Sons and Timeless Tests: Wicket Tales of Kingsmead. The story, like a Barry Richards cover drive, pierces the heart while suturing the wounds of divided histories.
Finuala Dowling won the 2004 Ingrid Jonker prize for her debut poetry collection, I Flying. Twenty years later, the poet, novelist and creative writing teacher enters a poetic conversation with her daughter Beatrice Willoughby, an award-winning copywriter whose first collection, So, published by Karavan Press, has been commended by Vanessa Levenstein of Fine Music Radio for its ‘pain, joy, love, exquisite expression, humour and surprising twists and twirls’. The back-and-forth of poems between mother and daughter is scintillating: not quite duelling banjos, not quite a duet, but a witty and moving conversation about shared lives, loves and losses.
Max du Preez
Max du Preez is a veteran South African journalist and author based in Simon’s Town. He was the founder/editor of the campaigning anti-apartheid newspaper Vrye Weekblad in 1988 and its on-line revival in 2019. He joined the SABC in 1994 but was fired 5 years later for not respecting the SABC’s leadership, a charge he could not deny. He has published a dozen books on South African politics and history – the last, A Rumour of Spring, received the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction. He is the recipient of honorary degrees from UCT, Stellenbosch and Free State University, the Nat Nakasa and Ahmed Kathrada Awards, as well as awards by Harvard and Yale universities. He claims he is actually a nice guy.
Nicholas Ellenbogen is an internationally-acclaimed theatre maker, who has performed before kings, queens, presidents and other nice people. Sadly, he has been unable to avoid politicians along the way. As a resident of Simon’s Town, he’s become embroiled in the passionate debate around baboons. He directed Sir Alexander McCall Smith’s baboon opera and his own baboon play, Mountain People on three continents. His wife, Liz, also forces him to watch baboons for hours in the Kruger National Park.
Gavin Evans was born in London, but grew up in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg. He worked as a journalist in South Africa, starting at the Eastern Province Herald, then the Rand Daily Mail, Business Day, The Sunday Times and for several years the Weekly Mail, of which he was one of the founding members. Here he wrote on politics, was a Krisjan Lemmer columnist and did some night news editing. He was also a foreign correspondent for the Italian agency, IPS. During the 1980s he was involved in anti-apartheid politics, both legal and illegal. He is currently writing his 10th non-fiction book, White Supremacy: from Eugenics to the ‘Great Replacement‘, which will be published by Icon this year. He is married to the novelist Margie Orford, and has two daughters and a grandson. He currently lives in London.
Justin Fox is a travel writer, novelist and photographer, and was the editor of Getaway magazine until 2020. His bestselling World War II novels, The Cape Raider and The Wolf Hunt, are set in Simon’s Town and hark back to his own childhood ‘on the bay’. He is the author of more than 20 books, including The Marginal Safari, Whoever Fears the Sea, The Impossible Five and a poetry collection, Beat Routes. His latest travelogue, Place, comprises a series of literary journeys around South Africa in which he uses great books instead of maps as his guide.
Mark Gevisser’s latest books are The Pink Line: Journeys Across the World’s Queer Frontiers and The Revolution Will Not Be Litigated: People Power and Legal Power in the 21st Century (co-edited). His other books include Lost and Found in Johannesburg: A Memoir, and Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred, for which he won an Alan Paton Prize (updated and rei-issued in 2023). His journalism has appeared in many publications, including The Guardian, The New York Times, Granta and the New York Review of Books. He is currently working on a biography of the pioneering German-Jewish sexologist and homosexual rights activist Magnus Hirschfeld. He is a native Joburger but now lives in Kalk Bay.
Photograph by Fiona McPherson
Anton Harber has been a journalist for 42 years, as a reporter, editor, manager, educator/trainer and columnist. He runs two non-profit organisations: the Campaign for Free Expression and the Henry Nxumalo Foundation (which supports investigative reporting). Harber was founder-editor of the anti-apartheid newspaper The Weekly Mail / Mail & Guardian and Editor-in-Chief of the country’s leading TV news channel, eNCA. For two decades, he held the Caxton Chair of Journalism at Wits University as an adjunct professor. He has written or edited a number of books, including So, for the Record: Behind the headlines in an era of state capture, Diepsloot and Southern African Muckrakers: 300 years of investigative reporting that shaped the region.
Chris Haw has been composing and performing music since the age of 16. He has recorded two albums and several singles with local music groups, Chiaroscuro, The Swingsetters and The Incidentals. Chris is currently the guitarist and lead singer in The Incidentals – the folk-rock trio based in Cape Town. Chris has performed on many local and international stages, including in the UK and Seychelles.
Debi Thomas Hawkins
Debi Thomas Hawkins is Nicholas Ellenbogen’s actress of choice when it comes to light comedy. As a Zimbabwean, she’s had to learn to laugh. Debi and Nicholas spent two very happy years at the Rosebank Theatre where Debi acted and directed. Her performance in the musical play Mpinga Mornings introduced her to Cape Town audiences, as did her charity fundraisers, The Jolly Good Show, which she performed in and produced. She has also met a baboon in her kitchen, with its hand in her teapot. Nick and Debi both have a new book out this year.
Vernon R.L. Head is an award-winning environmentalist, a poet, novelist and internationally acclaimed architect. His latest novel, On that Wave of Gulls, has been described as Faulknerian in scope, and a worthy tribute to the Nobel prize-winning poet Derek Walcott. The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World was long-listed for the 2015 Sunday Times Alan Paton Prize and has been translated into Arabic and other languages. A Tree for the Birds was longlisted for the Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the National Institute of Humanities & Social Sciences 2020 Fiction Prize. His poetry has twice been longlisted for the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Prize. He has an MA in Creative Writing and writes for various international literary magazines.
Craig Higginson is an award-winning author and playwright. The Ghost of Sam Webster is his most haunting and ambitious novel to date, drawing together the epic historical sweep, the state-of-the nation resonance and the dramatic psychological complexity of his prizewinning and celebrated novels, The Landscape Painter, The Dream House and The Book of Gifts. Written in his masterful prose, The Ghost of Sam Webster is at once a war novel, a murder mystery, a multi-layered love story and a robust reassertion of what it is to remain human during the most challenging times. Much of his writing explores different perspectives on the truth. He uses techniques from the theatre in his fiction such as differing perspectives and dramatic irony to represent the complexity of post-apartheid South African society, extending these themes to a global context.
Bongani Kona is a writer, editor and lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of the Western Cape. His writing has been broadcast by BBC and appeared in a variety of publications including, Chimurenga, New York Times, Safe House: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction, The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories, and The Baffler. He edited Our Ghosts Were Once People: Stories on Death and Dying, which brings together writers and poets from diverse backgrounds. The topics range from the personal to the political and the philosophical. He was awarded the Ruth First Fellowship in 2019 and shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2016.
As a journalist in the 1990s Angela Makholwa cut her teeth reporting on crime stories. The case of a real-life serial killer went on to inform her debut novel, Red Ink – the first South African crime novel with an African female protagonist. Red Ink has been made into a TV mini-series and shows from February 2024 on Showmax. Her writing has gained her critical acclaim and several literary award nominations, including the 2020 UK Comedy Women in Print Prize, for which her novel The Blessed Girl was shortlisted. She has a flair for using dark humour as a device in dealing with difficult topics. She has written numerous crime thrillers of which Critical But, Stable is the most recent.
John Maytham was part of the birth of CapeTalk in 1997. Despite his advancing years and declining sensibilities, he’s still there. He’d love to be a writer, but doesn’t have the gift, and, truth be told, he’s too lazy for the hard slog involved, so he reads a lot. Silently, in the privacy of his home, and out aloud when he gets the chance to show off in front of audiences at book festivals. He’ll be showing off from 22 April in the company of actress, Emma Kotze, on the Masambe Theatre stage, in a new Louis Viljoen play, The Sin Drinkers. And more importantly, of course, at Books on the Bay, compiled by Finuala Dowling.
Helen Moffett is an author, editor, teacher, environmental activist, and recovering academic. She has published over twenty books, including edited anthologies, poetry collections, children’s books, erotica, works on sport, historical fiction, and more. She has edited hundreds of titles for authors and publishers around the world. She specialises in training other editors, and is currently writing a memoir about her editing life. Moffett curates Salon Hecate at Noordhoek Art Point gallery, a platform for poetry readings and literary events that enables collaborations between local authors and other artists.
Beverley Roos Muller
When Beverley Roos-Muller first began to explore writing about the Boer experience of the Anglo-Boer war, she read the tiny war diary of Michael, grandfather of her husband, Ampie Muller. It led her to the discovery of war diaries of two of Michael’s brothers who, together with a fourth brother, were all interned in a British POW camp in Simon’s Town, on the site of the present-day Simon’s Town Country Club. There are the scrawled notes of one of the brothers on the evening after the Magersfontein battle, the rain-dashed pages written by another in Colesberg, and the angry words penned by Michael about his treatment at Surrender Hill. Bullet in the Heart is an account of the fellowship of four brothers in war, their capture and eventual release, and the consequences for South Africa of the bitterness this strife invoked.
In Who Really Killed Chris Hani retired Judge Chris Nicholson digs and digs to expose the real masterminds behind the murder of the president South Africa never had – Chris Hani. Nicholson shows in true judicial fashion how the perpetrators’ motives and patterns of behaviour materially assist in locating the true accomplices in Hani’s murder, and challenges the narrative that the assassination was executed without external orders and assistance. He presents a dazzling gallery of lowlifes and shines a spotlight on both the former apartheid government and Hani’s ANC rivals and enemies. He’s published eight books and a play. Two books were nominated for the Alan Paton Award. He practised as a human rights lawyer assisting victims of apartheid before 1994. His efforts were recognised with two awards for his achievement in the field of Human Rights.
Mike Nicol wrote general fiction before he turned to crime and has now written nine crime novels in two series (the first featuring arms dealer cum security operative Mace Bishop; the second PI Fish Pescado and lawyer Vicki Kahn). He has also written a number of non-fiction titles including A Good-Looking Corpse (on the Drum journalists of the 1950s); The Waiting Country (on the 1994 election); Sea Mountain, Fire City (on living in Cape Town), and Monkey Business (on the Anni Dewane murder). Crime writing has opened a way for Nicol to write a fictional history of South Africa. These days he runs online courses in fiction and non-fiction narrative writing and supervises writers on his nine-month The Writers’ Masterclass – which has produced a clutch of published authors. His courses can be found at WriteOnline.pro.
A contributor to several national and international publications, Mphuthumi (‘Mpush’) Ntabeni is a historical novelist who lives in Cape Town. He has been writing a trilogy of historical novels on the lives of amaXhosa during the frontier history of the Eastern Cape, titled The River People. The Broken River Tent, the first in the trilogy, won the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize 2019 and was longlisted for the Sunday Times Literary Prize. Ntabeni is currently writing the second book in the trilogy, The Conflicted Men, based on the life and times of Tiyo Zisani Soga, the first Xhosa man to receive a formal Western education in the 19th century.
After the runaway success of her psychological thriller The Eye of the Beholder (longlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Award and the Dublin Literary Award) Margie Orford continues to break new ground with Love and Fury, a Memoir. Beautifully written – honest, poignant, restrained – the book charts the development of a life-in-writing caught between motherhood and the desire for personal freedom. Love and Fury will be a talking-point for a generation of women (and their partners) whose lives have been shaped by seemingly irreconcilable pressures. Margie describes this as the book that kept her alive. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and has written many children’s books, as well as nonfiction on climate change and human rights.
Antony Osler is the author of three hugely successful books – Stoep Zen, Zen Dust and Mzansi Zen. Stoep Zen has been reprinted for the 7th time and the others are due to follow. A former Zen monk, human rights advocate, arbitrator and acting judge, Antony lives with his wife Margie on the farm Poplar Grove in the Great Karoo where they farm with wool, sit on the stoep, go to bed early, and lead Zen retreats. Antony has taken part in various book festivals over the years and is presently working on a follow-up publication, from which some of his readings will come.
Nancy Richards, journalist, podcaster, former broadcaster and founder of NPO Woman Zone and The Women’s Library, will be remembered by many who listened to her radio shows over twenty odd years on SAfm – most especially SAfm Literature in which she spoke to hundreds of authors of all genres. And during which time she learnt a whole lot about the art of listening and craft of writing – some of which she has put into practice in her own book The Skipper’s Daughter. With her gentle yet incisive style she recounts her mother’s sea-faring voyage at the age of 16 which ended in tragedy. Other books include Beautiful Homes: As featured in Fairlady Magazine; Woman Today: A Celebration, Fifty Years of South African Women; Being a Woman in Cape Town: Telling your Story, and Women of Soil.
Annemarié van Niekerk
Annemarié van Niekerk se memoir Onder ‘n bloedrooi hemel: liefde en geweld in Suid Afrika, wat verlede jaar verskyn het, het groot opslae gemaak en was op verskeie topverkoperlyste. Sy vervleg in haar memoir haar eie lewensverhaal aangrypend en onthutsend eerlik met ’n verkenning van die groot kwessies in ons land: geweld teen vroue, skuld en onmag, aandadigheid en keuse. Onder ŉ bloedrooi hemel is ŉ diep ontroerende persoonlike reis, van geweld na genade, meesterlik vertel. Dit het eers in Nederlands verskyn as Om het hart terug te brengen, waarvoor sy die Henriëtte Roland Holst-prys ontvang het. Annemarié, wat in Nederland woon, is ‘n boekresensent by die Nederlandse koerant Trouw, asook ‘n literêre redakteur en vertaler. Sy het ook verskeie verhaalbundels saamgestel en ingelei.
Onder ‘n bloedrooi hemel is an exploration of the pervasive violence in South Africa. Van Niekerk builds the narrative around a farm killing in Ida in the Eastern Cape. But it also focuses on her relationship with three men – her father, her friend and her lover. She expertly weaves together the personal and the political and in so doing she shines a light on the madness and beauty of our existence.
Ivan Vladislavić is a Distinguished Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Witwatersrand and has published novels, stories and essays. His work has won many of South Africa’s literary awards and was shortlisted for the Ondaatje and Warwick Prizes. In addition he won Yale University’s prestigious Windham Campbell Prize. His most recent novel, The Near North, is a vivid account of life in Johannesburg in times of crisis. We follow the writer through the city’s streets, meeting its ghosts and journeying through time and (often circumscribed) space, finding meaning in the everyday and incidental. At once an echo of his award-winning Portrait with Keys and an original work of intense acuity and quiet power, The Near North is both intimate and expansive, ranging from small domestic dramas to great public spectacles.
Hein Willemse is an Emeritus Professor of Afrikaans Literature and Literary Theory, University of Pretoria. He previously served as a Visiting Professor at several local and foreign universities, including universities in Central and North America, the rest of Africa and Europe. He has published widely and focuses mainly on South African literature and the Afrikaans oral traditions. His work was acknowledged with the Heritage Award by the Western Cape Ministry of Culture and the Afrikaans Onbeperk (Afrikaans Unlimited) Award by Klein-Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees. He received the award for the Best Long Essay Review for 2019. His documentary film Die versteekte geskiedenisse van Afrikaans — The hidden histories of Afrikaans was nominated for the 2020 Humanities and Social Sciences Award. He presently writes a bi-weekly column for several Afrikaans language newspapers.